This section of TLR Innovations provides short updates on projects, partnerships, and services offered by UIT’s two academic technology services groups – Educational & Scholarly Technology Services (ESTS) and Research & Geospatial Technology Services (RGTS).

Research & Geospatial Technology Services

Assistant Professor Yu-Shan Lin came from Stanford University to join the Chemistry Department at Tufts University in August 2012. Using some of her start-up funds, Professor Lin contributed sixty new IBM M4 iDataPlex compute nodes to the Tufts Research Cluster adding an additional ~960 cores to our existing 1148 cores. This helped us to reach our current total capacity of 2108 cores, essentially doubling our research cluster computing capacity.

The primary use of these additional compute nodes is to support Professor Lin’s research that focuses on developing and applying computational methodology to significant biological problems that are difficult to address experimentally, such as elucidating the structures and functions of biomolecules. A secondary use is to let the entire Tufts research community benefit from Professor Lin’s unused computing capacity when she is not using all her nodes; of course, priority is given to Professor Lin on her own nodes.

This shared access model has been very successful for the Tufts research cluster because it has allowed Tufts researchers to acquire computing capacity without having to worry about the purchase itself, space, power, air-conditioning, data back-up, system administration or system maintenance. This has enabled faculty to focus on their research. This model has made it possible for the University to leverage all computing investments in one environment that can be shared by all, as opposed to having many smaller environments that may not be shared.

Professor Lin is the sixth faculty member who has contributed nodes to the research community in this shared manner, following Professors Abriola’s, Cowen’s, Khardon’s, Miller’s and Napier’s steps.

Educational & Scholarly Technology Services

Implementing ePortfolios for Tufts

The ePortfolio project is continuing apace toward January 2013 introduction of a version 1 service model. We have implemented the Sakai Open Source Portfolio (OSP) system that is integrated with the university’s Trunk platform and we have prototyped ePortfolio templates in both Trunk and Spark WordPress based on goals articulated by Tufts community members. During the upcoming months, the project team will continue to receive training from our professional services vendor, Three Canoes, on OSP reporting and configuration as part of ramping up our in-house ePortfolio expertise; we will be honing the initial Sakai and WordPress-based prototypes based on review of community members; and we will prepare guidelines for initial ePortfolio partnerships.

The Tufts University School of Dental Medicine (TUSDM) has completed its ePortfolio pilot using the Trunk-based competency matrix, reflection forms, and showcase portfolio. Faculty and student pilot participants have completed an evaluation of the pilot, and we will use all that we have learned from that pilot to help hone the overall service, as well as TUSDM ePortfolio plans going forward.

During these past seven years of piloting and laying groundwork for ePortfolios, ESTS has been working with CELT (Center for the Enhancement of Learning & Teaching), OIR&E (Office of Institutional Research & Evaluation), with the chair of the Learning Outcomes Assessment Committee in A&S, with multiple Tufts academic program leaders, and with peer institutions to understand the diverse ePortfolio-related goals at Tufts and to design a service model and implement a platform that could facilitate these diverse goals. Our ability to move from the small-scale pilots of the past seven years to a broad-scale use of ePortfolios at Tufts will depend significantly on faculty development and adequate staffing models to support design and adoption of ePortfolios across academic programs.

Video and materials from peer institution expert presentations to Tufts’ ePortfolio Community of Interest are available on the ESTS ePortfolio website.

Mobile Application Development

Two development initiatives in the mobile-friendly web application area are well underway. Both of these application are allowing us to explore the specific design and development challenges of producing mobile applications.

JumboStudy is a mobile-friendly application that will allow Tufts students to set up and publish ad hoc study group events. The application is tied directly to Trunk, allowing students to see the study groups that have been scheduled for the courses in which they are enrolled. We hope to have a pilot version of the application ready for students in the coming Spring semester.

Implant Dentistry Guide is a mobile-friendly encyclopedia of implant dentistry knowledge and procedures. We are working with Dr. Ali Muftu of the Tufts School of Dental Medicine to deliver this application at first to Tufts students for evaluation and testing and then to a world-wide audience once revisions have been made.

Distance & Blended Learning Initiatives

This year ESTS is delighted to be piloting central services for distance and blended learning and working to prepare the environmental scans and draft business and service models for central and coordinated local services at Tufts. Patrick Connell, Educational Technology Manager and distance/blended learning expert at the Friedman School, is working with UIT Educational & Scholarly Technology Services part-time through this academic year to help the group with consultation and support for emerging courses and programs across Tufts and with the continued work of informing strategic planning at the University and advocating for enabling services and resources to support the range of distance/blended program needs across academic contexts at Tufts.

The Digital & Online Initiatives Working Group as part of the T10 Strategic Planning process is working at fast pace this fall to educate ourselves about the changing terrain of higher education, to identify Tufts’ particular areas of strength within this changing terrain, particularly in the space of online learning and technology for education, and to prepare recommendations and frame the conversation for the broader Tufts community. Through the working group, we have shared compiled information about existing and emerging distance and blended programs and courses across Tufts, documented current classroom technology and educational technology use at Tufts, and developed a library of key contextual readings and white papers on this fast-evolving terrain. The working group charge and membership are posted on the Tufts Strategic Planning website.

The Tufts Distance Learning Consortium (TDLC) continues into its sixth year, with vibrant participation from across Tufts’ Schools and programs. The next meeting of the TDLC is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 13th, 9:30-11am. To learn more, please contact TDLC co-chairs, Philip Gay and Rebecca Sholes.

Tufts Digital Library Redesign with Hydra

This fall we have released a beta version of the new Hydra-based Tufts Digital Library (TDL). The Tufts Digital Library is a place to explore and discover Tufts’ research and teaching online. Collections include faculty and student scholarship, photograph and image collections, oral histories, student and university publications, and more.

This reimagining of the TDL user interface is currently in beta. Only some of the content is functional; images should work correctly, and other media types should become functional over the coming weeks. We welcome your feedback and comments. The complete version of the new TDL will be live later this Fall.

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