E-FILES: Execnet a ‘bag of tools’

Auckland University's online service Execnet enables business people to take courses without entering the classroom

www.execnet.auckland.ac.nz Execnet is part of Auckland University’s online service for executives. It is intended to stimulate the career development of its students and allow more online learning opportunities, says business faculty webmaster Adrianne Paranihi, without students and graduates having to enter the classroom or lab.

It’s been operating for four months and involved a “fair bit of collaboration ... in many stages”, as ideas changed.

Auckland-based IT consultancy Atlantech was employed to create the site.

“They were going to have to do a lot of clever things with it,” says Paranihi, “like various sorts of authentication based on how much you had paid and so on.” Atlantech integrated site content with the university’s existing CSL, or “Cecil”, database, whose interface “is not very flash”, says Paranihi, so information was put through filters to fit in with the “look and feel” of the corporate-oriented Execnet site. Cecil allows students to log on using a unique public identifier (UPI) and gain access to course marks, assignments and other information.

The UPI also gives access to Learn, the Library Electronic Academic Resources Network, and a number of article and information databases useful for research. Paranihi, who has been in the webmaster’s role for 11 months and in the department four years, says part of her job was to pull together all the Web services of the department and limit unnecessary contracting.

“We were in a position where we had business people who wanted stuff done, and they were going out to external contractors to get those things done. So we’ve pulled a lot of it back in-house now. Execnet was one of those situations where it potentially could have been one of those multimillion-dollar projects. By pooling the resources we already had within the school — ie Cecil — and getting all these people to talk to each other, we managed to cut a lot of money corners.”

Joanne Mills, the manager of Execnet, says there has been much positive feedback about the site, with no complaints to date. She calls the site a “bag of tools” for students who work fulltime and don’t have easy access to the university’s physical facilities.

The faculty has also recently launched www.thebizschool.com, which offers the Graduate Diploma in Business Administration online. Other sites developed this year include www.business.auckland.ac.nz, the public site for the business faculty, www.execpro.auck land.ac.nz for executive programmes and the short course site at www.shortcourses. auckland.ac.nz.

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