E-News (archive)

Return to all E-News posts

October 2008

I   New Course Management System Coming to Homewood - Next Year Make your voice count in the WebCT replacement selection process

II   2009-2010 Technology Fellowship Applications Applications accepted twice a year (November and March)

III   2008 Sparky Awards Financial rewards for your students' intellectual creativity

IV   Faculty Spotlight: Elizabeth Rodini, Associate Director, Program in Museums and Society and Senior Lecturer, History of Art A regular series on teaching success stories on the Homewood campus

V   SharePoint at Hopkins Collaborate with colleagues and manage your projects with a Sharepoint site

VI   JHU Portal Updates What does the Hopkins Portal mean for you?


I   New Course Management System Coming to Homewood - Next Year

WebCT Logo WebCT, the current course management system (CMS) used by Homewood faculty, will be retired by the vendor in the next one-two years. During Academic Year 08-09, the Center for Educational Resources will offer a large number of demos of two alternatives to assess faculty preferences for a replacement system. The two alternatives under consideration are Blackboard (a commercial product) and Sakai (an open source product). A major update to Blackboard is scheduled for release at the end of calendar 2008, and as soon as development space can be secured from the vendor, a course will be constructed in that version so faculty can assess the new product's capabilities and usability. A similar course is currently under construction in Sakai for the same purpose. Faculty will be invited to examine a sample course built in the current WebCT environment and compare/contrast its usability and capabilities in the two alternative CMS environments under consideration. CER will offer open demos in the library, department demos in locations specified by the departments, and one-on-one demos to any faculty who request them. CER will also provide an animated web-based comparison/contrast of several capabilities of the two programs on its web site. We hope that you will welcome our call to participate in the decision making process as the year progresses. Please feel free to contact Amy Brusini (email: abrusini@jhu.edu; telephone: 516.5340) to suggest how we can make the demo process as useful and convenient as possible to you. Important note to faculty re: cosmetic change to current WebCT courses. New My Blackboard Logo The replacement of WebCT as the campus CMS as described above will not occur until next year. Starting on October 9, however, WebCT users will notice a purely cosmetic branding change in their courses. To address a security concern, the WebCT vendor (which is Blackboard) has arranged for a security upgrade for all its products, including old versions of WebCT and current versions of Blackboard. When that security patch was applied to the Johns Hopkins WebCT courses on October 9, the courses began to carry a "my Blackboard" label where "my WebCT" used to be. This is purely cosmetic and it changes NO functionality. The Oct 9 Blackboard branding should NOT be interpreted to mean that your course has been migrated to the new version of Blackboard described above. That version is not yet available.

II   2009-2010 Technology Fellowship Applications

The Technology Fellows Program is a mini-grant initiative that enables faculty to partner with students with technology expertise to develop resources that enhance pedagogy, increase or facilitate access to course content, encourage active learning, promote critical thinking, or support student collaboration. Faculty who teach full-time students and full-time undergraduate or graduate students are eligible to apply. Each faculty member receives $1,000 for project leadership and oversight; student fellows receive $4,000 for project implementation. While faculty need not have specific technology expertise, they must understand how digital technologies could be employed to support their teaching objectives. Student applicants are encouraged to have programming or multimedia skills, or they must have a concrete (and feasible) plan for acquiring the skills required for their projects. Approximately 285 hours of work should be devoted to each project. Money Clipart The CER can help interested applicants to formulate project ideas and can help match faculty with student partners. Once fellowships are awarded, CER staff serve as liaisons to project teams, conducting update sessions, providing some technical consultation, and helping teams prepare for a year-end symposium to report project results. A committee of faculty and technical professionals from the Johns Hopkins community reviews all applications using the criteria listed in the application form found on our website at http://www.cer.jhu.edu/techfellows/ . Applications will be accepted from November 1 - November 30th with awards announced in early December 2008. All projects funded during academic year 08-09 should be completed no later than one year from the start of the project. For more information, contact Cheryl Wagner at 410-516-7181 or cwagner@jhu.edu

