Information Technology Services

Drop Shadow

December 4, 2006

Minutes of the IRC Meeting, December 4, 2006

Present were Jerry Ammer, Dwight Bean, Aaron Bond (Horizon Wimba), Doug Burke, Cyd Burrows, Denise Dimon, Todd Harrison, Carole Huston, Mary Kowit, Kathleen Kramer, Shahra Meshkaty, Jim Perry, Jack Pope, Karen Reed, Amanda Ryan, Bob Schoultz, Rick Seaman, Owen Smith, Mike Somerville, Ed Starkey, Bart Thurber, Rosy Vacchi, Ani Velo, Chris Wessells, John Yin

ITS Update
Minutes of the last meeting were approved. Chris Wessells began by apologizing for the email difficulties some people have been experiencing. In the migration to the RazorGate spam filtering system, some unanticipated problems arose and ITS staff, together with Mirapoint, are working to resolve them.

Doug Burke said that technically the cutover to RazorGate had gone well. Our email will now be much more secure. Authentication will be required when sending email, which will eliminate the “spoofing” of USD email addresses we’ve been seeing recently. Some individuals have been having difficulty emailing from home. Port 25 is no longer usable with Cox clients and we’re using a different port. ITS will be posting instructions to help people correct their email settings.

By way of note, Doug stated that USD currently receives about 200,000 emails a day of which 75% are spam.

The cutover to the Cisco equipment has been postponed slightly. There is an issue with the core routers — a device that provides redundancy to the system also kills the network. The problem is being worked out and we anticipate the upgrade occurring later in December after finals have been completed.

Chris remarked that it would be ideal to replace all the core devices but that would cost over $750,000.

iClicker technology
Dwight Bean from the Mathematics department began a presentation on a “clicker” technology product he’s been using. He remarked that he is not a technically gifted person but that he has no problem using this product. After some problems getting the laptop to present his slides correctly, Dwight was able to show some of the features he likes. The technology works on PCs with Windows XP installed and on the latest Macintosh computers. Versions for other operating systems are still in development.

Responding to a question from Kathleen Kramer as to the purpose of such technology, Dwight explained that it is a class response system. The user can take attendance or poll the class for understanding of class material, including being able to ask “sensitive” questions since students can respond anonymously.
The clickers have been well received in his classes.

The user can change the format of the response, the time allotted for response, and can even record a copy of the response screen. Jack Pope asked whether Dwight requires the clicker devices and Dwight replied yes, he does. He did not know whether there is a process to ensure that each student replies only once. The system also interfaces well with WebCT and Blackboard.

Turning Technologies
Jim Perry began a presentation on the Turning Point clicker system. He showed the tiny RF receiver. There is also a larger infrared receiver. Students purchase the devices at the bookstore and can sell them back when the semester ends. This system resets the classroom computer at the beginning of each class, which Jim appreciates since it removes residual information from the previous class.

He says that the devices help to maintain student interest, and that they allow the instructor to collect anonymous responses, determine whether the class has understood a lesson, and take attendance or give paperless in-class quizzes.

Up to 1000 students can use the system and the devices are responsive up to 250 feet away. The instructor can insert slides on the fly. A toolbar opens automatically with each question. Jim demonstrated different kinds of questions. Sound can also be used. Turning Point can generate many different reports as well. It has a built-in parser, so that the user can make slides from Word documents (Heading 1 & Heading 2 styles become Questions & Answers.) The entire class can be saved as a “session.”

Horizon Wimba
Shahra Meshkaty introduced Aaron Bond, a representative from the Horizon Wimba Corporation. Aaron introduced the Horizon Wimba system. He argues that a classroom presentation system such as this is more exciting than a text-based system and provides a richer, more natural, more collaborative learning environment.

Using WebCT, users can interact via voice and Aaron demonstrated a brief conversation with a remote user. The Wimba system has asynchronous voice tools such as discussion boards, which include voice postings, and also a live classroom tool. The live classroom allows the instructor to push out PowerPoint presentations and use whiteboarding tools.

Jim Perry inquired whether Wimba is similar to MS Net Meeting. Aaron replied yes, it is, but that the Wimba tool functions more like a classroom, with greater participant interaction. He also mentioned the archiving feature, which allows for replayable sessions, another important distinction from corporate solutions. The application sharing feature means that all applications do not have to be locally installed but can be available remotely. More than one instructor can participate in a class.

Wimba can be used external to WebCT but it is more difficult. Lessons are archived on the Wimba server in New York. Amanda Ryan inquired whether Aaron knows of any organization using Wimba as a disaster recovery resource, but he didn’t know of any. He did remark that some organizations in New Orleans are using it as is the CDC. It integrates with both the older and newer versions of WebCT.

All functions are performed via the web. There is no need to record, upload, etc. Wimba is an excellent resource for language learning. It humanizes the classroom environment. A student can share something on his/her desktop and Wimba provides a podcasting tool as well. It’s already integrated with iTunes, so with just one click a user receives an “already subscribed” message once they update.

Shahra inquired whether there is any storage limitation. Aaron stated that there is not, and each single posting can be up to 10 megs in size. There is also an instant messaging tool called Pronto, which has all the common IM features and integrates with WebCT. Within WebCT, the participants have a log of their WebCT courses and all the enrollees. Then the instructor can set up group chats, even including voice. The IM feature is always present whereas the live classroom meets at a particular address and a particular time.

Ani Velo asked whether there is a voice recognition component. Aaron replied no, not at this time. However, the live classroom sessions can provide closed captions. Mike Somerville remarked that several years back the Wimba system was prohibitively expensive and wondered if it had gotten less so.

Aaron replied that Horizon Wimba has moved to a different licensing structure. Chris thanked all attendees and the meeting adjourned.

Minutes provided by Mary Kowit