Archive for the ‘Download Study Notes’ Category

The new WikiStudent is now live

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

The new WikiStudent, for Unisa students, went live a couple of weeks ago. The URL:

We need Unisa students to become editors to help fill in the content - see the new site for how to join.

This blog is no longer being updated. You can browse the archives if you’re interested in how WikiStudent was re-built.

Something even better than study notes

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

Every time I go through the MediaWiki extensions list I get more and more ideas. My latest idea: Multiple-choice quizzes for each module! These are possible through the MediaWiki Quiz extension. Anyone can create a multiple-choice test with wiki markup simply by editing a page. Here’s a WikiVersity page where you can see some sample quizzes and how they are created. Really amazing!

We all know that hardly anybody has the time to make study notes, but how hard / time-consuming can it be to think up one question for a subject, and a few possible solutions, or even a true/false question? I can’t wait to go ahead with this idea. Quizzes will make a great supplement to the study notes section, and it’s such a fun & easy way to test yourself. When I was a student I actually made quite a couple of m/c quizzes myself, so there will be some on the wiki from the start.

On the topic of study notes, I found an extension that can convert MS Word docs to wiki markup! It’s called Word2MediaWikiPlus, but is still in the ‘experimental’ phase. When it’s more stable it will be just the thing to realise my editing online notes ideal.

Study notes don’t really have to be downloadable

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

Funny how we all think that if there are study notes on a website, we must download a .doc or a .pdf file to our own computer to access them.

There are a lot of other pre-conceived ideas and expectations that people have of websites, which (in my opinion) is why so many websites look the same. “Just another website” ho hum. The run-of-the-mill ones can be spotted in one second!

What I’m getting at  is, often when people build a website they think there is this ‘recipe’ that they have to follow and that there are prescribed sections they have to include. E.g. Many website owners think they should have a FAQ page, and then come up with a list of questions that nobody has actually asked, but that they think people would probably ask in order to understand the site better.  I’m against FAQ pages. I’ve tried them and have come to believe that a website should convey everything clearly so that you don’t need to have any questions about what it is for, how it works, how to do things.

Getting back to study notes. I know everyone is expecting there to be a page where you can ‘download study notes’, but is this really the best way? What I’m thinking of now is actually having the contents of the notes on the wiki!! That means the notes will be able to be continuously updated.

Why do we need this? Well, most of the notes on WikiStudent were written by me, and some of them date back to 2002! I know the Unisa syllabus for many subjects doesn’t change much from year to year, but sometimes a newer edition of a textbook is prescribed, and gradually the study notes get out of date too.

A bit off topic, but still related to users expectations… Have you ever noticed what they put on magazine covers? It’s almost always a photo of a beautiful woman. So many magazines do this, and in the end none of them stand out. I keep thinking: can’t they think of anything better to put on the cover?

It’s like that with websites. Everyone does what all the others do. Now I’m going to be different. I’m coming up with my own ideas and am using the available tools to build something unique. I am not going to do what is expected, but concentrate on what is needed and the best way to acomplish it.

My solution for keeping study notes up to date is simple: Don’t create your notes in MS Word; create them on the wiki, and if you’re lucky other students will help you write them!

Quality over quantity

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

This might come as a surprise, but I do not want a massive amount of students to register on the new WikiStudent. Let me put it another way: I would rather have 100 members who contribute than 10 000 members who don’t. If you have nothing to contribute to the site, I don’t want you to register!

The reason why there were so many members on the old site was because the downloads area required you to log in, and since that’s what everyone was interested in, they registered. I always thought that was a great decision of mine - there wouldn’t have been so many members if I’d made everything freely accessible to the ordinary Web surfer.

But what’s the point in having thousands of members when most of them register just because they ‘have to’, grab what they’re looking for, and then don’t give anything back? A community website is supposed to be about community, i.e. people contributing towards the site, not just having membership status!

On the new site, the downloads and everything else will be accessible to all. You will only need to register if you want to edit pages. This time round, I want people to join because they want to. Because they appreciate why it needs contributors and because they can help out, not because they feel forced to. 

I know it costs nothing to have extra rows in the database of inactive members with email addresses that no longer work, but in the long run it amounts to extra admin on my part, and gives a false impression of how many people really want to be part of the community.

Finding a Xoops downloads module

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

I had a look at three modules (plugins) to use for the WikiStudent downloads page, and have installed two of them on my local PC, including WF-Downloads:


The third one (x-Torrent) looks great!


It is the newest of the Xoops downloads modules, and features a PayPal secure interface (so that members can pay to access your downloads), but it costs $20 :-( If I were charging Unisa students for downloading notes then yes, I might pay the $20 for this software, which is slightly tempting… but I’ve always wanted to keep everything on WikiStudent free and am going to stick to my decision!