III   2008 Sparky Awards

Attention Homewood faculty - here's an opportunity to encourage your students to exercise their intellectual creativity and compete for a financial award and public recognition. The 2008 Sparky Award competition is well-suited for adoption as a class assignment. Applicants are invited to submit videos of two minutes or less that imaginatively portray the benefits of the open, legal exchange of information. The 2008 contest theme is "MindMashup: The Value of Information Sharing." Mashup is an expression referring to a song, video, Web site, or software application that combines content from more than one source. To be eligible, submissions must be publicly available on the Internet - on a Web site or in a digital repository - and available for use under a Creative Commons License. The Winner will receive a cash prize of $1,000 along with a Sparky Award statuette. Two Runners-up will each receive $500 plus a personalized award certificate. Sparky Award Ad Entries must be received by November 30, 2008; winners will be announced in January 2009. The award-winning videos will be screened at the January 2009 American Library Association Midwinter Conference in Denver. The Winner of the First Annual Sparky Awards in 2007 was Habib Yazdi, a student at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for "Share" (http://www.arl.org/sparc/media/08-0122.shtml). For details, see the contest Web site at http://www.sparkyawards.org.

IV   Faculty Spotlight: Elizabeth Rodini, Associate Director, and Society and Senior Lecturer, History of Art

Rodini PhotoCER: What are you teaching here at Hopkins and what are the levels of the courses?
ER: I'm teaching a range of courses in the Program in Museums and Society, which encompass undergraduate classes from the introductory 200 level up to 400 level undergraduate seminars on focused topics. The courses that I teach are mostly lecture and discussion-based, depending on the size and nature of the project, and some result in student-curated exhibitions at local museums.
CER: What are your strategies or approaches for engaging or connecting with the students in your course?
ER: I'm learning and it's important to realize that teaching well is a continuing learning process for the instructor. In the lecture and discussion portion of my course, I try increasingly to connect the subject matter to current events and issues. Museum content is often connected to local issues or even relevant political movements; students can connect to the course subject matter not just through the classroom but also through other resources. I have been facilitating discussions in groups of varying size to avoid a rut of conversational pattern. Sometimes we talk as a whole group; sometimes I divide the class into small groups to help mix up the dynamics from topic to topic. Having a grad student to help guide the conversation is useful. Also, I have found that giving students time to jot thoughts down and respond to a question before discussion starts allows them to think through an argument and have something to say. It also gives me something to collect to see which students are paying attention or doing the reading.
CER: You began working with the CER in connection with your survey course "Introduction to the Museum: Past and Present." Can you tell us some of the challenges you encountered in teaching this course, particularly challenges that led you to explore a technological solution with the CER?
ER: Many survey courses require us to cover a lot of ground while providing adequate depth for each topic. It's difficult to stay on track in the 200 level introductory courses that cover 500 years of museum history with political, social, and cultural implications, while providing exposure to topics with some detail. Another challenge is that museums are complex monuments. A painting in all of its complexity can be shown in a slide with its meaning relatively uninhibited, but how do you convey the reasons for its installation in a particular museum, its relationships to the other items with which it shares exhibit space, or the changing nature of its importance over time and other exhibits in which it might be included? As any architectural historian would know, it's difficult to convey in a traditional lecture the complex meaning and structure of a museum building.
CER: Do you use any digital technologies or collaborative methods to enhance student learning?
ER: With the support of a Technology Fellowship grant from the CER, a student fellow, senior Nora Krinitsky, and I created a site called "Mapping Museums" in the CER's Interactive Map Tool. The Map Tool was used in my Intro to Museums class to develop case-studies, ten initially, to provide some depth on issues related to individual museums in history. The environment allowed students to explore the spatial layout of a museum's objects, implications of their presentation, and the impact objects might have on museum visitors, through a series of pages that included images, floor plans, and artifacts. Each week we explored a general topic, for example, the rise of nations in the 18th century. After introducing this concept, we focused on a case study such as the Louvre to gain a sense of context to the broader issues. It's important to balance the breadth and depth of the subject matter. The Map Tool also helped to bring images together in a way that provided spatial context that would not be possible using a PowerPoint presentation. The Map environment permits an appreciation of how the space and the objects presented within that space relate to the overall period of history in which they were created. When students use this "virtual pop-up book," as I like to think of it, they can examine how people would enter the museum and see the first visible object. They can also observe when that object was moved, prompting them to consider the implications of object placement decisions over time. Having the Map Tool as a resource that students can access outside of class also helped them to study before tests and to prepare for class in more depth on their own time.
CER: Would you describe any unique projects or assignments from your classes?
ER: With the help from departments like the Center for Educational Resources and the Digital Media Center, I have been able to offer different types of assignments and projects as optional alternatives to writing research papers. Using the Map Tool, for example, my students have created multimedia projects - they have researched and recreated their own significant museum exhibits. For another course, I had my students produce posters on research topics, and I will be introducing a newsletter creation assignment soon. Communicating ideas in different ways is really valuable in these types of classes because although it's important to be able to write a research paper for a very targeted academic audience, it's also important know how to write effectively for non-academic audiences. The students have appreciated these assignment variations because they are generally more creative and sometimes can impact "real" audiences, as in the case with my museum exhibition classes.
CER: How do you know when you're successful? How do you assess student learning?
ER: I put a lot of value in the student evaluations at the end of the semester. I also create my own evaluation tools that have more specific questions than the standard course evaluation forms. When the Tech Fellowship project was completed, the CER helped facilitate an overall course-specific assessment survey that focused, in part, on the use of the Map Tool to gauge the impact the project had on the class. Of course, at the time, there were no data to compare the assessment to since it was the first time I had taught the course, but the response was great. Another indication of the success of the Map Tool site was in the number of students that opted to use the Map Tool to recreate historical exhibits for their final project. Student feedback on that assignment was excellent. Students said the assignment made them think in new ways, and they appreciated the variety of options it provided. Half of those student final projects have been repurposed in the overall site as museum case-studies for future classes. Asking students about the class in the middle of the class can be intimidating, but it was a useful check that allowed me to address course problems before it concluded.
CER: What is your philosophy of teaching?
ER: I'd say that my philosophy is evolving; and I'm hesitant to call it a philosophy. I've learned to be flexible and responsive to student needs and to trust that student interests and strengths can enliven discussions while permitting me to keep them in line with the issues and questions that I want to cover. I'm learning not to be wed to a rigid structure; to keep it interesting for the students. But I'm also learning as I go along. [CER staff sought out student reactions - here's a sample: "The mapping option for the final project was a nice change of pace from the traditional paper. For me, it made the research more engaging and interactive, and it was nice to compile information and draw conclusions in a new way."]

