Meeting Minutes

November 19, 2015

I.  Announcements

Approval of Minutes:  The October 22, 2015 minutes were approved.  

II.  Agenda Items

4:05- 4:35 – Duke MOOC Specializations: Excel to MySQL: Analytic Techniques for Business & Java Programming: An Introduction to Software Specialization , Lynne O’Brien, Daniel Egger and Jana Schaich Borg, course creators (20 minute presentation, 10 minute discussion)

What it is:  The Duke Center for Instructional Technology (CIT) contributes to Duke’s academic excellence by helping instructors explore and evaluate innovative ways to use technology and new pedagogies to meet their teaching goals.  Since becoming a Coursera partner in July 2012, Duke has offered many Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) that span humanities, science, social science, nursing, medicine and engineering.   

Why it’s relevant:  Coursera’s university partners have come together to bring learners hundreds of new courses as part of a comprehensive selection of Specializations in business, computer science, and data science.  Lynne, Daniel and Jana will discuss the upcoming Analytics and Java Programming courses created by Duke 

Coursera’s New Design Approach:  In previous models, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) were developed by taking classroom materials and adapting them to online instruction.  The courses were long, were offered only a few times a year, and were not selected for development based on learner demand.  Coursera analyzed participant feedback and academic performance data from previous courses and found that online students were interested in a different approach.  Coursera has taken the results of the analysis and created a new model for specializations.  Features of the new model include: 

  • revenue generating clusters of short courses for high demand topics (8-minute videos),
  • self-paced courses that are offered more often throughout the year and are focused on outcomes and demonstrated competencies (Capstone Project),
  • flexible pricing packages so that students can purchase an entire course or specific parts of a course,
  • a certificate track, and
  • need-based financial aid.

The new model has already proven to be successful with a completion rate for paying students (including those receiving financial aid) of 93%.  There will be 50 more specializations kicked off in January with additional requests for proposals coming that will be topic specific or will be focused on converting existing specializations to a different language.  A full list of current specializations are located on the Coursera site at is external).

New MOOC Courses by Duke:  Duke University has submitted proposals to Coursera under the new specialization model.  Duke was selected to create 5 new MOOCs within a Data specialization.  The courses, which include an advance from Coursera to fund the development, must be completed within a four-month time frame.  Two have been completed already within the “Excel to MySQL: Analytic Techniques for Business Specialization” ( is external)).  Duke was also selected to create a Programming specialization: “Java Programming: An Introduction to Software Specialization” ( is external)).  Challenges identified during course development include limited access to data sets, no access to Google Hangouts in China and cultural/linguistic differences.  MOOC materials are being designed so that they serve more than one purpose.  Some are being used in classroom introductory courses at Duke and will be used in intermediate courses in the future.

Question:  Can you take courses for free?

Answer:   All course videos can be viewed for free; however, there is a fee to take the certificate track.

Question:  Is Coursera experimenting with compensation models?

Answer:  We won’t know if the current compensation model is adequate until we know the number of students that will be taking the courses. 

Comments:  Currently, 50% of the revenue goes to Coursera, 25% to instructors and 25% to University groups that support the development of the courses.  Coursera is integral in the success of the project.

Question: How does the Capstone Project evaluate and grade projects?

Answer:  Along with instructor review, they are using a mechanism called Peer Review where students evaluate others’ work. 

Question:  How many have signed up for Duke’s two new MOOC specialization courses?

Answer:  For the Data specialization, there have been 3,100 payments for individual courses and 800 payments for the full course package.  That doesn’t include those that received financial aid.

Question:  What are the demographics of the students taking Coursera courses?

Answer:  Approximately 50% of the students have university degrees.  Of those, 30% have advanced degrees.  MOOCs serve students from more than 80 countries.  Approximately 70% of students are working.  The typical student age is late 20’s.  Approximately 37% of students are taking courses on their mobile devices.

Question:  Is there an expectation from paying students of the length and breadth of course materials?

Answer:  We don’t have student feedback yet but should have it soon.  The first course had 32 videos, 6-12 minutes in length.  Coursera recommends that courses last 4 weeks and have 1-2 hours of coursework per week.


