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This service is intended for real-time distribution of e-mail and attachments to related dynamic populations of employees and students. Users must be specifically authorized to distribute to these populations.
In its most direct form, authorized persons can utilize PEBBLES by sending e-mail to specially formatted e-mail addresses, where the username of the address indicates a criteria for distribution. The criteria can include Oracle orgunits, school and academic department codes, class levels, and so on.
Because remembering all of the possible criteria can be confusing, the PEBBLES Wizard is available for determining and managing its distribution addresses.
A few examples of direct PEBBLES addresses include:
- 19-status01@pebbles... - distribute to all full-time employees under VPIT
- PA-STU@pebbles... - distribute to all students in the Public Administration program
- EE-GRAD-STU@pebbles... - distribute to all graduate students in Electrical Engineering
Who can use the service?
To send an email to a class, you (normally) must be listed as an instructor for it in the Banner database, and you must also have a BlazerID with a valid forwarding address registered in the UAB Electronic Phonebook. You can visit BlazerID Central if you have any questions about the latter.
If you need to post a message to a class you are not teaching, or if you have a need to send a broadcast announcement to all or several of the classes in a given department, this capability is now available. Please see the section below titled "Can I post to classes I am not teaching?" for more details.
What are the benefits of the service?
- There is no need to predefine broadcast or discussion lists for classes. You can send to the class at any time prior to or during the semester without any special arrangement.
- All of the class lists are maintained dynamically based on nightly rosters received from Banner. It is not necessary to manually create or maintain the lists through a separate server, in an addressbook, etc.
- Students who enroll for a class (and who have or register a BlazerID) get access to the e-mail the following day.
- Students who drop a class are automatically removed from the list the following day.
How do I use the service?
Will the message reach all of my students?
The message will be distributed to all students who have registered a BlazerID and forwarding e-mail address in the UAB Electronic Phonebook. The service will send back an e-mail to let you know who does not, so you can work with them individually to get set up. Remember that you can always refer them to BlazerID Central, http://www.uab.edu/blazerid for more information.
The ROSTER keyword can be used to request that the service attach a list of the students who were (or would be) sent the message. ROSTER is described more fully in the Processing Options section below.
Do I receive an acknowledgement that my message has been delivered?
The service always returns a courtesy notice to let you know the status of your message delivery. If, as noted above, some of your students do not have BlazerIDs, the message will list them. If there is any other problem related to the service, that will be indicated. Otherwise, it should simply let you know it was successfully processed.
The ECHO keyword can be used to request that the service send you a copy of your message through the same route as it is distributed to your students. ECHO is described more fully in the Processing Options section below.
Is there a way to get a list of my students who do not have BlazerIDs?
TEST is described more fully in the Processing Options section below.
What if I am teaching different sections of the same class?
In order to avoid confusion, the service will not deliver to multiple sections of the same class, unless specifically directed to do so. If the service detects any confusion about this, it will not distribute the e-mail and will return a courtesy message outlining the problem. There are Criteria Options (described below) you can use in the @class.uab.edu address to clarify the exact intent.
What if I and others are teaching different sections of the same class?
How long are the class lists available?
A class list comes into being the night of the day that students are allowed to register for it. The list "disappears" about a month (35 days) after the official class end date as listed in Banner.
A student just registered for my class, how long until they can receive mail from the list?
Class rosters are updated in the Phonebook overnight from Banner. That means if the student registers today, they will be able to receive e-mail distributed to the class tomorrow. Remember, they must have a BlazerID and forwarding address on record in the Phonebook.
Will the service let me post from a non-UAB(.edu) address?
Your messages to the class list must come from either (a) your listed @uab.edu address or (b) from the mailbox listed as your forwarding address in the Electronic Phonebook. If your @uab.edu mail is being forwarded to an off-campus service such as Yahoo, AOL, MSN, etc., the service should accept posting from there.
What stops someone from forging a post from me?
In order to provide the most expedient and widely usable implementation of this service, it currently has only a minimum amount of security placed on it. One of the reasons for the courtesy notification is so that you will know if someone distributes a message to your class that you did not intend. Further security and verification measures will become available in the future.
Can students post to the class list?
What if there are multiple instructors for a class?
Each instructor as listed in the Banner database has equal privileges to send to the class list.
What are the processing options?
As noted above, the simplest form of using the service is by sending e-mail to email@example.com. This by default causes the system to:
- Distribute the e-mail to all students in the indicated class.
