Submitted by Rob Dickerson, WaSP Education Task Force
Overall, an excellent conference. Conference ran smoothly and there were no unexpected problems. All sessions that I attended were excellent. Speakers were well prepared and of a high caliber. Most of the sessions that I attended were along the lines of standards/accessibility/usability. Every conference attendee with whom I talked accepted web standards as a given and were already using standards-based development in their daily workflow. Major themes throughout the conference focused on Content Management Systems, Accessibility, and Usability. But web standards were an integral part of these topics and were expected. Newer technologies (Web 2.0, Ajax, etc.) were also discussed, but not nearly to the same extent. Folks were more interested in providing a strong foundation for their web presence.
I know of seven individuals that belong to the EduTF-PP mail list who attended the conference. Those in attendance include Daniel Frommelt, Jonathan Linczak, Rose Pruyne, Justin Thorp, Charlynda Winkley, Tim Hannigan, and myself.
Daniel Frommelt gave two presentations and both presentations were standards oriented. His first presentation was titled “Aural Style Sheets: Improving Accessibility & Going Beyond.” His second presentation was titled “Conversion to Web Standards: Tips, Tricks, and Methods.” Daniel also did a half day tutorial on the last day of the conference titled “Advanced CSS Workshop,” which was the only workshop to completely fill to capacity.
Jonathan Linczak gave a two hour presentation titled “Maintaining Your Web Site with Lenya,” in which he mentioned web standards repeatedly. Lenya is an excellent open source Content Management System which produces valid XHTML and accessible documents.
Rose Pruyne's presentation “Roll Your Own Content Management System” was the most heavily attended session for which I was present. Rose covered the pros and cons of building your own CMS. She also discussed open source alternatives Lenya, Plone, Mambo, and Drupal. A couple of the commercial alternatives were also discussed. Rose also mentioned no matter which CMS is chosen, it should produce valid, accessible code.
Justin Thorp's session was titled “Web Accessibility Evaluation: Techniques, Tips, and Tools Used by Michigan State University.” Justin covered many of the tools available to developers interested in testing their sites for accessibility. Justin demoed many of the tools using sites that had problems. He also demonstrated some of the tools using the Hiram College site as an example of a good site. Richard Ells, from the University of Washington said that we need more good sites to use as examples that valid code and accessible sites were possible within higher education. Justin stressed validating your code as a first step and that everyone should be developing using standard validating code and CSS by default.
Charlynda Winkley presented a talk titled “Emerging Web Technologies: Building New Connections in Higher Education.” She also presented a poster at the poster session on Tuesday afternoon, “A User’s Point of View: Mapping Mental Models.”
Daniel Frommelt's presentation “Conversion to Web Standards: Tips, Tricks, and Methods” was awarded best presentation for the Content: Tools and Planning (CTP) track. Jonathan Linczak’s ”Maintaining Your Web Site with Lenya” was awarded best presentation for the Technical: Propeller Hats Required track and also was awarded best presentation for the conference. Overall, the EduTF-PP was well represented and their presentations were well received by conference attendees. More details on the sessions listed above can be found at http://www.highedweb.org/2005/program.html.
Comments related to the EduTF:
Tim Hannigan from Queen’s University was quite pleased with the progress he has made since his first contact with the EduTF in July of 2005. Tim mentioned that Jon Linczak gave him plenty of good advice on how to procede with the conversion of the Queen’s site. He also mentioned that the EduTF was instrumental with advice in forming the Queen’s Web Consulting Group (WCG). The WCG at Queen’s has been successful at moving the Queen’s site to it’s present valid, accessible state.
Tim also mentioned that he has met with other Canadian web developers with a vision of forming a Canadian group of like-minded developers in higher education. Accessibility is central theme with this group.
The EduTf has been a great help in Tim's opinion.
Charlynda Winkley of Buffalo University in New York said that Penn State’s success with it’s policy requiring accessible, valid sites was refreshing. To paraphrase, ‘If a school of Penn State’s size can do it, smaller schools could too.’
In general, the EduTF is seen as a welcome addition and is used as an example when presenting a case for standards inclusion at the developers college or university. The Web Standards Project is held in high regard by everyone to which I spoke and are praised for the work that is done. I suspect a presentation by the EduTF would be welcomed and could help focus future efforts by the Task Force.
Professional Society for Web Professionals in Higher Education
It was also announced at the conference that a Professional Society for Web Professionals in Higher Education was being formed. The mission statement was drafted, voted on, and accepted. I don’t remember the exact phrasing of the mission but it mentioned the promotion of standards.
The society also hopes to standardize job descriptions and bring some equity to salaries, which are reported to be much higher in the public sector.
The Web Standards Project is a grassroots coalition fighting for standards which ensure simple, affordable access to web technologies for all.