HELP at HUNTER

Note: These help pages were created locally at Hunter by Manfred Kuechler. They are not part of the ERes software as distributed by Docutek. Sole responsibility for these help pages lies with the original author and the ERes manager at Hunter (currently: Jamie Wallace, OICIT) . All entries carry a date, so that you can easily determine whether something has changed since your last visit.

You can also access the Help at Hunter by clicking on the link "ERes info" available in the bar on the left from many ERes screens -- to save you the trouble to go back to the ERes main page. In addition, "ERes help" on these screens will lead you to the online ERes manual -- for those more curious, in need for more comprehensive information ....

Last update: August 27, 1999
 

Here you can find answers to questions frequently asked by both students and instructors using the ERes system. We suggest that you look for assistance with a problem you encountered in these pages first before contacting the ERes manager. However, do contact the ERes manager (clicking on the link below) if you can't find an answer.

If you are a participating instructor (to become one, contact the ERes manager), you receive information about ERes updates, modifications, local problems, etc. via e-mail. These pages also serve as an archive for messages of continuing interest to the ERes users. This help page will be updated as new questions emerge and answers are found. So, check back!

As of August 1999, we have a more general forum for the discussion of topics related to course web pages, the COURSEPAGE-L
mailing list with an associated web archive. Consider subscribing to this mail; you can set your subscription to "nomail", so nothing will be sent to you automatically, but you can browse the list archives and post to the list at your pleasure.
 

Basic Questions (Students and Instructors)

All this jargon, I don't even know what a lot of these words mean!
Don't despair, the PC Webopaedia will answer all your questions -- whether you are a beginner or already a savvy user.

Course Creation/Maintenance Questions (these apply to Instructors only)

More advanced Issues (Instructor related)

Still puzzled? Contact the ERes manager

Basic Questions

  1. Do I need a password to use the ERes system?

  2. As a student (viewer) you can browse through the course listings and general resources without any password. Some courses are password protected at the discretion of the instructor. The ERes manager does not distribute these passwords, you must contact the instructor directly to obtain the password for a protected course.
    To create your own course page (as an instructor), you need to obtain an ERes user name and an associated password. Contact the ERes manager. [3/8/98]
  3. I can get to the course page I am interested in, but clicking on entry does not produce any results. What's wrong?

  4. The ERes displays the requested entry (either a document or a link [=page at another site]) in a second browser window. If your system is not set up correctly, ERes fails. Also, if you have a second browser window open already, the requested entry is displayed in this second window, but it may not be moved on top. More details about ERes navigation.  [3/1/98]
  5. How should my system be set up?

  6. You will have best results if you use Netscape version 3.0 or higher. Make sure that "javascript" is enabled and that the "memory cache" is set to about 1024 KB (check your Netscape "preferences" -- access to the "preferences" differs between the various versions; in Netscape 4.0 under Win95 go to Edit, then Preferences, then Advanced, then Cache). For the chat room feature you must also enable java support. In addition, you want to have several "plugins" or viewers installed; these are helper programs to display documents in a variety of formats (in older versions of Netscape, you actually specify helper applications instead of using plugins). Check your favorite course pages for the formats used by your instructor.
    In most Hunter labs, you can't make changes in the preferences or install plugins yourself; talk to the lab manager.
    It is best to close all other applications before using ERes, especially when your computer has relatively little memory (just 8 MB under Win3.x or just 16 MB under Win95).  [3/3/98]
  7. How do I get viewers and plugins?

  8. All can be downloaded for free, they don't cost you any money. A good general source is Netscape. Just click on it for a whole catalog of available plugins. If the links does not work, just go to Help/About Plugins from the Netscape toolbar.
    Viewers for popular Microsoft products (Excel, Word, Access, Powerpoint) are available at their viewer download page. Make sure to read the information there carefully and select a version of the viewer that matches your computer and operating system. This site is very busy; try early morning hours (EST) to minimize the download time. [8/27/99]
  9. I don't see the document my instructor told me to retrieve?

  10. The document may be contained in a folder. When you first get to a course page, all folders are closed. When you click on a 'closed folder' icon, the course page will be redisplayed, the folder will be opened showing a list of documents and links contained in this folder. Folders help to keep course pages from getting too messy.  [3/1/98]
  11. Can I use other browsers, can I use AOL?