- Send you a courtesy message informing you of the successful distribution, along with a list of the students (if any) who did not receive it because they do not have a BlazerID or forwarding address.
|ECHO||Requests that in addition to the courtesy message described above, the service should send you a copy of the message you posted. This will be routed through the same delivery mechanism which is used to distribute the message to your students. This can be useful if you suspect either that the service is not operating properly, or that your e-mail is somehow being damaged in transit (e.g., your students claim your attachment is unreadable.)|
|ROSTER||Requests that in addition to listing the students who did not receive your message distribution, the courtesy message described above should also include a roster of the students who did. Note that this only means the service will send out the message to the students listed; if their mailbox is over quota or if they have an inactive address on file in the Phonebook, they may still not receive it.|
|TAG||Requests that the courtesy message include the class identifier in its subject line. This can be useful if you send off several e-mails at one time, or if your request may possibly be distributed to multiple classes.|
|TEST||Requests that the service perform all actions as it normally would for the message, but that it not actually be delivered to the students. If TEST and ECHO are both specified, you will receive a copy of the message but the students will not. It can be useful to combine TEST with other options prior to sending out a message for real, to ensure it will be distributed as you intended. As noted above, it is also a good way to get a list of your students without BlazerIDs so they can be individually encouraged to do so if desired.|
What are the criteria options?
As noted above, the majority of your interaction with the service should be as simple as sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. However, in cases where you are teaching multiple sections of the same course, or teaching the same course over multiple semesters, it will be necessary to clarify exactly which class(es) your e-mail is to address. You can accomplish this by adding one or more of the keywords in the following table.
|ALL||As noted above, the service will normally reject a posting which matches multiple classes. Specifying ALL will override that and build its mailing list from all course sections matching the criteria. The ALL keyword is required in almost all circumstances where the service is expected to match multiple classes with a single address. If you use ALL, it must be the first keyword listed.|
|Used to request that only class section(s) in the specified semester should be matched.|
|xx||Used to request that only the specific class section should be matched. Ex: EH101-4C|
|yyyy||Used to request that only class section(s) being taught in the specified 4-digit year should be matched. Ex: 2003-EE123|
|yyyytt||Used to request that only class section(s) being taught in the specified year and semester should be matched. 4-digit year plus tt of 30 (Spring), 40 (Summer) or 50 (Fall). Ex: 200330-EE123|
|ALL-TERMS||Used to request that all classes matching the other criteria should be selected, regardless of which semester they are being taught. Ex: ALL-TERMS-EE123 would send the message to all EE123 you are teaching, regardless of year and term. Note that the ALL keyword is required when TERMS is specified.|
|ALL-MY-CLASSES||Used to request that the message be delivered to all of the classes you are teaching. This is useful when passing along announcements of general interest to all of your students. If you are teaching classes in multiple semesters, it will be necessary to use one of the other Criteria Options above so the service knows for sure which classes to select. Note that ALL, MY and CLASSES are all required keywords to select this option, and must be specified in that order.|
|ALL-pfx-CLASSES||Used to request that the message be delivered to all of the classes with the course prefix pfx. Ex: ALL-EE-CLASSES would be posted to all students in all EE courses. Note you must have special approval to use this option; for more details, see the Can I post to all classes taught by my department? section below.|
|Used in conjunction with CLASSES to specify the message should only be delivered to courses at the specified level. UNDERGRAD applies to course numbers 0xx through 4xx; GRAD applies to 5xx through 9xx. If neither is included, the message is distributed without regard to the course number or level.|
Used to request that in addition to the specified class, all classes cross-listed with it should also be included.
Used to specify that any cross-listed classes should not be considered for inclusion.
Can I post to classes I am not teaching? What if I am a staff member who is not teaching at all?
By default, only the instructor(s) for a particular class can post a message to it through this service. However, there are a couple of options available to those who are not the instructor(s) of record:
- The department or any instructor of record can designate you as an assistant for a specific class, giving you access to post to that section.
- An instructor can designate you as their surrogate, which will give you access to post to all of the same classes as they can.
- The department can grant you access to send e-mail through CEDS to all classes with a given prefix. See below.
Can I post a message to all the classes being taught by my department?
With approval from the department Chair, you can be granted access to send to any and all classes with a given prefix. For example, the chair of Electrical Engineering could request that you be allowed to send to all EExxx classes. Once in place, you could then send to any of these whether or not you are the instructor of record (or even faculty at all). This is a useful option for program coordinators and department-level administrative staff who may need to post messages of general importance, or on behalf of faculty who may be unable to post their own e-mail for one reason or another.
Can I post a message to all the students in my program? department? school?
As its name implies, CEDS is oriented towards distributing messages based on students being enrolled in particular class(es). A companion service called PEBBLES allows for message distribution based on program, department and school affiliation, to both employees and students.