[LON-CAPA-dev] PARMSET thoughts

lon-capa-dev@mail.lon-capa.org lon-capa-dev@mail.lon-capa.org
Mon, 17 Jan 2005 14:46:10 -0500 (EST)


	I am one of those that holds the opinion that it is time for a
moderately major re-write/overhaul of parmset. As a user, a trainer and
one who has contributed some to the chaos of parmset code, I'd like to
chip in with my 2 cents (which I think will be more like a nickel).
Hopefully some of the insights may be useful in discussions regarding
the direction you want things to go.


As I think about parmset the following observations come to mind:

+ can do anything
+ do not have to rewrite parameter-specific chunks of code when adding
   new parameters.
+ can view the precedence of all 10+ layers of parameters when viewing
   in full mode.
+ chunks of code reused for PPRM and when accessing via RAT

- Can't do meta operations (multiple sections at once, deadline
  offsets or defaults for different sections, ...)
- In general, it is overwhelming for most people
- Lots of stuff on screen all at once
- The extra pop-up window really slows things down
- Doesn't remember default information, defaults not always chosen 
   intelligently  (set seconds to 0 by default, etc...), doesn't
   remember which parameters one likes to use

+ helper - nice idea, but really tedious
+ overview mode - easy to set values, but only once has been set once


I really like the idea of a PARM area that looks like the ENRL area to
some extent. I imagine an entry level screen with links (not buttons) such as:

Set Course Environment Parameters

Set/Modify Course Assessment Parameters

Modify Course Assessment Parameters

Set/Modify Course Assessment Parameters - Table Mode

Set Parameter Default Preferences

Pages would have the 'breadcrumbs' across the top for ease of navigation
within the area.

The old method of dealing with parameters would not be thrown away, but
it would simply be one option, as before. Because of the navigation
capabilities, you would not need all the extra crud at the top of the
screen (which currently keeps the table from showing immediately).

'Enhanced Helper'

While I know there are complaints about too many clicks (thus cram it on
one page), I've been finding that I can tolerate extra clicks in things
like printing when the defaults are intelligently set.

Limited choices per page can cause less confusion.

What about the following for a more advanced helper?

Page 1: Set Parameters for whom:

    Sections?  Select
    Individual Students?  Select

Page 2: Set What Parameters? and for What groupings?

    Default for whole course?
    For Specific folder?
    For individual resources in folder?
    For individual parts of resources in folder?

    Show list of all possible parameters to set with check boxes
    Allow buttons to unset or set all.
    REMEMBER the selection for the defaults for the next visit so they
       don't necessarily have to be set again.

Page2b: If Folder, then present something to select the folder. 
     If on its own page, might be able to find something less cumbersome
    than dropdown box, but relatively compact.

Page 3: Overview-like page that presents the options requested all on
one page.

    - downside, requires submit button to make sure everything 'takes'
    - downside, parameters want an initial default filled in, but
          may not be set - don't want to set extraneous parameters
    + everything set on one page, things like select date calendars can
      be incorporated


As an aside, several of the faculty from U of I had very positive things
to say about Dennis Kane's 'Tycho' parameter setting and gradebook.
It might be worth looking at. His system is home-written, perl-based,
and is used extensively in the Physics Department at U of I. It sounds
like it's very feature-ful, so it might be interesting to see how he
combines the features with ease of use.

I'm going to hide again and try to get ready for class tomorrow.


Mark Lucas					email: lucasm@ohiou.edu
252D Clippinger Lab  				phone: (740)597-2984
Department of Physics and Astronomy             fax:   (740)593-0433
Ohio University
Athens, OH 45701