  12. Yes, you can. But if you use older browser versions you may experience problems with all or some of ERes' features. Make sure to get the recent version of whatever browser you use. Special instructions for AOL users.  [3/1/98]
  13. I went to the bulletin board on a course page, but there was nothing to read?

  14. That's quite possible. Some instructors do not make active use of the BB. So, if nobody posts anything, there is nothing to read. However, you can start a new discussion topic ("thread") and others in your course may respond to it. Whatever you post, it will stay till the instructor removes it. So, check back later.  [3/1/98]
  15. If I want to put something on the bulletin board, do I need to type everything from scratch?

  16. No, not at all. You can just copy-and-paste. For example, if you want to post something contained in a WP document, open the document in WP, drag the mouse over the part you want, click on the 'copy' icon or go to Edit/copy, then go to the ERes bulletin board (message entry screen) and press CTRL-V. That's it. Don't be alarmed if you can see only part of your message, it will be reformatted automatically after you submit it.
    But make sure to also fill in the "name" and the "subject" field, otherwise you get an error message. If that happens -- and we know, mistakes happen --  click on the "Try again" button or click on the "Back" button of your browser (Netscape) to fill in what was missing. A problem with the "Try again" has been fixed.  [3/4/98]
  17. I typed a message for the bulletin board and everything seemed fine, but when I checked later, my posting had disappeared?

  18. Looks like a little green monster ate your message. Seriously, there was a bug in the program (now fixed); if you left one of the fields blank at first try, then used the "Try again" button and completed your message, you got the "smiley face" telling you that all was fine, but your message was not posted to the bulletin board of your course, but some place else. Annoying, right; but no program without glitches, and we try very hard to correct them as quickly as we can. You can help by reporting errors giving us as much detail as possible. Thanks. [3/4/98]
  19. The chat room does not work in my course?

  20. Your instructor may have chosen not to activate this feature (the link appeared as gray on the course page). If active, java support for your browser may not be enabled (see system setup above), your browser may not be able to support java (like Netscape under Win3.x), or your browser's java support is incompatible with the Netscape java standard.  [3/1/98]
  21. What's the chat room anyway? I visited and no one was there?

  22. The chat room associated with a course page provides an opportunity for students to talk to each other in real time (synchronously) though being in different locations. For example, rather than meeting with some fellow students Sunday 3 pm in the library, you could meet Sunday 3 pm in the chat room. Of course, this assumes that you and your friends belongs to the still small, but fortunately growing number of students that have access to a computer at home. So, you save $3 subway fare -- and three or four of you can work together on a team assignment or project or just discussing what you have trouble understanding in the assigned reading. You could also badmouth your instructor, but you wouldn't ....  [3/1/98]
  23. What' s this format stuff?

  24. Course documents can be in a variety of formats. The browser can handle formats like html, txt, gif, or jpeg on its own. For other formats (pdf, wpd, excel), the browser needs to be set up specifically by using plugins or helper applications. The format listing behind a document alerts you to the fact that your browser setup may need to be amended so that you can view the document on screen (see system setup above). If your browser is currently not capable to display the document, you can still save the document to a disk and view the document on another computer that has the necessary software installed. This second computer does not need to be connected to the Internet or have Netscape installed. It is sufficient if it has the actual software installed, e.g. WordPerfect or Excel. Instructors need to look into this even more.  [3/1/98]
  25. I saved a document in html format (or a link), but when I view it again all the graphics are missing?

  26. This is not specific to ERes, but happens whenever you surf the Web. Fancier web documents (in htm/html format) are composed of a number of files, the file with the basic text and supplementary files with graphics, etc. When you save in the usual way, you only save the basic text file but not the rest.
    If you use a full version of Netscape (currently not available in all labs at Hunter), you save the complete web page, by selecting "Edit Page" from the "File" menu. This opens the Netscape Composer; then you select "File/Save as". Netscape Composer -- in contrast to Netscape Navigator -- automatically saves all associated files as well.  [3/1/98]
  27. My instructor told me that the Power Point presentation from the lecture is posted, but I get nothing when I click on the entry on the course page?

