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A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

Tech's website attracting thousands of visitors daily

By Netta S. Smith

Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 14 - December 5, 1996

Virginia Tech's presence on the World Wide Web is becoming more firmly established, and the number of requests for information has increased dramatically in the past year, as indicated by a comparison of web statistics for September 1995 and September 1996.

The requests for pages jumped from 292,044 in September 1995 to 672,828 for September 1996. Total data transferred increased from 9,158 megabytes last September to 129,982 megabytes this year. The number of distinct hosts served rose from 19,163 to 42,934. In September 1995, there were 617,510 completed requests for information. This September, the number was 3,634,213, which is nearly a 600-percent increase in web accesses.

According to university webmaster Bruce Harper, most of the requests, called "hits," are internal. In October 1996, 85 percent of the requests came from educational institutions. The bulk of these requests (81 percent) came from Virginia Tech. Next highest in numbers of requests is from commercial sites such as America OnLine and CompuServ, which account for 3.4 percent of the total requests.

Requests have come from countries all over the world. In October 1996, they came from 83 nations, ranging from 1 hit from the Cayman Islands to 224 from Chile, 59 from Egypt, 1,673 from Japan, and nearly 3,000 from Canada.

Harper credits the jump in hits to easy access and expansion in the number of people with connections to the Internet, which has caused use of the web to explode.

"It's much quicker and easier for high-school students to sit at school or at home and browse the web to check out colleges," Harper says. "They don't have to mail letters to admissions offices and wait for a reply." Also, there isn't a limit on how many colleges can be investigated to find the right one because of a limited library in their guidance office or limited resources in mailing and waiting for replies. "With a few mouse clicks and a well-structured search, students can narrow down a list of colleges to those with a program of study they are interested in following."

Most people who come to the Virginia Tech home page are looking for some type of information about the university. Internally, it can range from exam schedules to policies and procedures to academic information in the catalogs.

Sports, which now has its own home page, also is very popular both internally and externally. The site recently added a RealAudio feed of game broadcasts. Now Hokie fans with access to the Internet, a web browser, and the RealAudio software can listen to Bill Roth and Mike Burnop call the games.

With the large amount of information available on the Virginia Tech web page, it is easy for people to check out the web at their convenience. "With a little bit of looking, a person might find the answers he needs in 10 minutes rather than playing phone tag and shuffle to find the right person in the right office to get an answer," Harper said.

"I would say the external visitors are looking at the on-line directory to get e-mail addresses and phone numbers," Harper said. "Others are prospective students, both graduate and undergraduate, who want to know more about Virginia Tech."

From the main Virginia Tech page, student information, directories, academic information, and the list of academic colleges and departments are popular destinations.

"Part of the design of the VT home page is to provide a short list of places to go, then expand the amount of information on these `second' home pages," Harper said.

For example, a student needing to know the fall-semester exam schedule doesn't need to wade through several screens of home page to get to a link with exam information. A football fan doesn't need a home page filled with academic links to get to the latest sports information.

"From the way the numbers fall in the statistics, we can assume this is working the way we planned," Harper said.

Anyone with a computer, an Internet connection, and web server software can put up a web page. Most of the colleges and the majority of academic departments have pages served up from a college or department server. Some faculty members and students run their own servers.

Harper said the best time to "web surf" is between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m., The worst time is between 10 a.m. and 1 a.m., with the peak coming in mid afternoon.

To view more statistics, check out the web-publishing site at http://www.vt.edu/publishing.html and select "Usage Statistics for the Virginia Tech Web Site."