August 27, 2015

I.  Announcements

Innovation Co-Lab Program:  The Innovation Co-Lab Program has been bringing the Duke community together for the past 3 years to promote technical development, innovation and student projects.  Roots, a resource within the Innovation Co-Lab, offers technical education to students of any skill and confidence level.  Students as well as faculty and staff are encouraged to enroll in courses.  Course descriptions, availability and registration are available at

Adobe:  Duke is actively negotiating an agreement with Adobe.

Freshmen Student Technology Assessment:   Incoming Freshman brought an average of 2.2 devices per student.  Their preferred operating systems and mobile devices are listed below.


Preferred Operating Systems


Preferred Mobile Devices
















Bridging University and Health System Network:  The University and Health System are now using Virtual Routing and Forwarding (VRFs) to transfer packets between the organizations.  Using this technology, we've extended the University's PCI (Payment Card Industry) standard for handling credit cards to the Health System without having to extend OIT's physical network into the Health System.  We are exploring another promising use of this technology which we expect will eventually allow us to share research between the School of Medicine and the rest of Campus.

Network Threats:  We are responding differently to less emergent network threats.  Rather than close a port instantly, the IT Security Office will gather data over a couple of days to help identify individuals who are legitimately using the port.  They will attempt to contact those individuals prior to blocking the port.

Introductions and Recognition:  Since this was the first meeting of the new school year, ITAC members and guests were asked to introduce themselves.  This was JoAnne Van Tuyl's first meeting as ITAC Chair.  Outgoing Chair Mark Goodacre was presented with a plaque in recognition of his service. 


II.  Agenda Items

4:15 - 4:45 - MOOCs Experiences Influencing Duke Teaching, Denise Comer, Dorian Canelas, Lynne O'Brien  - (20 minute presentation, 10 minute discussion)

What it is:  Since becoming a Coursera partner in July 2012, Duke began offering Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).  Denise and Dorian will discuss the evolution of MOOCs at Duke through the use of guest experts, hangouts, research studies, and the use of lab video.  Lynne will provide an update on the move toward Specializations as a different kind of certification.

Why it's relevant:  Duke's goals in experimenting with MOOCs are to drive teaching innovation in both campus-based and online courses, to share Duke's knowledge in service to society and to expand Duke's reach and reputation in a global environment.

Evolution of a Writing-Based MOOC at Duke:  Denise Comer presented her experiences teaching a writing-based MOOC, English Composition I:  Achieving Expertise.  The 12-week long course that started in June 2015 was its fourth iteration.  As of December 2014, approximately 2,700 out of 215,451 registrants had completed the course in one of the three prior iterations (overall completion rates of around 1.5%-2%).  Approximately 65,706 individuals have registered for the current, fourth iteration. 

Challenges:  A team of Faculty experts helped tackle challenges around the creation of a writing-based MOOC including:

  • how to get substantive feedback on student writing given the number of registrants 
  • how to structure Peer Review since registrants represented a broad range of ages (11 to 90 years old), had different levels of writing experience, and lived in different parts of the world
  • how to create a safe space to share writing
  • how to individualize learning
  • how to determine the length of the course

Objectives and Content:  The objectives were based on the expected outcomes of an introductory course including how to:

  • summarize, analyze, question and evaluate written text
  • argue and support a position
  • cite the works of others
  • develop effective sentence and paragraph structure
  • transfer writing skills to new writing contexts   

The course consists of 77 videos that are approximately 4 minutes each.  There are 4 major writing projects consisting of a draft and revision cycle with peer feedback and evaluation.  Important components of the course include teacher-guided discussion forums, sample teacher feedback, reflections, learning through peer review of others' work and Google Hangout workshops to model effective feedback and discussion.  

Available Resources for MOOC Creation at Duke.  Dorian Canelas created her first MOOC in January 2014, Introduction to Chemistry, which was geared toward individuals who have never had chemistry before.  There are many Duke resources available to assist in creating a MOOC.  Dorian had the help of the Center for Instruction Technology (CIT) to create course materials and the Office of Information Technology (OIT) and Duke Media Services (DMS) Studio to create laboratory demonstration videos.  Bass Connections, a university-wide initiative that links faculty and students for collaboration and research, helped to bring together a team of faculty and students to look at the impact of MOOCS including qualitative analysis, motivation and barriers.