  28. If you do get a white screen with two wide black bars on the side, you are almost there: Just click your mouse in the white area and the show will start! -- If you get a pop-up window asking you about saving the file and/or which application to use, then your browser (Netscape) is not ready for this file format. Make sure that the plugin or viewer is installed. -- Third possibility is that your instructor used an old version of Power Point, and the viewer installed with your browser (Netscape) can read only Power Point 97 files. Tell your instructor to update his/her software. [3/3/98]

 

Instructor Questions

  1. How do I change/maintain my course page?

  2. All changes start with clicking the link "all page functions" in the left bar on your course page. You are then prompted to enter your ERes user name and password to make sure that only you (but not your students) can make changes to your course page. The course function page contains all the options you have to make changes to your course page including the bulletin board. Just follow the on screen instructions. Keep in mind that there is also an online manual that explains the various functions in more detail. You get to the online manual from the ERes starting page.  [3/1/98]
  3. How do I upload files?

  4. Just go to the page function screen, select add document and follow the instruction. You will be presented with a series of screens that walk you through the process. Follow the instructions carefully and all will be fine. At some point, we will be asked for the password associated with "eresuser". Think of this as the "upload password" and it is the same for all ERes instructors. If you have misplaced this password, contact the ERes manager.
    If you are a more experienced user, you can upload your files independent from ERes using any ftp program. Since we no longer allow anonymous access, log in with user name 'eresuser' and the 'upload password' described above. You will still have to use the add document sequence, but the process will be shortened.  [3/8/98]
  5. Passwords, passwords -- what is this all about?

  6. As an instructor we need to have at least two passwords, the one associated with your personal ERes account (to make sure that only you can make changes to your course page(s) and the upload password describe above. In addition, you may have passwords for each of your courses (this your option). Again:
    Personal ERes password (needed to make changes to your course page): TOP SECRET, tell no one, set by you
    Upload password: CONFIDENTIAL, but can be shared with other ERes *instructors*, set by ERes manager
    Course password(s) (optional): these need to be shared with your students, set by you [3/8/98]
  7. Sometimes I need to enter my upload password, sometimes not; how come?

  8. Once you have uploaded a file (and given your password in the process), Netscape remembers your password for the duration of your session. So, when you upload again later (even the next day, if you don't close Netscape and don't shut down your computer) it has your password and does not prompt you again. [3/9/98]
  9. How do I change my personal password?

  10. Whenver you go to the "all page functions" screen of an existing course or when you want to create a new course page, you are prompted for your ERes user name and password. At this point, you can check the 'change password' box and you are presented for another screen prompting you to enter your new password.
    This password change -- if successful (smiley face appears at the end) -- will affect all your course pages; it is a change to your ERes account, not to a particular course page. [3/8/98]
  11. How do I change a course password?

  12. For this, you need to go to the "all page functions" screen of the course for which you want to change the password (to be shared with the students in your class). There, select 'change page info' and then just change the contents in the password box on the next screen. To remove an existing password, just replace with nothing. [3/8/98]
  13. How long does it take to upload a file?

  14. That depends on a number of factors: the size of your file, the speed of your connection (e.g., 14.4 modem from home vs. backbone/LAN connection from your office at Hunter), amount of traffic, and more. I don't have to tell you in which direction each factor works, right? When using the ERes sequence, make sure that you wait till the gray popup window (telling you that the file is uploaded) disappears. Unfortunately, there is no progress indicator, and larger files -- via a slow modem connection -- can take several minutes. It is a good idea to check the size of the file before you start the upload and compare this with the size of the uploaded file. Don't worry about a small difference, though. [3/3/98]
  15. What about copyright?

  16. Well, that's a good one. Currently, legislation is pending in the US Congress to redefine "fair use" in the electronic age. For now, each instructor is on his/her own in making decisions about what to post and what not, when to obtain an explicit permission and when not. Many documents (especially from government agencies) are in the public domain, many authors permit reposting of their material as long as the source is identified, and -- of course -- you can decide about your own stuff yourself. As to newspapers and similar material, I found it a good solution to just put a link to such a document on the course page (without actually downloading and storing the document at Hunter).
    As an additional protection, if you want to use copyrighted material without explicit permission claiming fair use, you should protect your course page by a password -- that you give to the students in your class only. This makes your fair use claim much stronger if someone challenges you. [3/3/98]
  17. I did everything as I was told, but I got an error message saying that ftp access was denied?

