Social Science Advisory Group – Notes from 2nd Mtg.

May 19, 2009

Present: Bob Prasch, Thierry Warin, Anne Knowles, Bert Johnson, Brenda Ellis, Kathy Morse, Shel Sax, Joe Antonioli, David Stoll

Agenda: Web Makeover; Future Plans for Course Mangement Systems: Segue, etc.; Tracking Issues

Web Makeover (Joe Antonioli, Web Makeover Committee):

Joe mentioned the web makeover blog which is at or just use go/blogs and choose it from the side menu.

First question was about timeline and transfer of content. A copy of the timeline from the blog was distributed Mary Backus (LIS Director of User Services) will be leading a team to address these issues and provide support material, in particular, what steps are needed to take to provide the information, training, and support for each department. Joe said that each department should have someone in the department who has a ‘vision’ of the department’s web presence and the ownership and decision-making needs. Division of labor is at the discretion of the department. In this phase, White Whale is designing a set of templates from which departments can select. There will be some branding (similar elements) but each department can select from one of these templates. Thus there will be more options than in the past.

Thierry asked about how the webpages would be done for the International Studies program, since it’s one program with 7 tracks. How will this be addressed – what choices does the department have – can all seven tracks all look the same? or can each track have a different look and feel? Joe said it is up to the program itself to decide how much variation they want, based on the template selection.

Kathy has her personal page on middunix, courses on Segue and no presence on the departmental web site. How will she be able to integrate all of this material? Joe said that it would be up to Kathy as to how she integrates her personal web material into the new web site. She will have more control over her faculty page so it should be easier for her to add content and links.

Joe mentioned a number of the features that we’re looking to incorporate – single sign on, web makeover, course catalog, etc. so focus needs to be on the main College site in the current time frame.

Departments need to be ready with the person with the vision this summer. So, this summer is the time to evaluate current content, what needs to be transferred, what needs to be changed and added to. The new departmental sites need to be ready for January. White Whale and LIS are coming up with resources to guide departments through the process. White Whale and LIS are developing a workbook to guide departments through adding various elements to departmental web sites. Jason Mittell and Molly Costanza-Robinson will help to keep faculty in the loop.

Site design will be revealed to the community and makeover team on July 27th. All information will be put on the web makeover blog. There will be opportunity for comment before we move to implement the design.

Anne asked if there is no current chair, or the chair isn’t around this summer, what will happen if there’s no one willing to take responsibility for the departmental ‘vision’. The answer is that there will be a default design that will be used until departments take more responsibility for their web presence.

Features of the webmakeover (we’re using a platform called Drupal) will include the ability to include images, video, a calendar (pulling information from the calendaring system R25 so can list departmental events or anything in the Master Calendar that is specific to a department), improved search facility. The question came up about how much of this initiative is about ‘marketing’ and ‘branding’.

Thierry asked about using Netvibes (an RSS aggregator) which can be a group homepage as well as an individual page. Thierry was thinking of using this as a home page for the international studies program since students don’t typically go to the IS’s current web page. Each person can personalize each home page and aggregate their relevant information. Should he wait to do this? Joe suggested he wait if he doesn’t need anything urgently this fall since next spring will be the go live date.

Monterrey will go first and graphic standards, design elements, etc. will be in place shortly since it needs to go live this September.

Brenda showed the group the ‘examples’ link on the web makeover page which links to a variety of web sites at other institutions that may serve as examples for us.

Future Plans for Course Management Systems: Segue, etc. (Shel Sax)

Shel talked about Segue, its phasing out, the issues of timing, alternatives and extracting data. LIS will stop developing new features for Segue 2 but will fix any bugs that may arise in the current system. Shel explained the rationale for the decision. It is both an issue of economics (2 full time developers) and the inability of 2 people to keep up with developments in the field (there are other open source systems that have much larger communities of developers supporting them). We have not yet identified what system we will move to. There are other open sources systems such as Moodle that are possibilities and after the webmakeover migration is complete we may collaborate with Amherst who is customizing Moodle to use it for their course management system. The trend at other institutions is away from commercial ventures like Blackboard due to cost and lack of adequate development. As we move forward, LIS will consult with faculty about timelines, features, extracting data from existing Segue sites, etc.

The question arose as to what faculty should use in the fall. Faculty who already know how to use segue can continue using it or try out WordPress, our blogging software that may be adequate for some purposes. New faculty will be steered towards WordPress. WordPress has a blog feature (posts) as well as webpages and you can have links to media stored on MIDDMedia and you can upload documents. The disadvantage is that you can’t setup groups so if you want to limit it to a class or upload copyrighted material (such as course readings), you have to make it private which means you’ll have to setup individual logins for your students.

Shel said he would offer workshops on WordPress in August. Brenda noted that faculty can get help anytime before then from the Media Lab tutors, who will be working all summer.

Question arose about the future of ERes (E-Reserves) and whether its use will grow or wither. Segue is by default a closed system that prohibits public access – WordPress is the opposite. Brenda noted that faculty can currently manage their own ERes site but many faculty don’t know this. So those faculty who like segue because they can upload a course reading at the last minute can do this through ERes instead. To manage their ERes site, faculty need to contact Library Reserves to get setup as administrators of their account. Brenda noted the advantages of E-Res in terms of fair use, copyright/licensing, etc. (E-Res limits access to just those students in the class and the library can keep track of copyright fees we need to pay). Currently when faculty upload copyrighted material to segue, if its not limited to the class, it is a violation of copyright even if it’s restricted to the Middlebury community.

NOTE TO LIS: Faculty expressed interest in having future systems integrate ERes with their course website.

Tracking Issues: (Brenda Ellis)

Brenda mentioned that LIS will track some issues internally and post updates for faculty on the Advisory Groups Blog under the category of Items for Consideration.


June 4th Tech Fair in the Great Hall of Bi-Hall from 10:30-noon. The media tutors will have a table and faculty will have posters of how they’ve used technology in their courses.

Action Items:

Brenda will send additional information to faculty re: managing their ERes accounts if they would like that option.

Brenda will keep the group informed over the summer as web makeover process continues. She’ll email links to important content posted to the blog since many faculty will be away and not think to check the blog.

Next Meeting:

We will aim to schedule the next meeting at the beginning of the Fall semester sometime between weeks 2 – 4.

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