Questions and Comments:

(Q) How labor intensive is the feedback loop to improve courses in subsequent offerings?   When are you satisfied that the course is done?  (A) It can be labor intensive in the first few iterations but takes less time as you gain experience. The first few sessions of a course are the most important to hold students' interest. Those new to making MOOCs may want to develop the second half of the course before the first after gaining insight and experience.

(Q) How do you take a 60 minute lecture and turn it into a 4 minute lecture?  (A) Use one slide per video and talk about that one slide.  Have a series of short videos, each expanding on the previous one.

(Q) Have you been able to get value added benefits by ‘flipping' the classroom using MOOCs?  ‘Flipping' is a pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed.  (A)  Yes, students are expected to watch a video prior to class which cuts down on lecture time.  (C) Students are used to watching videos for learning (YouTube).  The students can watch at their own pace; however, some might fast forward and not watch the whole thing.  Some students like traditional lectures because they think it is less time intensive and more interactive.

4:45 -5:00 - Virtualized Course Environments with VM-Manage

What it is: In its first year, our VM-Manage environment has provided full virtual machines and lighter-weight Docker containers for students, faculty, and staff pursuing projects (for courses and otherwise) that benefit from small self-managed virtual machines or lightweight containerized versions of Matlab, R-studio, and other popular applications.  We continue to expand and extend the VM-Manage environment to meet more needs efficiently and effectively.

Why it's relevant: We will look at the growth in VM and container use for coursework, and preview some new technologies for delivering interactive computer environments coming this fall. 

Virtualized Course Environments:  We currently have 2 types of virtualized course environments.  Virtual Computer Labs (VCL) which has been around for 7 years is mainly aimed at short-term assignment-oriented reservations of Virtual Machines (VMs) (  The newer environment called VM-Manage offers semester long course and project-oriented reservations for VMs and containers (  Containers are lightweight forms of virtualized environments.  They are easily expandable and are between 10 and 20x more efficient than allocating a complete VM for each user.  When a user goes to the VM-Manage site, VM-Manage determines the container and redirects them to that container.

Current Uses of VM-Manage:  For the past year, Intro to Statistics labs has been running web-based R-Studio inside container environments.  Since fall 2014, there have been 1,079 users.  In spring 2015, we began piloting additional uses like MATLAB which is a graphical user interface (GUI) and Eclipse which is a program development environment.  Currently, there are 486 containers running R-Studio, MATLAB, Mathematica, and Eclipse IDE+Phython.  We've also assigned 248 complete VMs to individuals mostly for statistics purposes but also other purposes such as Co-Lab.

Proposed Uses: 

  • fMRI Analysis Tool.  There is recent interest in the ability to use a Docker container to embed Linux X-windows GUI in a non-OS specific web browser.  This would allow access to sophisticated functional MRI (fMRI) specialized analysis tools like FML without having the user install anything else.  The Brain Imaging Analysis Center (BIAC) would like to use the technology in an upcoming fMRI workshop and a semester-long fMRI course in spring 2016.  
  • Jenkins Continuous Integration (CI) Tool.  The tool's primary use is for building/testing software projects and monitoring externally-run jobs.  The tool could be used by faculty to verify if a student's programming assignment has been compiled and is ready to be graded.  Jenkins could also be used by researchers who need a place to test applications and projects before running on a more expensive infrastructure. 
  • Jupyter.  Provides an interactive notebook infrastructure which combines live code with text/graphics/markdown ( is external)).  The software that powers the backend of Jupyter notebooks uses the same technology we are using for our virtualized environments which puts us in a great position to be able to support it.  Jupyter lets the learner experiment with code to see how changes affect output.  You can also embed R code within notebooks.

 5:00 - 5:30 - Reception