Online ORC is new Web resource

by Kascha Semon | 5/19/98 5:00am

Students hurrying to meet the fall course selection deadline can now speed up the process by accessing course listings on the World Wide Web.

Registrar Thomas Bickel and Computing Services have transferred Dartmouth's infamous big green book, The Organizations, Regulations, and Courses manual (ORC), to an electronic format.

Through a connection to the Dartmouth College Information System (DCIS), students can cross-reference listings by department, term, professor and interdisciplinary requirement.

For over two years, Bickel and Computing Services have been gradually converting the ORC from a traditional type-set printed manuscript to a desktop publishing version, finally connecting it to the web and DCIS.

Conversion to desktop publishing was an essential step in updating the ORC. Many applications allow editors to update the ORC more quickly and accurately, and also to translate the information to a format that can be transferred to the web.

The most recent renovation, the connection to DCIS, allows browsers to perform complex searches in addition to reading the text.

The on-line ORC permits not only current students, but also prospective high school seniors and off-campus students, to read through the course listings.

Although the College will continue to publish the paper ORC, the College will cut expenses by storing more information on-line.

According to Bickel, the original cost of production for the ORC was $50,000 due to the expense of paper and the cost of manually correcting the type-setting.

"We'll try and make the big green book a little green book," said Bickel.

Bickel said that another advantage to the on-line version is that students can study the new ORC on the web a month before the printer can finish the paper copy.

Bickel said he and Computing Services recognized the need for an electronic ORC even before the Internet was widely-used.

Editors of the ORC previously spliced the 742-page book into sections which they sent to faculty and staff across the campus.

These bits and pieces were then merged into a final master version and were double-checked by a typesetter.

Director of Computing Services Communications Bill Brawley said that some mistakes remained in the ORC for years because readers skimmed over them or assumed they were correct because they had been published.

Brawley said the new ORC was Bickel's "brainchild."

He said Bickel has been invaluable in creating the new ORC, but added that many Computing Services staff members have contributed to it.

Bickel said he and others have already begun work on next year's paper and electronic ORC.

In the future, links may connect browsers to existing departmental information home pages, he said.

If possible, the electronic ORC will also be updated more frequently than the book in order to accommodate changes in course offerings made during the academic year, Bickel said.

Bickel said he also hopes the ORC will soon be connected to the Student Information System (SIS), which contains all student records. This connection would allow Computing Service's staff to use the combined web resources to plan the next quarter's schedule rather than manually searching students' records and course listings.