Case 1: GroupWare Tool


DePaul University is experiencing tremendous growth in its student body and in the number of campuses on which it offers classes. DePaul is also experimenting with courses that are offered in a completely on-line environment (little or no planned physical meeting times during the course), with an eye toward perhaps offering complete degree programs online at some point in the future. An obstacle currently facing the faculty and students of the University is the lack of a web-based, integrated discussion tool. Your assignment, should you choose to accept this project, is to complete the systems development life cycle methodology to address this issue, resulting in a mock-up of a group communication system.

Case Background

DePaul University is a level-3 4-year and graduate institution in Chicago, Illinois. There are approximately 17,000 students enrolled at DePaul, and approximately 2500 faculty and staff. Over half of the student body attend class on a part-time basis, and many courses are offered during the evenings and on weekends to accommodate these working students. The DePaul enterprise is distributed over six campuses in the Chicago area: Lake County, O’Hare, Naperville, Lincoln Park, Loop, and South Campus. The distributed nature of the campuses and the part-time nature of many of the students means that both faculty and students rely heavily on electronic tools for communication, advising, and group work.

DePaul faculty offices on all campuses are currently connected to a local area network with Novell 4.11. Faculty will be migrating to Netscape’s Messaging Server/Calendar Server/LDAP Server suite during the 1998 academic year.

All students at DePaul are eligible to receive a UNIX shell account with 4 MB of disk storage space. Students can optionally purchase the DePaul Online service, which expands their disk space to 12 MB and provides dial-up facilities (PPP/SLIP) throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. It should be noted that less than 5,000 students actually use their UNIX shell account assigned. Most other students have e-mail services through their workplace or Internet Service Provider, and choose not to have multiple e-mail accounts.

DePaul currently offers four group discussion support tools from which faculty can choose. These tools are:

HyperNews (a web-based, bulletin board/mailing list hybrid developed at UIUC)

Majordomo (a mail-based mailing list with an optional web interface)

Usenet News (a very mature bulletin board-based system that requires a client/reader)

Internet Relay Chat (a synchronous, text-based chat service)

The Problem

Although there are asynchronous and synchronous tools available, none of the currently-offered tools meet the needs/desires of the vast majority of faculty. For this reason, we have been asked to design a new tool with the following feature sets:

Several faculty have offered additional feature sets which need to be evaluated and verified. If you decide to take this case, you will be given access to all four discussion forums so that you can work with them directly to see how they operate and what they do. Faculty and technical experts will be available to you on 24 June for interviews during class time.