ND Campus Mobile App YouTube Video

The OIT’s Academic Media Services group is proud to announce that our very own Ray Herrly’s commercial for the ND Mobile app was added to the ND YouTube channel.

This is another example of the high quality work produced by the excellent & talented students we have working for Academic Digital Media/Academic Technologies!

It’s amazing how fast Ray got to class (and in/out of S Dining)!


Student Innovation Lab in LaFortune

Those of you who have ventured into the basement of LaFortune over the past several weeks have probably noticed the construction project for the new First Source Bank branch there. You may also have noticed the use of a small student lounge area as space for material storage and carpentry work. Come August with Back-to-School, that lounge area will revert to a different function, serving as the home base for the student Innovation Lab. The Innovation Lab is a student collaborative project for the development of mobile applications. The student group has participated in the “hack-a-thon” done last year in conjunction with the OIT Mobile Summit, and is leading the charge for a September “hack-a-thon” this year. While the lab space is very much under construction today, by the time the students return it will be back in shape, and contains: • Four networked Mac computers for development • A wireless access point to ensure that all participants in the development session have connectivity We’ll be adding: • A “lightboard” style white board – the first project the student team will be undertaking when they return. • Investigating if Apple TV or other networking can be used to allow the flat screen TV in the lounge to serve as a shared demonstration monitor The student’s plan is to be able to introduce our new freshmen, and returning upperclassmen, to the opportunity of participating in both a fall “hack-a-thon” and the regular development sessions in the innovation lab. As the student group moves ahead with developing applications, there may be a call for OIT subject matter experts to give them short (15-minute) overviews of their area of expertise and to field questions from the group. If working directly with a group of motivated and very bright students appeals to you, please let me know and we’ll look for opportunities!

How Technology Molds Our Learning Ability

by Jeffrey J. Hanrahan, Academic Technologies

Around 1875 the telephone became a commercial product allowing people to communicate using audio.  This was used for personal and business use.  It allowed people to stay in contact with each other over short and long distances as person-to-person.  It was not much of a learning tool.

In 1920, comercial Radio broadcasting, evolved.  This was one-way broadcasting of audio from one-source to many listeners.  Although it provided personal entertainment, the underlying principle was for marketing of business products.  It also introduced some side effects.  It made you use your mind to create detailed images of what was transacting on the radio.  It provided steady “noise” in the background and generated the perceived sense that you were in a group with others around you.  You could go about doing things while you listened to the radio.  Portable radios allowed people to listen to broadcasts and music while they were outside or traveling.  People would also turn on a late night talk program to lull themselves to sleep at night as the radio tubes glowed in the dark.  There was little or no educational value.

Shortly afterwards in 1928 came commercial television.  This was one-way broadcasting of video from one-source to many viewers.  It also had side effects.  You didn’t have to use you mind to imagine events that were transpiring.  With the addition of “Laff Box” systems (canned-laugher) you are told when things are supposedly funny.  It is provided to you in a video.  It didn’t require you to think, you just needed to watch.  It made the population less intelligent and molded their attention span.  It also tied you to the television screen and people were’t able to go about doing other things for the fear of “missing something”.  Television programs were designed to tell stories for 30 or 60 minutes and it seems that these shows set our attention span to the time it takes for a scene to change, around 3 minutes.  Music videos became annoying as the camera shots would change every few seconds like clockwork.  So much visual stimulation was added that you would have to say to yourself “Is there anything else on TV?”.  There would be news programs 30 minutes long, broadcasted 3 times and then on some other channel you may see a “60 Seconds Around the World” film clip that contains more information than the 30 minute newscast.  The news programs often read E-Mails and show YouTube videos for their content.  If they continue to do that, why do we even need news programs anymore?

There were people who didn’t like the mindless television shows being produced so television also became a limited tool for teaching with the creation of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) channel.  Television also became a baby sitter for children, and still allowed people to be lulled to sleep at night.  It became a drug that our nation was addicted to.

By 1973, mobile phones evolved.  Still a one-way broadcasting of audio in a person-to-person environment.  The technology was still young and used primarily for business use.

In 1980 the Internet came into existence.  It provided a central perceived place where “things” can reside and be accessed globally at any time of the day or night, including holidays.  It is one of the few things that was initially designed for educational use.  As marketing and business usage was added, the Internet grew in size and offerings as well as the devices that were able to access it.