  18. This can happen if your computer (its "IP address") is not properly matched to a "domain". This is not an ERes problem, but a problem with your Internet connection. The ERes manager cannot help you with this, you need to contact your ISP (Internet Service Provider, like AOL, MSN, or Hunter College's OICIT depending how you connect to the Internet). Currently, we have disabled this check because many computers in the Hunter domain have not been properly set up. For security reasons, however, this check will be reactivated in the near future.  [3/1/98]
  19. I did everything as I was told, but I got an error message saying that I don't have permission?

  20. You will get this message if a file with this name already exists in the sub directory for your course. This is a necessary security feature to prevent unauthorized deletion of your files. You may think that you do not have a file of this name already, but maybe a first attempt of uploading a file was aborted, you did not create a course page entry, but there is a file (or fragment of it) sitting in the sub directory already. Select delete file from the all page functions screen first, and delete the file no longer wanted, then try again.
    In case you deliberately want to update a file, select modify file from the all page functions screen and follow the instructions. You cannot use independent ftp upload in this case -- or you must use another file name.  [3/1/98]
  21. Is there a limit of how many files I can put on my course page?

  22. Currently, there is no limit -- neither in terms of number nor in terms of size. We ask, however, that you refrain from putting large data sets on your course page. For the time being, we have plenty of disk space and hope that we will be able to expand as demands warrants. But once you hit more than say 5 MB of uploaded file, please get in touch with the ERes manager to discuss your special needs. [3/3/98]
  23. You said I could put a WP (Excel, MS Word, Acrobat) document up, but all I get is a mess on the screen?

  24. When uploading documents to your course page, you need to use a file extension (the part behind the ".") that matches the actual format. So, WP documents must have the extension .wpd, Excel spreadsheets the extension .xls, MS Word documents the extension .doc, Acrobat documents the extension .pdf, simple ASCII/DOS text files the extension .txt, etc. It not sufficient to select the format on the (second) screen of the "add document" sequence. This is just an information for the viewer (student), but it does not effect the information your browser gets from the web server; the "MIME" type.  [3/1/98]
  25. I used the correct extension, but -- still -- all I got was some mess on the screen?

  26. Well, that was probably a little while ago. In order to display non-standard formats, some advance work on both the user's (client) side and the system administrator's (server) side are necessary. And we weren't quite ready for people to start putting up Excel spreadsheets or Powerpoint presentations. But, now our server (maxweber) is ready. No more mess on the screen, but make sure that the viewer is installed (see previous question and consider a possible Powerpoint conflict). [3/3/98]
  27. What are PDF documents and how do I use them?

  28. PDF stands for portable data format and is also referred to as Acrobat format. It is widely used by government agencies like the Census Bureau or CDC to disseminate documents with complex layouts identical to printed versions (including tables, graphics, columns). To generate PDF documents, you need the full Adobe Acrobat software suite; currently, Hunter has a limited site license only. But just using the free Acrobat reader you can extract parts from PDF documents and put them in other applications (like WordPerfect). More details about working with PDF documents.  [3/1/98]
  29. How do I create standard web (technically: HTML) documents?

  30. No quick answer to this one, but if you know how to use WordPerfect or MS Word, it only takes a few extra keystrokes to convert any WP or Word document into html format -- it's really that simple! More details.  [3/1/98]
  31. How about handwritten lecture notes, how can I use these with ERes?

  32. Especially in the sciences (lots of formulas), it rather cumbersome to produce lecture notes on the computer -- though the software for handling formulas, etc. has much improved. But, yes, you can use your handwritten notes as well. Matter of fact, ERes was developed by a professor of physics, and this feature was dear to his heart. You need to scan your handwritten notes and produce graphic files in .gif format. ERes can link a series of such files (one for each page), so that they can be displayed as one set of notes. Check the ERes online manual for more details.
    Scanners have become very cheap, even good (flatbed) scanners are now under $200. Also, the new OICIT training lab (Room C104 North) will offer access to a scanner and related assistance. [3/4/98]
  33. Aren't bulletin boards and chat rooms just some toys without any pedagogical value?

