Your College Online

Contents

Introduction
Updating your site
Enabling courses for online display
Course description
Enabling Classes for online display
Class descriptions
Summary
Special Pages
Advanced Search Options
Filtering class results using advanced search
Faceted Search
Search Engine Optimisation
Google tools
Webmaster Tools
Site Map

Introduction

One of the key features of onCourse is the integrated website. This allows you to promote your courses via your website with seamless online enrolments, waiting lists, mailing lists, discounts, credit card payments, student and tutor portals and much more.

Updating your site

Because onCourse has been written as one comprehensive system, updating your website is completely autoamted and painless. Every time you make a change to any relevant information those changes are automatically uploaded to your website without you having to do anything specific. This means for example that as courses are filled, the website automatically updates to show prospective students that places are limited.

Connectivity between your website and the onCourse client software

onCourse makes the uploading and downloading of information (the replication) foolproof so that you don't have to worry about it. Replication was designed by ish to work perfectly even after your internet connection has been offline for a while (say, because your ISP had an outage). onCourse is designed to not require high performance internet links, so you can use very low cost ADSL and because you aren't hosting the website in your office, you don't need to invest in expensive, high performance, high reliability internet connections (such as SHDSL which are typically $400 / month and up). You also don't need servers which provide 24×7 web access for students or have backup power and generators to ensure high reliability website servic with a 24 hour climate controlled server room in a secure facility which complies with the Mastercard/Visa PCI security regulations .ish already does all that for you.

All you need are the computers you own today and a plain, simple low-cost internet link to run onCourse. We provide the rest.

Key features

  • Automatic uploads to the website every time you make a change

  • Resilient to outages in your internet connection

  • Does not require a high speed connection

  • Automatic replication of new enrolments and students from website

  • Since you aren't serving the website from your office, you don't need to supply, support or service data-centre quality links and equipment

  • Our data centre is constantly monitored and supported by experienced Unix system administrators. It has 24 hour airlock security, temperature control, diesel power backup, halon gas fire control and its own electricity sub-station

  • Separate monitoring systems check the availability of every website every 15 minutes. Our technical team are notified of any outage via SMS.

Enabling courses for online display

Each course needs to be marked as 'Enabled and visible online' from within the General tab when looking at the course to display on the website. To do this:

  1. Go to "Course"

  2. Double click on a course record

  3. In the general tab, make sure the "Enabled and visible online" option is on under "status"

  4. Click save

Selecting this option will display the course online

You must also tag your courses with Subject tags for them to display on your web site. You may choose to allow subject tags to be set more than once, or limit to one. If a course is tagged with more than one subject, it will appear in the menu for each tag you have assigned. Check the onCourse manual for more on tagging.

Example of a welcome page and Subject tags at the bottom

Course description

The field ‘web description' is where you should enter all the information about the course, what students should bring, pre-requisites, outcomes and anything else you can think of. As this is the course, this information needs to pertain to all the classes of this course. If you have class specific information you should put this in the class web description. The web description can be found in the 'Marketing' tab on courses inside onCourse.

The description fields are rich text fields, so you can use bullets, headings and numbered lists. See our documentation for more on our richtext markdown.. You can also include images and attachments in your pages using richtext or HTML.

Enabling Classes for online display

Similar to courses, each class needs to be marked as "Enrolment allowed and visible online" from within the General tab. To do this:

  1. Go to "Class"

  2. Double click on a class record

  3. In the general tab, make sure the "'Enrolment allowed and visible online'" option is on under "Restrictions".

  4. Click save

Class descriptions

A classes web drescription can be editted from the 'Web' tab inside a Class record.

The information that you put in this field should be specific for just this instance of the class. Keep your general course information in the course itself.

Summary

Here are some handy tips to help ensure that courses/ classes appear on the main page of the website.

  • Courses have “Enabled and visible online” selected on the General tab

  • Courses are tagged with at least one tag under Subjects in the tag group (if it has multiple tags, this course will appear under each tag)

  • Ensure "Enrolment allowed and visible online” is selected on the "General" tab of every class you want to appear on your website.

Special Pages

Some URLs on your site are reserved for special pages. These pages are delivered by the onCourse software itself. To customise them, consult the templates chapter for details of how these pages are created. These pages include:

/courses

A list of all courses which are marked as web visible.

