Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New CESL web site

One can't watch fifteen years, and over 300 pages of CESL web resources go under without at least commenting. There were many reasons for the new, simplified look of the CESL main web, which I will get to below, but mostly I want to say that although I recognize the reasons and can't argue with them, I feel sorry that an era of CESL's putting resources out to the public is now apparently over.

Here are some of the reasons the web site is now smaller, slicker, and less ambitious. Its 300 pages once included student work display (old CESL Todays), TESOL presentations by faculty (mostly me), teacher links and resources, student links and resources, and directories meant to help the ESL/EFL community in general. These pages were widely linked to from all over the world and contributed to CESL's good standing in Google, which rates highly the generous well-connected nature of a benevolent organization. But the directories were hard to maintain; they took precious faculty time; their links easily got outdated and sometimes the outside places they linked to were bought out from under whoever started them. Thus our links became like an unweeded garden with snakes everywhere. Also, SIUC has become increasingly sensitive about all pictures on the SIUC web system: are they marked? Do we own them? Are the rights clear? Are they Alt-tagged properly? There was no way we could go back and find the authors of all those photos; it wasn't possible. We had hundreds of pages of photos that were for all intents and purposes given to CESL, but completely unmarked. Finally, SIUC constantly changed its requirements; it would force us to put a template on our pages, but then make those templates unsightly; it had marketing requirements and space restrictions, but these often changed. A strategy to use the actual SIUC space as little as possible actually makes sense in the big picture, as long as we can move the other functions elsewhere in a reasonable amount of time.

The days when CESL could make a directory that people in the field could use and appreciate are apparently over. Although Google searches involving tesol organizations, plagiarism/esl, facebook/esl, twitter/esl, second life/esl, chat/esl, and esl program marketers all call up CESL pages in their first page (and this, presumably, was good for CESL), these are now dead links, and may not be returned to life; if they are, visitors will be forwarded to some site which is willing and able to hold the resources. Students looking for writing, reading, listening, grammar, and speaking links will be directed to the weblogs where these can be held without the restrictions of the SIUC system; people looking for past published student work (some of which won awards, or was used in other venues) may or may not be able to find what they are looking for. The era of resources was a good one, and made us famous, in our own way; I'm not sorry we did it, only sorry that it seems to be over.

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