V   SharePoint at Hopkins

Share Point Logo SharePoint is a Microsoft Office collaboration tool that is generating a lot interest on campus. For the past three years, SharePoint has been available within the Hopkins community for anyone to use to share documents and collaborate with colleagues. Users can store and share documents on their SharePoint site and manage workflows for collaborating on those documents. Other features embedded in the software include discussion boards, project task management with workflows and an alert system, surveys and form distribution, advanced privilege settings for team members and more. Currently the creation and viewing of Hopkins' SharePoint sites is available only within the Hopkins community - Sharepoint sites can't be made public for the World Wide Web. If you're interested in SharePoint for any number of objectives - for example, managing the activities of a grant, institute or center, organizing a seminar series, or tracking the graduate application process in your department - visit the link below for more information about SharePoint and how to have a site created for you. http://collaborate.johnshopkins.edu/sites/faq

VI   JHU Portal Updates

This September, the myJohnsHopkins portal underwent a major upgrade. What does this upgrade mean to you? Some immediate benefits include:
  • Upgraded look and feel to align more closely with JHU branding
  • Application toolbar for easy access to tools such as email, jshare, and more.
  • Improved person search functionality
  • Improved Johns Hopkins web content search
  • Easier portal customization using AJAX
Share Point Logo This upgrade paves the way for many future enhancements, such as divisional ability to manage information targeted to their constituents and improved integration with academic and administrative systems. What else is in store for the myJH portal? This fall we are planning a series of enhancements and new features including:
  • Announcements and Events Filtered by Department and Category
  • New targeted content for academic and medical divisions
  • Better integration of course management resources
  • Additional interface enhancements
  • Additional search enhancements
  • Mobile device portal with person search
We need your feedback to keep improving. So please take the time to login at http://my.jhu.edu, take a look and send us your feedback. If you are interested in integrating content or features into the myJH portal, please contact Theron Feist, tfeist@jhu.edu. The goal of the portal team is to make myJH your one-stop shop for JHU resources.