Campus Cocoa Coding Consortium

by Jeffrey Hanrahan, Academic Technologies

Throughout the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College, there are departments that are using Xcode and iOS to develop mobile and workstation applications for internal use, teaching, learning and research.

In an effort to collectively identify the application developers and pool everyone’s knowledge and expertise, a group named Campus Cocoa Coding Consortium (C4) was formed at the University of Notre Dame.  The purpose of the group is to help each other learn how to develop applications in Xcode and iOS, talk out code problems, conceptualize processes, troubleshoot programming workflows and design human interface elements.

The C4 group is composed of faculty and staff from the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College.  The knowledge level extends from novice to expert and knowledge is shared.  You get to hear about technical issues and information that you don’t find in the programming manuals.  Every member has some type of specialty knowledge and others get to learn this information.

There is a weekly brown bag lunch meeting with the purpose of discussions that get very technical in nature.  These are working meetings where code is written and tested.  The C4 project code resides in the web-based hosting service GitHub where the group members can access project files at any time from anywhere.

So far, the group has provided assistance for a mobile application from Architecture and is currently working on a facial recognition mobile application.

If you are a faculty/staff member at the University of Notre Dame or Saint Mary’s College and would like to join the C4 group, you can contact John Slaughter at jslaught [AT]

Make Your Media More Interactive and Engaging

Have you ever wondered how to make your video accessible for people who have a hearing problem or speak a different native language? Have you ever wondered how your video can benefit visual learners who absorb and recall information best by reading as opposed to listening? Have you ever wondered how to give the audience the freedom to search across your video and jump to the exact keywords that interest them? You are not alone, we have been wondering about that for a while. Fortunately, we now have a solution … interactive transcript.

Interactive transcript provides the audience a new way to enjoy your media content. Similar to subtitles in many ways, interactive transcript is displayed next to the audio/video source. As the audience hears the words being spoken, they can also see matching words highlighted or underlined in the transcript. The entire transcript is clickable, users can click on any word and start to enjoy the audio/video from that exact point. They can also search the transcript and jump to the part that interests them. Interactive transcript provides users a much richer experience with media content.

1. Click on word "mammals", the video jumps to that point and starts to play from there.2. When "mammals" is spoken in the video, it's also highlighted in the transcript.3, Search "fish", all the parts that mention "fish" are highlighted in the transcript.

1. Click on word “mammals”, the video jumps to that point and starts to play from there.
2. When “mammals” is spoken in the video, it’s also highlighted in the transcript.
3, Search “fish”, all the parts that mention “fish” are highlighted in the transcript.

There are a nurmeous of interactive transcripts providers, of which 3PlayMedia and SpeakerText Captionbox are among the most popular. We ran a small pilot with 3Play Media’s service. We provided them audio/video files along with the transcripts, and they synchronized the text with the media using automated speech technology. The result has been very satisfying, except we find the price to be a bit high.

Can the price be a showstopper? If you are like me, a strong believer in OpenSource, you must be wondering if there is something like that available for free. Well, after some digging, voila! Pipwerks already published the API(s) for adding captions and interactive transcript for online videos. And it’s completely OpenSource. Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and climb onto the shoulders of giants. Thanks to the EasyCaption and Kaltura API, I was able to help an Irish Studies professor build a repository (Irish Stories) to collect and share Irish Immigrants’ stories in a more interactive and engaging way. If you are interested, here is an example.  Please feel free to contact me at for any technical details.



Guest Post: Mobile March Madness!

Today’s blog post is a guest article by ND’s own Tom Klimek. Manager of Network Services.  Tom is a big basketball fan, and in his copious spare time … 

bracket_2014It’s an annual rite of passage every spring.  The NCAA announces the field of teams for the tournament and the office pools begin.  I love college sports, particularly football and basketball and while I still partake in March Madness pools, this time of year also brings a fair amount of stress.  Since 2009 a friend and I have been developing apps for college football and March Madness.  It all started with an idea for a college football app, something I could see myself using throughout the season to keep track of schedules, scores, rankings, stadium seating charts, etc..

One day during a game of pick-up basketball at Rec Sports I shared the idea with a friend who liked the idea and offered to help. My first question was “Are you a C programmer “ ? He answered “yes” and I said OK let’s get started. At this point neither one of us have ever used a Mac nor programmed using an object oriented language. We proceeded to purchase a Mac Mini, establish a developer account with Apple, learn the SDK, and refine our idea.  About 7 months later and just in time for the college football season we launched our first app “Gridiron 2009”.  The app was well received and we were even fortunate enough to get featured by Apple for a few weeks to give us added exposure.

bracket_poolNext we were on to college basketball with a similar app and toward the end of the season we decided to create an app for the tournament originally named “Bracket Madness”.  The first version of this simply allowed you to enter a bracket and track you progress along with updates to final scores. The app was very popular selling as much as the college football app all season in one week’s time.


app_storeThe following year we decided to add pool functionality to the app. We anticipated that this would make the app more desirable but it also added a lot of complexity. Now in addition to maintaining an app and web site, we added an SQL database and server side scripting, along with scoring the brackets. There was a lot more that could go wrong and nearly no time to recover. It takes over a week to get an app approved even if it is just an update, and the window for sales is just over a week. A bad launch would lead to negative reviews and possibly doom the app. Hence the stress. The name was changed to “Men’s Bracket” after the NCAA claimed that “Bracket Madness” was a derivative of March Madness and over the years we have updated and improved the app, added an iPad version, and a Women’s version.