Then in 2007, the iPhone came into existence and changed nearly everything.  A telephone with audio, video and E-Mail came into existence that can access the Internet.  There is an app (software application) for just about anything.  You don’t have to bother yourself with building anything, you don’t even need to know how to write cursively anymore.  You don’t even need to purchase various musical instruments, because there is an app for them.  There are even educational apps to help you learn.

The mobile phone evolved, iPads and Tablets came into existence and provided a means to view material from the Internet and video broadcasting services.  These became the Electronic Swiss Army Knife.  They are used as an electronic pacifier for children.  It makes television portable.  With the proper application, these devices can serve as the remote control for your television.  Instead of reading a book, there are videos on how to fix and do things.  This also brought on the need of where to save digital things that you want to keep.  The “Cloud” came into existence as the solution. The new electronic devices eliminate the need for physical social interaction.  It also eliminated the need for children to develop mechanical skills.  Why should they physically build a go-cart when there is an app that probably does it for them digitally?  People can stay at home and have the luxury of listening to network radio broadcasts, play streaming television, watch movies, play videos, listen to music, do electronic E-Mail, electronically shop in stores and handle banking transactions.  Just point and click.

Technology has molded us over time to prefer and accept a number of things; person-to-person contact, information presented in a short and concise timeframe, information that is to the point, video preferred over text, one place for all content, off-device information storage, immediate information access, tap and swipe rather than typing, greater availibility of consumable content, catering to short attention spans (you can fast forward the content).

Technology has also exposed us to some things that are not so good; everything on the Internet may not be true, advertisers are relentless to sell you things, mental activity is preferred over physical activity and that just one of “Who, What, Where, When and Why” is acceptable in a story.

Early technology has provided the parts for the evolution of where we are today and how we expect things to operate.  It has provided us with the Internet which is technology designed for education and sharing information despite becoming more of a marketing tool.  It has given us Cloud services, Learning Management Systems at colleges, On-Line Courses and specialized instructional courses.


You may be thinking this article is about the ins and outs of living at college in a dorm. Or you may be thinking it has something to do with snowboarding.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), this article is actually about a teaching tool called StoryboardThat.

StoryboardThat storyboarding website

StoryboardThat is a free (freemium version allows you to create two storyboards per week), quick, and easy way to create storyboards.  What is a storyboard?  Well, according to Dictionary.com, a storyboard is “a panel or panels on which a sequence of sketches depict the significant changes of action and scene in a planned film, as for a movie, television show, or advertisement.”  A storyboard can be very useful when trying to engage students in thinking through the flow of a story or a great way for students to be creative with their stories.  And, it can help to communicate an idea via a story enabling students to visualize it themselves.

StoryboardThat even provides a resource of curated storyboards on a wide range of topics that is easily searched by tags.  You can find storyboards that range from Shakespeare to the Hunger Games (you can also scroll to the bottom of the homepage and find a listing of categories of storyboards).  So, if you are wanting to present a topic in a new and different way to engage your students, then just go to their curated storyboards and see if someone has already created a storyboard so you won’t have to.

You can communicate your storyboard by printing it, exporting it as an image, exporting it directly into PowerPoint, embedding it into a webpage, or sharing it with others through email, Facebook, or Twitter.

The next time you are looking for another way of helping your students visualize a topic, then you might want to just StoryboardThat.


PrintND: Notre Dame Print Quota vs. Our Peers

Many of you are aware that there are changes proposed in how Notre Dame manages the PrintND student printing service for the upcoming academic year. We’ll cover the details of those changes in a subsequent blog post, but for now I’d like to contrast where Notre Dame is with our peer institutions in the provision of undergraduate printing services.

The private universities who are members of the American Association of Universities are often viewed by Notre Dame as peers. Below is a table of these schools with their printing arrangements.



The first group of schools charge students for all their printing at the indicated rates.  The second group of schools provide some level of printing for students and then permit purchase of additional printing at the indicated rate.  Notre Dame is clearly among the most generous in providing print of these schools.

Two schools that are not in the list above are Duke and Harvard.  Duke effectively has no print quota for students, and Harvard’s scheme is very complex, with dependencies on your major and even residency status.

Notre Dame OIT is committed to providing print quota allocations to our undergraduate students sufficient for their academic needs.  To this end our metric is that 90% of our undergraduates ought to be able to complete the year without bumping into their print quota maximum.