/course/arts

A list of all courses tagged with the tag "arts" from the "subject" tag group.

/courses/people/get-better-job

A list of all courses tagged with the tag "get-better-job" from the "people" tag group.

/course/ABC

The detail of the course with code ABC.

/class/ABC-123

The detail of the class with code ABC-123

/sites

A list of all sites marked as web visible.

/site/12

The detail of site with internal id 12.

/tutor/23

The detail of the tutor with internal id 23.

/checkout

All pages under this path are reserved for the enrolment/checkout processing pages.

Advanced Search Options

onCourse includes a Solr search engine indexed to your website. This allows users to use the built in simple or advanced search tools on your webpages to find the courses they are looking for, or for you to craft URLs which include certain search results.

You can also choose to include only courses tagged with a set tag group in your search engine index, this is commonly done when providers have multiple websites for different training departments. i.e. the workplace learning site only ever searches on and shows results tagged with professional development, while the community site indexes all courses.

The sort order for course results in a list view page prioritises courses with classes starting next. When a search parameter is added into a page, the sort order is shifted to bring results with a greater relevancy to the top of the page, and then to sort by classes starting next.

To see the scoring priority for each course in a search result, add the string ?debugQuery=true to the end of your URL.

When adding a 'near=' search, it will automatically hide results outside of 100km radius the search suburbs' GPO. This can be useful if you deliver in seperated locations. For example, a website visitor who searches for courses in Sydney is unlikely to be interested in results in Melbourne, but may be interested in results in Chatswood. In this case the Melbourne classes would be suppressed from the list but shown to the user if they click the button 'Show other classes'

Classes that are full or cancelled are suppressed from the course results.

If you wanted to craft some specific searches to put behind image banners, promotional ads or other links, you can build your search within a tag group URL to make the results more specific. For example, if you want a promo for day time cooking classes your search might be www.myurl.com/courses/cooking?time=day which will find all the courses tagged with the subject tag group named cooking that have classes running during the day time.

The onCourse search options available are:

Keyword search

Example - /courses?s=cook

This is standard keyword search, which includes stemming so the term cook will find cook, cooks, cooking, cookery ect. The search results prioritise courses where the search term appears in the course name, over courses where it appears in the course description.

Search by proximity to location

Example - /courses?near=Chatswood/2067/1

Search on both the Suburb/postcode/search radius in km. While the search may work without the postcode, adding the postcode is essential to determine location if the suburb exists in multiple states. You do not require the search radius for this to function.

Search by price

Example - /courses?price=200

This searches for classes with an enrolment fee less than the specified dollar value.

Search by specific tutor

Example - /courses?tutorId=1234

This searches for all classes that the tutor with ID number 1234 is currently teaching. To find what a tutors ID is you will need to find a class that is online and one the tutor currently teaches. Then right click on their name, in the class block, and open the link in a new window/tab. The tutors ID will be the last few digits of the URL. So if the URL is www.yoursite.com.au/tutor/3, then the tutor ID is 3.

Search by time of day

Example - /courses?time=day

Searching for a day class means the first session commences before 5pm.

Example - /courses?time=evening

Searching evening means the session starts after 5pm.

Search for classes starting on a specific day

Example - /courses?day=mon

This searches for a class where the first session is on Monday.

Parameters:

  • mon

  • tues

  • wed

  • thurs

  • fri

  • sat

  • sun

  • weekday - searches for classes where the first session is held Monday to Friday

  • weekend - searches for classes where the first session is held on a Saturday or Sunday

Date Specific Search

Example - /courses?after=20141201

This will show class that start after the date 1/12/2014. The date in the search is in format yyyymmdd.

Example - /courses?before=20141201

This will show classes that start before 1/1/2015. The date in the search is in format yyyymmdd. This can be used in combination with the after search option to create a date range.

Tag Specific Search

Example - /courses/cooking?tag=delivery/School+holidays

This search allows you search for courses that are tagged with multiple tags. You must use the full secondary tag path. This means the course is tagged with both the landing page tag (usually the tag group from within the subjects tag) and the search term tag.

Multiple search teams can be concatenated to created complex search strings such as www.myurl.com/courses/cooking?s=thai&near=Chatswood+2057&price=500&time=day&tag=level/beginner which is searching inside the subject tag group cooking for courses also tagged with the level tag group beginner that contain the keyword Thai, held near Chatswood NSW in the day time and costing under $500.

