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Intranets in Education

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Published on: Saturday 5th December 1998 By: Pankaj Kamthan


The Intranet Design Magazine defines an Intranet as:

In'tra net - n. 1) a network connecting an affiliated set of clients using standard internet protocols, esp. TCP/IP and HTTP. 2) an IP-based network of nodes behind a firewall, or behind several firewalls connected by secure, possibly virtual, networks.

An intranet is essentially an Internet contained within an organization. Some characteristics of an Intranet are:

Intranets have been rapidly growing in the business world in the last few years but are still in their infancy in educational institutions. The purpose of this article is to give an introduction to Intranets, point out the advantages they can offer (over using an Internet), and present a realistic example with possible applications. We hope that this work will intill interest in the educational community and motivate them to establish Intranets in their institutions.

By an Intranet in Education we mean the deployment of  Intranet-based technologies in an educational institution such as a School/College/University. The basic ideas presented here, however, are applicable to other (non-profit and commerical) organizations which have educational divisions to train their employees.

Intranet Criteria

To be or not to be on an Intranet ...

There are various questions that need to be asked (and answered to a sufficient extent) prior to deployment of an Intranet. The basic ones are related to motivation: Why do we need an Intranet? What are its benefits?

The key determinant of the value of establishing an Intranet, is an institution's information needs. In general, Intranets can be are most useful to institutions that:

It might not be justifiable for every institution to deploy an Intranet. For example, a small school operating from a single location, may exchange local information more than adequately through non-electronic means (memos, meetings). It may use the Internet as a resource for gathering information, but probably doesn't need an Intranet (and the specific advantages it offers). On the other hand, a University with multiple campuses in different locations and thousands of students, could have the information needs that may benefit significantly from implementing its own Intranet.

Advantages Of An Educational Intranet

There are several advantages (which have been behind the success of the Internet) in creating an educational Intranet:

Intranet Vs. Internet

Internet defines the technologies available for external communication, whereas the Intranet is the application of these technologies within an organization. There are, however, various advantages of setting-up an educational Intranet over using the Internet:


If you build it, they will come

This section given an overview of the issues that should be taken into consideration and addressed in planning the evolution of an Intranet.


The goals for an Intranet may be vary: modest or ambitious, specific or broad. Regardless of what the goals may be, it is important is that they be defined clearly and early. As with any other major initiative, an institution need ask itself some fundamental questions before embarking on establishing an Intranet:

Then, there are certain questions related to the Intranet infrastructure and its users.

Infrastructure-Oriented Issues

User-Oriented Issues


One instance of an Intranet could be within a School/College/University Department as shown in Figure 1.

Example of a Departmental Intranet
Figure 1: Structure of a Departmental Intranet


The following are possible Intranet applications among the three components - faculty, staff, students - of the Department.





Such a model is not artificial and is in use at many large institutions (see the case studies in References). However, it is not as widespread as it could be on a smaller scale.


Intranets offer tremendous potential for institutions that understand their potential, and apply discipline and resources to achieving it. This potential is can be reached by defining goals early and planning with the support of a collaborative foundation. This can help avoid building an Intranet that is valuable to a only few users and that even if you build it, they might not come. Understanding the strengths and limitations of an Intranet's users can ensure that it offers value to all of them at various levels.

Islands of (Net) Learning

From a social perpective, we need to continue to conserve our natural (for example trees, the source of paper) and human resources (in terms of time, effort and energy). From an educational viewpoint, we must continue to seek novel ways of using the technology to instruct, collaborate and communicate with our students. Establishing an Intranet within an educational institution can create a - long-term, cost-effective, efficient, information-accurate, and fruitful - teaching and learning environment.


I would like to thank Martin Webb for his critical reading of the draft and helpful comments.


Case Studies



These are some online magazines dedicated to Intranet technology with information on latest news, FAQs, tutorials, book and product reviews, and tools.



WWW Sites

Related items

Light Relief

Links Want To Be Links

What are RFCs

Looking for Something? : Searching the Web

Are all Portals the same?

Representation of Japanese Language Characters on the WWW

Rendering Chinese Language Characters on the World-Wide Web

Where is the Web heading?

WWW - How It All Begun

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