To that end, as the PrintND team proposes changes in managing the undergraduate student printing, we will comparing and contrasting our changes and the results of them with our metric, and against our peer institutions.

Making it easy to create video

There’s a growing need for faculty to create video content quickly and easily. There are a lot of potential use cases.

  • Flipping your class by having students watch a video before coming class
  • Answering student questions in a visual medium to enhance understanding
  • Creating content for distance education
  • Making training videos

Unfortunately right now this is a pretty complex process. It requires studio space, a videographer, complex editing tools, specialized lighting, etc. Additionally the turn around times can be lengthy. Right now there’s no good solution and no good system in place to help us provide this service to faculty. So we built our beta lightboard back in March with the hopes that people would see it and get excited about it. We Love Bright Ideas! It had the desired effect. The College of Science was all over it. We’re in the process of helping them build a full scale version and we hope to have it operational by July 1. Unfortunately that may not meet the needs of everyone. It’s also not currently the most user friendly setup and will require some handholding for users.

Enter the Penn State One Button Studio!

  • You plug in a flash drive and the system turns on.
  • You hit a button and the system starts recording.
  • You give your presentation.
  • You hit the button when you’re done.
  • The file is automatically saved to the flash drive as an mp4 which you can upload to Sakai, YouTube, Kaltura, etc.

We’re starting to take a look at this now because we feel it meets most of the requirements for video creation. It’s one of those 98% solutions. It may not be perfect for everyone but if it’s good for you, it’s really easy and really good. Look for more later this summer! http://onebutton.psu.edu/

Extending LMS using LTI

When it comes to the Learning Management Systems (LMS), no matter which one you choose, the chance that you can find one that meets all your needs is very slim. It seems there are always some tools in particular that your users hope are available. So, is there a way to bring those interesting 3rd party tools into in your LMS? Yes, and the answer is: Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI).

Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) is a protocol developed by IMS Global Learning Consortium. The principal goal of LTI is to establish a standard way of integrating rich learning tools with platforms like learning management systems, portals, or other educational environments. In LTI, these learning tools are called Tool Providers (labeled TP) and the LMS or educational environments are called Tool Consumers (labeled TC). When a user clicks on a LTI link that requests a tool launch, the learning system (Tool Consumers) prepares a launch message (including some standard, optional, and custom parameters), sends this message to the browser, and a tiny piece of javascript auto-POSTS the message to the Tool Provider. The Tool Provider then responds with a launch of the tool in the browser. This LTI 1-style launch is not designed to maintain contact between TC and TP after launch. But, what if TP wants to send information back to TC? That’s where the LTI 2.0 comes into play. LTI 2.0 is designed to extend interoperability to the entire lifecycle of the tool, which means TP can send information back to TC. In LTI 2.0, at least two extra parameters are passed in the Launch:

  • lis_outcome_service_url is a return point to which an outcome may be placed into the gradebook
  • lis_result_sourcedid is an encrypted ticket provided by the LMS to ensure that the outcome is properly labeled for the particular user, course, and link that are involved in this interaction
Learning Tools Interoperatility

Referenced from: http://developers.imsglobal.org/index.html

LTI provides an open and standard way to bring 3rd party tools into LMS. As an open standard, it avoids vendor lock-in. Therefore, if your school decides to migrate to another LMS, the existing 3rd party tools that are LTI-compliant will continue to work with the new system. With LTI, we have integrated a variety of 3rd party tools with our LMS (rSmart Sakai) here at Notre Dame. This tools list includes the following:

  • WordPress
  • Private iTunes U
  • Maple T.A.
  • CalcPortal
  • Echo 360
  • MediaSite

As a result, instructors are happy because they can continue to use their favorite teaching tools from Sakai. Students are happy because they can access different tools without separate logins.  We, the LMS administrator and developers, are happy because our customers are happy. If you are interested in any technical details for the integration, please feel free to reach me at xiaojing.duan@nd.edu.

Got Brain Activity Update

We ran an experiment yesterday with the Neurosky Mindwave Mobile Headset and used the Puzzlebox Orbit helicopter for a portion of the experiment.  Our goal was to better understand how the headset worked with live participants in an experiment situation.  We are still gathering the data at this time, but will publish the unscientific results on this blog in the near future.