It is consistently in the top 5 Paid Sports Apps during the tournament and has been the #1 iPad Paid Sports App during the tournament for several years and this year for a brief time it was the #1 iPhone Paid Sports App.

Innovation happens all around us, and we thought it would be nice to feature Tom’s story during March Madness. If you’d like to get in touch with Tom you can email him at tklimek [AT] nd [DOT] edu. Good luck to everyone with your bracket competitions!  Here’s a link to an earlier story about the Gridiron app:

Got Brain Activity?

Ever wanted to see if you really had activity in your brain?  I know, sometimes your friends might wonder.  But you do.  The U.S. Archery Team uses brain activity to track their team’s focus and relaxation levels.  You can use it to fly a helicopter (okay it is just a toy helicopter).

You are probably thinking — hey I would like to be able to do that and actually convince my friends I have brain activity.  Well, you can.  Just buy a brain-computer interface and connect it to your computer or smartphone.  You may be thinking that sounds a bit complicated.  Not really.  You can do it yourself.  Just buy a NeuroSky MindWave Mobile headset (see image below) and download some apps from NeuroSky’s store and start proving your friends wrong!

NeuroSky MindWave Mobile Headset

Katie Dickerson (Computer Applications & Poverty Studies) has been testing out the NeuroSky MindWave Mobile headset for us with the Puzzlebox Orbit helicopter.  She has found the helicopter to be a bit hard to control.  Not because she doesn’t have any brain activity!  Quite the contrary.  She is having a hard time using the controls on the app to maneuver the helicopter.  She can get the helicopter to go up and down, but she just can’t get it to go anywhere else.  I’m sure it is just a matter of time until she gets that figured out.

We plan to use the headset to research how well the device can help people to focus.  Think of students and homework.  Employees and projects.  Faculty and their research.  You get the idea.  Anyway, stay tuned to our blog for an update of our research on the headset.  We hope to have something more to report back to you by the end of spring semester (maybe some pictures of Katie flying the Orbit too!).

Innovate Conference at Ohio State — March 25

Folks, if at all possible make time for the Innovate [engage] conference next week at Ohio State.

If you’re not able to attend in person you can watch online:

I’m looking forward to many of the sessions. The folks at the Office of Distance Education and eLearning are demonstrating a lot of strategic leadership in the area of academic technology!

@ODEEatOSU #InnovateOSU

3D Printing Update

Check out Eric Morgan’s blog for an update on the fledgling 3D printing group at ND:

Next meeting Friday, April 4, from noon to 1 pm.

Also please note that the Library’s Center for Digital Scholarship will host a workshop, From Imagination to Realization, for anyone interested in 3D printing. The workshop will be held March 28, from 1 to 5 pm.

We love bright ideas!

We love it even more when someone else has one and lets us use it.

Often times you want to make a video to illustrate a point. Ideally it would feel like a discussion. You’re facing the viewer and explaining something to them. You’re not facing a chalkboard or a whiteboard and turning your back to them. It feels natural.


Let’s state right off the bat that this is not our idea. It’s called the light board and it came from Michael Peshkin at Northwestern University. The Lightboard Home Page is really incredible and gives you all the details you need to make your own copy. Parts list with numbers and links, diagrams, technical details, etc. It’s open source hardware so he encourages you to make your own, experiment, etc. Just share what you’ve done.

We’re kind of space constrained and there’s very little available space on campus. While we think this is a great idea, we’re going to need to be able to show people how this works in order to get the funding and square footage required to make it a reality. Instead of making a 4×8 board, we made one that was 3×4. Still big enough to be useful but small enough we can find a place to demonstrate it. It’s also cheaper than a full size unit.

Ordering the glass is pretty easy due to the well detailed specifications. To build the frame we worked out a design and ordered a bunch of 80/20 aluminum. Assembly took a couple hours.

2014-03-13 09.57.31 copy

The box actually said it was an erector set for adults.

We were too excited to worry about the crappy lighting!

We were too excited to worry about the lousy lighting!

There are LED lights underneath the edge of the glass that cause the text to really pop out of the glass. Since it was a 16 foot roll, I had about 12 feet extra. Part of the challenge in this project is to illuminate the presenter and not add glare. I took the extra 12 feet and stuck it on the glass.

2014-03-14 14.35.56

I’d say it does a great job of illuminating the instructor.

I also took a few accent lights we had laying around and used them as a key light.

2014-03-14 14.36.24

Obviously we need to work on the ambient light…

Not bad for a beta test!

Not bad for a beta test!

Overall, we’re thrilled with the effect. It’s really much more pronounced than it appears here. We still have a lot of tweaking and testing to do but I think we’ve established the feasibility of the system.

Now we start showing this thing off and we’ll see if we can get a 12×15 room to really do this right!