Note

A note on the space character inside a URL: If you have a tag name that contains a space, and you are manually crafting a URL that includes that tag, you need to replace the space character with "+" e.g. tag name "cooking for kids" in a URL becomes "cooking+for+kids". This is done automatically for pages generated by onCourse, it is only in hand crafted URLs you need to remember to add the space delimiter. "%20" works also, but makes the URL harder for a human to read.

Filtering class results using advanced search

Advanced search parametres can also be added to specific course pages, to filter the list of results returned. This can be a useful function when you offer the same course in multiple locations, but users only want to see the classes from a specific location.

These search options are appended to a standard course page, with the URL containing the course code. In these examples, course code ABC123 is used.

Example - /course/ABC123/?near=Chatswood+2057

Search on both the Suburb+postcode. While the search may work without the postcode, adding the postcode is essential to determine location if the suburb exists in multiple states.

Example - /course/ABC123/?time=day

Searching for day classes of a course means the first session commences before 5pm.

Example - /course/ABC123/?time=evening

Searching evening classes of a course means the first session starts after 5pm.

Faceted Search

Faceted search uses a hierarchy structure to enable users to browse information by choosing from a pre-determined set of categories. This allows a user to type in their simple query, then refine their search options by navigating. In reality, it's an advanced search going on in the background, but instead of the user having to think of the additional search categories, it's been made easier for them by the visible folder structure. Examples of other websites that use it are Amazon and eBay.

You can select more than one option in the faceted search which will allow you to view more than categories results.

In the example below ther has been one option selected in the Locations tag and two options in the Courses tag. The courses that are displayed will be ones that are being taught in Sydney that have either been tagged to Barista & Coffee Art or RSA Course. The URL that is generated after the domain name from this search is /courses/barista+%26+coffee+art+courses?tag=/rsa+courses&near=sydney/2000/5

Example of how the faceted search is used

If you only selected the Sydney option above then the URL you would get is /courses?near=sydney/2000/5; if you only selected RSA Courses then the URL you would get is /courses/rsa+courses; and if you selected both Sydney and RSA Courses then the URL you would get is /courses/rsa+courses?near=sydney/2000/5.

Search Engine Optimisation

There are a number of tools available to you to help maximise the search engine optimisation for your onCourse website.

Google tools

Google offer a range of really useful free tools to help drive search results to your site and analyse who is visiting your site, why they are visiting your site and how much they are spending.

Analytics

ish will automatically sign you up to this service when we set up your account. onCourse has special hooks into Google Analytics to pass through the ecommerce details of people who visit your site, so not only can you see who is coming to your site and from where, but you can see which sources of traffic result in actual money being spent. It is all very well to get thousands of page views from Facebook, but unless that traffic is generating enrolments you aren't getting the results you really need.

Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager is a powerful tool which allows you to inject javascript, images or other content into your web pages. Every onCourse site automatically comes with a tag manager account for your use. Although you can get by with never logging into Tag Manager, this is a really useful way to dynamically add scripts to your site. There are so many tools available for you, many of them free.

  • user tracking

  • remarketing tools (following users around the internet with ads for your site)

  • Facebook

  • user experience measurement (eg. using hotjar to watch a user's mouse clicks to see which parts of your site are hard to use)

  • A-B testing (show different content to different users and measure the results)

Webmaster Tools

This free tool is something you can set up yourself. Just go to www.google.com/webmasters/tools and click "add a site". You'll be given several choices for how to verify your site; choose "HTML file upload" option. Take the file and upload it to your onCourse site in the top of the /s folder using webDAV. Don't forget to then publish your site changes into production.

You may decide to engage the services of an SEO company, and they may want to add your site to their own Webmaster tools. There is no problem with uploading several different Google html verification files to your site.

Once you have performed the verification, a huge number of options are available to you. Most importantly you'll want to review your organic search results, look at who is linking to you, make sure Google knows which country you are in.

Site Map

onCourse automatically generates a sitemap for all your content, so you don't need to maintain this by hand. This ensures that Google is able to locate every page in your site and index it. Whether you get page hits from Google search will of course depend on what you have on that page and how popular it is, but at least you know that Google will find every single page of your site.

For more information on Search Engine Optimization, refer to the SEO and analysis chapter of our Web Desgin manual.