Notes from May 2009 meeting of the Sciences Group

The Sciences Advisory Group met on May 20, 2009

Attending: Carrie Macfarlane, Matt Landis, Jason Mittell, Steve Sontum, Bill Hegman, Pete Ryan, Matt Dickerson, Shel Sax, Stephen Ratcliffe, Bill Peterson, Roger Sandwick, Jason Mittell

The topics of this meeting were:

  • Web Makeover
  • Segue
  • Research and technology instruction for students

Web Makeover: Jason Mittell shared information relevant to faculty.


  1. each department will need to identify a ‘lead’ for each unit, department or office to spearhead the effort of converting content to the new site.
  2. there will be no direct transfer of old pages – someone will have to go through the existing content and identify what is important that needs to be transferred and what doesn’t.
  3. the inventory of existing content needs to take place over the summer (this is an issue and coordinators need to be informed now about this timetable and whether this can be undertaken in early June or late August
  4. an inventory of pages will be generated by LIS in each department and this will include faculty pages (may also be pages to middunix pages) if it is not hosted by your departmental url, it will not be listed.
  5. Carrie needs to find out when LIS will provide this inventory of pages  (Check Sciences Items for updates)
  6. question raised as to whether we can get data on utilization of pages as a guide to utilization. Jason said that it is possible might not be useful given how pages are accessed (Check Sciences Items for updates)
  7. question about who the point person should be – it should not be the departmental coordinator but rather someone who has a better sense of the discipline-specific content and/or a ‘vision’ for the new website
  8. new faculty profile pages will be dynamic so that things that are tagged to an individual faculty member will show up on the faculty member’s page – the idea is to enter data once and then have it migrate to the appropriate locations on the new web site – so, for example, publication information and course information will show up in multiple locations
  9. important to have a faculty member involved in the process who is sufficiently familiar with content to make decisions – some discussion as to whether the departmental coordinator can be the point person
  10. question about whether faculty would be willing to take this on.  Consider that academic coordinators are cut down to 10/12ths time. The idea of revisioning a departmental web site did not fill the group with enthusiasm.
  11. The new system is called Drupal
  12. will take energy and effort to meet the timeline requirements
  13. Jason noted that one can start with a very lean web site that has minimal content and add to it.  As people realize how easy it will be to develop and add content, and increased use of images, multimedia, etc. they may become excited by the possibilities
  14. Question as to whether the archived old system’s data will be available so that at a subsequent time it will be accessible in order to transfer content from old site (Check Sciences Items for updates)
  15. There will be a variety of design templates to choose from but the basic relevant categories will be there so that one will know if missing something
  16. Question about intellectual property:  Will someone be checking content to be sure it can be shared? For example, PDFs of articles, names of students.  LIS should provide specific information about these issues in the workbook to be distributed to faculty and academic offices.  (Check Sciences Items for updates)
  17. Idea of being able to share events brought up the question of someone tagging inaccurately in order to more broadly publicize an event – this will be checked but it is not in place yet and since the work flow process is as of now not yet sufficiently clear, we can’t answer now how this will play out.


  1. Jason went on to the 2nd point which is that we do not have  easily portable content and there is no opportunity in our existing web sites to highlight the interesting things that are students are doing
  2. So the ‘story’ form is a web-based form that enables anyone to fill out a story to identify an interesting thing that people might want to know about (either internally or externally) and we will be building up collection of such stories
  3. This is a way to make one’s program known – we want more students to know, for example, to know what is going on in Bi Hall in the sciences and want to publicize the work of our students and their levels of activity in the real world
  4. the web will enable us to generate a collection
  5. How to submit stories?  For now, go to

Segue: Shel shared updates on Segue.

  1. Segue will fade away.  No replacement has been recommended yet, and there is no timeline
  2. If you are currently using Segue, continue to use it.
  3. If you have not yet used Segue, may wish to learn another system, for example WordPress
  4. question as to why we’re making the shift – answer: too expensive to maintain,  new tools have sprung up since Segue first released and we can no longer compete
  5. Shel noted that there is no alternative CMS selected, we’re hoping that Drupal will fit the bill, timeline is not yet firm and we are counting on extensive conversations with faculty to develop a timeframe that will accommodate their needs
  6. There will be a blog for updates on the Segue transition, the URL will be shared when it’s available.

Student Research and Technology Orientation Discussion

  1. Notes for Discussion document was distributed to participants as the basis for discussion
  2. Goal of discussion:  Consider requesting that tech and library orientation be mandatory for students.
  3. Carrie noted that the current situation is that FYS instructors have the option to have an orientation of either library or tech or both but does not provide universal coverage.
  4. Matt circulated this document to his department and 7 faculty responded thinking that this should be mandatory.  Some of the feedback he received is to include a tour of the library, show students how to find print material and to provide a FAQ about the tech stuff on the home page of the website.  Clear sense that this information is not well known by first year students as it should be, hence the need for making it mandatory
  5. Steve Ratcliffe had feedback that we already have orientation overload and that orientation should be ‘in context’ that is, should be connected to an actual research assignment – Matt said that if this was a required part of a first year seminar, it would help to customize the orientation to fit the specific research needs of the FYS assignment
  6. Carrie said that some skills could be taught in an online handout or tutorial, some could be taught in a core class for a specific discipline instead of a first year seminar.  Might want to discuss how best to teach each skill.
  7. Steve R noted that it should be up to the instructor if he/she wants to include this as part of the course
  8. Steve S noted that way back when, there was a universal obligatory orientation for each FYS and that worked well
  9. Matt Dickerson said that FYS are sufficiently crowded with other responsibilities that it is already difficult to add content
  10. General agreement that the basic technological skills are essential but could be part of a general orientation rather than as part of FYS
  11. General sense that targeted bibliographic instruction should continue to be part of the FYS and could be useful orientation within the FYS
  12. Several said they had found research instruction in their first-year seminars valuable.
  13. Several said it was difficult to imagine that a first-year seminar instructor wouldn’t feel it was important to teach students research skills. Perhaps some topics don’t lend themselves to research.
  14. Bill Hegman thought that web-based instruction would solve a lot of the tech issues
  15. Carrie said that some students won’t learn to use servers, etc., if they’re not exposed to them in the classroom.  Hands-on experience is meaningful to many.
  16. Carrie said that most first-year seminars do request a support team, and the support team includes a librarian.
  17. Steve R suggested that even if a student learns these skills in the first-year seminar, they might forget them by the time they’re a junior or senior
  18. Ultimately doesn’t seem to be a consensus as to whether this should or should not be mandatory but there was consensus that the tech stuff doesn’t have to be part of the actual seminar
  19. Depending on what (if anything) the group decides to recommend, we may wish to check with Katy Smith-Abbott to see if it would be possible to get tech stuff incorporated in general orientation
  20. Carrie and Matt will meet to discuss next steps, and share recommendations with group.  Next steps might include gathering and sharing impressions with other advisory groups. (Check Sciences Items for updates)


  1. next time to meet: after the 5th week of the semester, perhaps late October
  2. Carrie will send url of list with updates on “Items for consideration” (questions and concerns) that were raised in our February meeting).  Progress has been made on all items, and some items even have answers.

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