  34. Not at all. You may think about general chat rooms or postings to newsgroups with a lot of idle chatter or worse. Within ERes, these a course specific tools that can add a lot to your class. Bulletin boards can be used successfully in any situation; a meaningful use of chat rooms, however, requires that students have access to computers off campus. More details.  [3/1/98]
  35. How do I know whether my students really use the course page?

  36. Starting with version 3.1 (at Hunter installed in late January 1998), you check the number of 'hits' for both the course page overall and each document on your course page (select the corresponding buttons from the all page functions screen). However, the ERes system does not allow to track individual students in your class. This would require more elaborate systems, like TopClass, WebCT, Lotus Learning Space, or MHLA (McGraw Hill Learning Architecture). But some of these are really expensive ....  [3/1/98]
  37. I hate reading manuals, are there any workshops to get me started?

  38. There are typically one or two  "jump start" workshops per semester. Also, the Zabar program provides successful faculty applicants with a student intern to get things going. Contact Mike Nisbett at OICIT for more details on both.  [8/27/99]

More advanced Issues (Instructor related)

  1. I have my own web page for my course, why should I join ERes?

  2. True, some instructors have very elaborate course pages (e.g., Astronomy 100) surely beating the "plain vanilla" look of an ERes course page. But a good way to use ERes for these instructors is to simply put a link to their more elaborate course page on their ERes page and maybe use additional ERes features like the bulletin board or the chat room. Currently, several instructors in economics use their ERes course pages this way.
    Also, the ERes does not only serve our current students, but it shows the prospective student (maybe still in high school) what Hunter has to offer, whether the courses at Hunter are just right for her/him. So, ERes provides one-stop shopping for students, parents, and the general public to check on what we do offer (despite all the bad press we are getting). More elaborate discussion of pro and cons. [8/27/99]
  3. I have something new, very cool, and there is a free viewer, what do I need to do to use it with ERes?

  4. Yes, there is new cool stuff all the time and we understand your excitement. So:
    First, contact the ERes manager and tell him about the new format (text, audio, video) you want to use. The ERes manager will make sure that the server (maxweber) handles the file extension appropriately (translating it into a special MIME type). This can be done very quickly. Assuming that you have set up your browser accordingly, you can start experimenting right away -- using other as the format description on your course page.
    Second, contact the Hunter lab managers about installing the corresponding viewer (plugin) so that your students will be able to access this cool new stuff as well. Usually, this is difficult to do in the middle of the semester and may require a good deal of work. Hopefully, OICIT will coordinate this project with other non-OICIT labs.
    Samples for all formats currently supported by the server can be found on a special course page. [8/27/99]
  5. Can I put a file with data for input into SPSS or an SPSS system file on my course page?

  6. Yes, you can put files of any format on your ERes course page. Just select other as format within the add document sequence and give the file the extension of .bin. Files of this sort are not meant to be displayed on screen, you are just using the course page as a convenient way to distribute files to your students that they are supposed to use as input for other, e.g. statistics, programs. Using the .bin extension prevents your browser from trying to display the file, and clicking on the corresponding entry will start the save as sequence. It maybe necessary to change the extension from .bin to something else (e.g., .zip, .sps, .sav) during or after the save as sequence for further processing. This is fine for relatively small data sets, but talk to your lab manager about making large data sets available to your students. [3/3/98]
The author of this local help page and first ERes manager (till August 98), Manfred Kuechler

Selected Web Pages:
Using the Web in the classroom:  Preprint version of an article published in SSCORE in the summer issue of 1999
How to start (and further develop) your web course page: A primer
Multimedia contents for course web pages: Preliminary Explorations
The Web as a Research Tool: Outline of a presentation at the Graduate Center (October 98)
 
 

Back to the ERes main page
Hunter College main page
Hunter College Sociology main page (because of the many links of general interest there)