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1.1 Overview

The core functionality of CSNS includes user management, course management, and program assessment.

User management keeps track of various types of users such as students, faculty, system administrators, and program reviewers. User information, including demographic and academic information, can be added, updated, searched, and displayed. In particular, the system provides several ways to import data about students and grades from GET. User management also provides means for communication and advisement. More work on user management is currently underway to further simplify administrative work and better serve the students as they progress through our programs.

Course management allows instructors to create classes, add students to the classes (typically by importing class rosters on GET), and create assignments. An assignment can be a simple assignment where the students upload their solutions as files, or an online assignment where the students can complete the assignment online using a web browser. Online assignments consisting of multiple choice questions can be automatically graded. On the student side, students can use CSNS to submit their course work, view the grades and the instructor's feedback. All the work submitted by a student is kept in the system and is available to the student even after the student is graduated.

CSNS provides two types of support for program assessment. At the course level, a number of assessment artifacts such as a course journal, skill evaluations, and key assignments can be collected whenever a course is taught. By building assessment elements into everyday teaching and learning, we ensure that program assessment is a rigorous, systematic, and continuous process. In addition to course-level assessment artifacts, CSNS also supports assessment instruments such as opinion surveys, web portfolios, and MFT, an external test administrated by ETS.

CSNS also includes a number of general-purpose components:

  • Forums
  • Surveys
  • Mailing lists
  • Wiki
  • News
  • File Manager
  • Stored queries and charts

These components are well integrated with the core functionality of CSNS. For instance, each course has a forum associated with it, and the instructor and the students of the course are automatically subscribed to the forum so they will be notified whenever a new topic is posted in the forum. On the other hand, each of these components can also be used as a standalone service that is not directly related to teaching and learning. For example, users may use the Wiki to create their home pages or use the File Manager to share their family photos. The flexibility of these components, especially when they are used together, create many interesting usage scenarios, some of which will be discussed later in this document.

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