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Novel Use Of The World Wide Web For Undergraduate Process Control Instruction

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.428.1 - 3.428.9

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Francis J. Doyle III

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3513

Novel Use of the World Wide Web for Undergraduate Process Control Instruction

Francis J. Doyle III Dept. of Chemical Engineering, University of Delaware

Abstract It is becoming common practice to use the World Wide Web (WWW) as a vehicle to communicate valuable course-related information to the student (see, e.g., [1]). In this paper, the author describes first-hand experience with the Serf (Server-side educational records facilitator) package, an environment which exploits a Web interface to access a collection of databases. The particular classroom application explored is a senior level required course: CHEG 401 Chemical Process Dynamics and Control.

1. Background

In earlier offerings of an undergraduate process control course, this author relied on traditional Web-based pages for general course information (e.g., syllabus, office hours, solutions, bulletin board). Such an interface, while more effective than hard copy handouts in many respects, is still limited in terms of overall course management. In other words, it is still a very passive environment, where the students download information. Two key issues arose in recent offerings of this course that motivated a more effective medium for course management. The first was the enrollment of off-campus professionals in the course (from local industry), and second was the need to automate the management of the gradebook and roster. The presence of off-campus students suggested a distance learning-like tool was needed, and while Excel and other spreadsheet packages are available for easy management of course grades, this author was looking for a seamless interface to the Web that allowed easy access for both the grader and the student. One solution, described in this paper, is the use of a relational database package (specifically Serf) to manage the course. It addresses the two previously mentioned concerns, and offers many additional capabilities that are particularly relevant for distance learning.

The Serf package was originally developed by Fred Hofstetter at the University of Delaware for Web-based distance education [2,3]. More details about the origins of this package can be found from the Serf Web page [4]. A notable endorsement of this package is the fact that the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) will use Serf as the vehicle for its first offering of a world-wide Web-based course (Internet Literacy) in 1998 [2]. In effect, Serf is a Java-based environment where one can manage a relational database (written in SQL). According to the Serf Users Manual [5], some typical software and machine requirements are: (i) SQL server, (ii) 32-bit Java Virtual Machine, (iii) ~100 MB RAM for optimal performance, and (iv) 250 MB disk space (recommended). The applications at the University of Delaware have been with the Windows NT operating system.

Doyle III, F. J. (1998, June), Novel Use Of The World Wide Web For Undergraduate Process Control Instruction Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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