Thanks to the following people:

  • Michael Peshkin at Northwestern University. Obviously!
  • Our colleague David Seidl for bringing it to our attention. He’s really interested in that whole maker-space culture thing. Apparently he saw it as a post on Hack A Day.
  • Tim Cichos in Notre Dame Learning Spaces who helped us engineer the frame.

PrintND Metrics in PowerPivot

The DeBartolo hallways are crowded between classes, the seats in the computer labs are packed as well, and the Xerox printers are spitting out pages. Have you ever wondered what is all of that printing is about, how much it costs the University to support that service or if a someone is contemplating what happens should they reach their printing quota before the school year is over?

Over time OIT has collected a lot of data about our use of the PrintND service, but that data has been held in different places and formats. Only recently, using the power of the business intelligence functions built into Excel 2013, have we been able to pull this data together to create information for developing metrics about the PrintND service. With metrics and trends we can begin to develop strategies to enhance the student experience with PrintND while also supporting environmentally friendly practices and controlling costs.

For example, we compared calendar years 2012 and 2013 to find that the number of pages printed increased by 2.8%, but the number of sheets of paper used increased at a rate of 4.5%:

print_by_month copy

Likewise, we found that printing by class year could be analyzed:


There is additional analysis that has been completed, and further metrics are being evaluated by the Academic Computing Support group in the Teaching & Learning Technologies division of OIT.

If you would like to have additional information on the PrintND metrics that are available, or on our expected future development of the metrics analysis, please contact either Bob Guthrie (guthrie.9[AT] or Chad German (chad.w.german.1[AT]

For a PowerPivot introductory video from Microsoft:

Lecture Capture

You’re sitting in class, furiously taking notes in an attempt to keep up with the professor’s lecture. Even for the best note takers, it’s impossible to write down everything. That’s where lecture capture systems come in. This technology allows instructors to record what happens in their classrooms, subsequently making it available for students. Lecture audio, video, and visual aids are recorded and synced for playback on demand. The material is searchable, allowing students to easily find a specific slide or diagram that they struggled to understand in class. It has important implications for learning and online course development.


Notre Dame's Echo 360 Interface

Notre Dame’s Echo 360 Interface

Lecture capture is a valuable educational resource because it moves content beyond the classroom. For example, if students are struggling to understand a concept, the professor can further elaborate on the topic from his or her office, making that video immediately available for students to watch before the next class meeting. This frees up time for professors to make class more interactive. It also promotes greater understanding of material by giving students an opportunity for content review and exploration. While Notre Dame currently provides access only to courses students are enrolled in, other universities organize lecture content so that students can even browse content for courses in which they are not enrolled. By bringing class content online, students get a better grasp of material and an opportunity for interdisciplinary learning.


With online learning becoming increasingly prevalent, lecture capture is an important foundational tool. When appropriate, content created through lecture capture may be available for online course development. The potential for online course development has important implications, including the opportunity for distance education. Notre Dame is currently teaching a distance education course in Santiago, Chile through the lecture capture system. This is an important project to explore the potential of lecture capture in online learning. The main challenge with this content becomes intellectual property rights. At Notre Dame the intellectual property rights of faculty are protected by the University’s existing policy, which covers the creation of educational material.


Lecture capture is still in its proof of concept phase at Notre Dame. The Academic Technologies group is comparing two vendors: Echo 360 and Mediasite in two different classrooms in DeBartolo Hall. There are four classes currently using the system. The AT team hopes to make a recommendation by the Spring 2014 semester, and scale up the concept to an official pilot, working with more faculty.


Please contact with any questions or comments regarding lecture capture.


For Further Reading:


Mobile Device Lab

Mobile Device Lab in B003 DeBartolo

Mobile Device Lab in B003 DeBartolo

Not having the proper resources for technology can be a major obstacle for developers. Notre Dame’s new Mobile Device Lab solves this problem, creating a space for developers to test applications on a variety of smartphones, tablets, and laptops free of cost. The Lab is located in the OIT Academic Technologies offices in the basement of DeBartolo hall, B003. Students can use any of the devices while in the Lab. Staff and faculty can check out devices for up to one week. To inquire about device availability or ask any questions, email





Currently, the Mobile Device Lab offers:

  • 14 smartphones running Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry OS, and iOS
  • 9 tablets running Android, Windows 8, and iOS 7
  • 2 laptops running Chrome OS and Windows 7
  • Google Chromecast
  • Unlocked GSM 3G Modems


The Lab is unique because it offers a wide spectrum of devices. It features both the most popular devices on campus and the newest devices on the market. These are often not the same. For example, while Apple’s iPhone is currently the most popular phone on campus, the 3rd most popular device is the LG Optimus S, a smartphone released in 2010 running Android 2.2 (Android 4.4 was just released). The Mobile Device Lab has both, along with 25 other devices. This creates a unique opportunity for mobile developers on campus to see how their applications run on the devices that students and faculty use most.

A complete listing of available devices is provided on the mobileND website. Additionally, the Lab is accepting donations of both new and used mobile devices.

The Mobile Device Lab exists to serve. Contact mobile ND at or visit DeBartolo B003 to get started!