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In this case study, the organization is Albuquerque Public Schools. It is the largest school district in New Mexico and provides educational services to students in Mexico. It is the city's second largest employer and 14,000 people are working there. About 90,000 students are learning there and the number is the third of the state's students. The application to be developed is the new website for the APS. The aim of the new website is to provide ease of access to APS for students and parents and to change some manual functions of organization to computerized functions.
2. Explanation of open source software used
In this case study, the open source software used is Plone. Plone is a content management system. To be specific, it is a web content management system. By using CMS, the developers can make changes to contents of the websites easily with small amount of HTML knowledge. There are two kinds of CMS; open source and commercial.
Plone is built on Zope application server. And it is written in Python. Plone is popular because it can be used for various websites. It can be also be used as document publishing system and groupware collaboration tool. The advantages of plone are its flexibility, extensibility and adaptability. It can be used in Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux operating systems. Plone launches updates on its website when new version is developed. Plone is widely used because it is available in over 30 languages and accessibility of disable people to Plone. The significant part of Plone is usage of skins and themes. Templates written with Cascading Style Sheets make developers customize the website's interface easily.
In this case study, Plone is chosen by APS because of above advantages and the positive feedback from an organization where Plone has been used 3 years ago.
3. A summary of how the application was used in the organization
The old Albuquerque Public schools (APS) website is not convenient for students, parents and employees at all. So, APS wanted to build a new website to solve the problems. These problems include;
Difficult to search for the website
Old website used the dedicated system provided by a particular vendor
The transfer requests from students were handled manually
New APS website provides solution to these problems. In Home page, a student or parent can search their prospective school district by entering the address. Old APS website couldn't solve it. And Home page also provides link for students, parents and employees to see their information. In student page, student can find school and contact a school. And other required information such as School and Hearing office, School meals and lunch menu, Bus information, School supply lists, Charter Schools, Magnet Schools, Summer Schools are supplied.
In the parent page, the parents can see the calendar about events. And the some links from student page. From parent page, the parent can enroll their child, transfer their child and transfer mileage reimbursement. The parent can contact the teacher for questioning about grade, bullying in the classroom. And also contact principal, counselor, activities director or athletic director, student transportation service, and food and nutrition service.
In the employee page, employee can see information such as Payroll, Human Resources, Employee benefits, Teacher licensure. And can also contact administration. In school page, it provides related information about schools such as list of all schools, magnet schools and Charter schools. The new APS website provides required information for parents, students and all staffs within the organization. The board of education can see required information about students and staffs. Actually, it serves as a very good communication medium between parents, students and staffs.
4. Critical Analysis of the success (or failure) of the open source software used in the application
Nowadays, the use of open source software is very popular because of its cost-saving and free-license features. In this section, we'll discuss critical analysis of the open source software used in application. Because of the software described in this case study is content management system, we'll analyze with critical factor of cms.
1. CMS Technology Factor
To analyze a cms software, we will have to see whether it uses dynamic publishing technology or static publishing technology. Most content management systems store data in relational database such as SQL. Static publishing technology provides faster response when website user click links on the website. If cms uses dynamic publishing technology, the following factors are to be considered;
1.1 High work Performance
If website user press a number of clicks on a web page which is dynamically assembled from a cms system, performance will decrease. It can enormously lengthen the loading time of web page. If the page loading time takes longer, the user will not be patient to wait for. With static publishing technology, the web page will load quicker because it is static on the web server. When the developer or designer enter the site to update content, the page is assembled in the cms database dynamically. After the page is changed and saved, the cms system stores static page to the web server.
In dynamic publishing technology, during the loading of page, the user is accessing the cms database. The website and cms database is outside the firewall. So, it can be hacked easily. From security point of view, static publishing technology is safer because cms is installed separately on an application server behind the firewall. When a hacker destruct the website, developer can easily regenerate the whole website.
1.3 Search Engine
The performance of search engine in dynamic pages are slower than the static pages. Since search engine performance is one of the most important features websites, static pages have to be chosen for good search engine performance.
Plone uses dynamic publishing technology and so its security and search engine will be considerably low.
2. Ease of use
After a website have been launched in an organization, the staffs who are not expertise at technology will need to update or change the content of a website. Therefore, ease of use of a cms software has to be considered.
2.1 End user content editing interface
When an end user updates or changes the content of a web page, he will have to click on a lot of pages to find the right page where the content is updated. So, previewing takes a long time to see a small amount of content change. With contextual text editing, user can see browse the right page where he wants to update the content. By this way, user can edit the content precisely the way he want the appearance of the content within short period.
2.2 Interface to build templates and content modules
Most cms system uses cms-enabled templates. If these templates can be built easily, the duration of work will be reduced. Actually, the templates are the format of the web page with content cells. The developer must build the corresponding templates to run a web page with cms. Some cms system provides Integrated Development Environment (IDE). If the IDE is intuitive and wizard based, the efficiency will be better.
Plone satisfies the above features and its ease of use is widely accepted.
3. Platform Independence
Platform independence is one of the most important factors in cms. If a cms software is platform specific, the user have to change his OS or find other cms.
Plone can run in Windows, Mac OS X and Linux/BSD/Unix and so it is platform independence.
After discussing the critical factors, we'll compare the advantages and disadvantages of plone.
Available in over 30 languages
Complex skin structure
The site differs from original design when overriding plone's CSS
Plone project have been started since 1999 and launched plone 4.0 now. Because of its various features and ease of use, plone has been used widely. Users don't need much time to choose plone because of its platform independence feature. Also in this case study, the development team went well with it and the website receives a number of page view. According to above features, plone will succeed in the future.