Our experiment consisted of 3 separate tasks set to test whether certain activities would enhance the attention/focus of the participants.  Each task involved a Braingle.com memory test (the word test) and two of the tasks had brainwave information recorded for the participants using NeuroSky’s Recorder app.  We used the iPad for each task — two of those tasks were for recording brainwave data and the other for operating the Orbit helicopter.

We found five willing participants who had never used the Neurosky headset nor the Orbit helicopter.  So, for our N=5, we won’t be able to derive too much from the results, but we will be able to learn how to set up experiments for the headset and helicopter in the future which will be invaluable.

So, stay tuned for our unscientific results!

Is email the best way to communicate with students?

Students don’t read their email. Or at least not on a timely basis. Or not as quickly as faculty and administrators would like. That’s the perception anyway. Despite the differing expectations, the reality is that sometimes faculty need to send something to students and ensure that they receive and read it almost immediately. Email is just not guaranteed to be received, seen, or read on your desired timeline.


11111 unread emails? Not sure if that’s typical.

We live in Indiana and winters are not pleasant, like a root canal is not pleasant. That being said the campus almost always stays open. Prior to this winter it’s only closed once in the previous 10 years. Recently our local community declared a snow emergency. Yes that’s a thing and it’s every bit as pleasant as it sounds. It’s illegal to be out driving unless you’re “essential personnel”. Offenders can get $2500 tickets for violating the order. Notre Dame closed for a day and a half plus they had another snow-day. Doubtless many more classes have been cancelled due to faculty not having child care or being unable to get to campus.

Wouldn’t it be great if a professor could ensure that students actually received the communication about class being cancelled?

We started a small proof of concept to allow faculty to send texts to their students. It’s completely opt-in and students that don’t participate are not at a disadvantage. (Students can also opt-in to receiving the same communications via email.) It’s simply an easier and faster way to hear from the professors. Faculty also made it clear that students would only receive 1-2 texts per week so they wouldn’t be overwhelmed with texts. It can also be used for class cancellations, mistakes that need to be clarified, reminders about deadlines, etc.


After doing some research, we decided to direct a few faculty to remind101 and have a few faculty use the in-house system of blackboard connect.

Remind101 was dead simple. We pointed them to the site and told them to sign up for an account. They were asked to figure it out on their own since it’s designed to be a self service system. It’s proven to be just that. Self service. (Those may be the greatest words ever typed.) Their site has great tutorials and the system is very easy for students and faculty alike.

Using this system faculty never see the students cell numbers. Reminders can be scheduled to go out at future dates and times but it’s not currently possible to set a repeating reminder. The biggest complaint is that you can’t use the texting app on your phone. You have to use either the web-site or an app on your phone. We see that as a feature so you don’t accidentally text your class something that was meant for your wife.

Blackboard connect was more of a challenge. On our system, there’s not currently a way to have students enroll themselves. That means faculty would either have to enter them manually or we could do some sort of import. Obviously we chose the latter. To collect the student information we created a google form where students could enter their name, email and cell phone. Then we imported that file into blackboard. Pro-tip: On Office 2011 on a mac there’s a difference between a csv and a windows csv. Once will import into the system and the other will result in you feeling badly about your skills.

After the numbers were imported we had to create some pretty thorough documentation to walk them through the process of sending a text. It’s not exactly intuitive since it’s designed to allow multiple forms of communication. Email, SMS, Voice, Pager (Really?), Facebook, Twitter, RSS and CAP. All of that flexibility adds confusion.

The initial feedback on Remind101 has been great.

Remind101 is awesome.  If I want to send from my phone it is a simple click.  If I go to the web interface it is user-friendly and takes me exactly to the place to write and send the message… I’d love to use Remind101 every semester.  Importantly, I’m seeing great results from the students in both class.  The number of ‘late’ assignments and “I’m sorry, I forgot all about this homework” has dropped considerably.

That’s pretty encouraging for a project that:

  • Only has about 8 hours of time invested.
  • Has cost nothing.
  • Has no formal project charter.
  • Few people in IT even know about.
  • Should have very minimal support costs.

We’ve gotten sign-off from the registrar, info-sec and are awaiting a contract review from General Counsel. Hopefully that is approved within a few week.

Texting a class isn’t for everyone. But if you want to ensure that your students get the message, there may be no substitute.