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Teaching Notes for Chapter 2

Download the end-of-chapter questions. (Zipped plain text files, UTF-8 encoded.)

Computing-based students should find few difficulties in this material. In fact, if they have already taken a course on networks, much of it should be familiar. On the other hand, it may seem like a major obstacle to design students without any technical background, but apart from the essential content below, much of the technical detail can be omitted for these students.

Essential Content

The coverage of URLs is vital and must be included at this early stage.

Every student needs to understand that the page they see displayed in their browser is put together by fetching a collection of diverse resources, and what the main types of resource are: XHTML documents, stylesheets, images and scripts. They also need to know that some pages are dynamically generated. Hence, all the material on pages 36–46 is required, except for the called-out boxes.

We were keen to remove all elements of mystery from the process of fetching pages, so the first part of this chapter goes into some detail about protocols and so on. Some students will just find this boring; rather than force them to learn about HTTP, it would be better to concentrate on the idea of a conversation between client and server, essentially just talking through Figures 2.6, 2.7 and 2.8. It would be advisable to include something on Internet Media Types, since this will be referred to later on.

CS students should have little difficulty with this material on fetching pages, so it is worth reviewing it for them, and looking at enough of the HTTP headers for them to be able to look at a transcript of a session and understand what's going on.

The section on data representations is simple and should be included unless you are short of time. Although the CS students will already know the basics, character sets are not always covered in introductory courses. Given the international nature of the Web, character sets and Unicode should be described.

It is not necessary for everybody to understand the basics of data transmission, but all students must appreciate the different transmission media that are used, and understand data transmission rates, how they vary and how they affect load times for different types of media. This area is one of the most likely to change rapidly, especially as regards data rates, so you need to keep up with developments and incorporate them in your lectures.