4:35- 4:45 – CIT Showcase, Shawn Miller (5 minute presentation, 5 minute discussion)

What it is: The Duke Center for Instructional Technology Showcase recently hosted a free one-day conference to celebrate creativity and innovation in using technology in education at Duke. The event featured many presentations and demonstrations by Duke faculty and staff.

Why it’s relevant: We will share outcomes from our evaluations and get feedback on recommendations for future Showcases. 

CIT Showcase Conference:  The 15th annual Center for Instructional Technology Showcase was held on Tuesday, October 13, 2015.  The purpose of the conference is to showcase faculty innovations, to demonstrate new teaching technologies and to promote discussion around teaching and technology.  The keynote address was ‘Learning that Lasts’ by Peter Felten (  It was one of the Showcase’s highest rated keynote addresses with an excellence rating of 97%. There were around 240 participants that registered for this year’s Showcase.  Of those, approximately 20% were faculty, 35%-40% were support staff and the rest came from other universities.  There has been a shift in what participants want to get out of the Showcase.  They prefer hands-on sessions and practical training on teaching or technology issues.  Future Showcases might shift to meet their changing needs. 

Question: Was fall break a good time to have the Showcase? 

Answer:  The Showcase was moved from spring to fall a couple years ago due to location issues.  We haven’t seen a decline in registration numbers by moving from spring to fall and most participants were satisfied with the schedule change.

Question:  Are we happy with the number of faculty attending and should we target higher participation?

Answer:  We would like to increase those numbers by looking at the depth and delivery of content.  We need to get the word out that the Showcase is less about technology in general and more about how to improve teaching skills with the use of technology.

4:45- 5:20 – SISS Portal Redesign Project Update, Kathy Bader (20 minute presentation, 15 minute discussion)

What it is: ACES/Storm portal redesign: A new web interface for the common student and faculty views of our student information system is being designed based on feedback from faculty and student users of the current system.  Kathy and her team will review progress to date and some preliminary design concepts.

Why it’s relevant: Faculty and student users of the student information system have expressed numerous frustrations in recent years; new features in the base program afford Duke the opportunity to develop a new front-end to the most commonly used aspects of the systems to improve the user experience.  ITAC feedback is very useful in this ongoing redesign project.

ACES/Storm Portal Redesign Update:  We are improving the ACES/Storm user interface for students and faculty (staff will be later).  A Bootstrap wrapper will provide a new look and feel on the front end alleviating the need for customization changes at this time to ACES/Storm pages.  XSL will be used to provide views that are more informative and less cluttered. 

We have had 5 meetings with student focus groups and one meeting with a faculty focus group.  The suggestions and comments from these groups have resulted in improvements and changes.  We would like to get more input from faculty and are looking at different locations and times to get the best turnout.  In February a select population of students and faculty, some from DSG, GPSC and ITAC, will be testing the new portal.  We are shooting for an early April release date. 

A demonstration of the redesigned faculty view showed the following improvements:

  • functional back button,
  • easy transition between roles,
  • increased white space,
  • footer at the bottom of the page to mark end of file,
  • bookmark capability, 
  • easily interpreted icons, 
  • less clutter by moving things that most don’t use to a different page,
  • what you see is what you need today,
  • reduced need for customization,
  • quick links to past semesters,
  • improved search capabilities, and
  • modal popups that return users to the main portal when closed.

Question:  There is no default semester during this time of the year so how do you know what you need ‘now’?   For example, you may need to see the current semester and the next during registration.

Answer:  We could put a scroll to move from semester to semester with an arrow button. 

Question:  Could we build a calendar showing class schedule integrated with exam schedule for faculty?

Answer:  The students will have a similar calendar so the functionality could be used in the faculty view.  

Question:  Can we enable the portal on a mobile app?

Answer:   It will be much more mobile friendly and responsive.

5:20- 5:30 – Novel Student Portal Model – University of Washington, John Board (5 minute presentation, 5 minute discussion)

What it is: Colleagues at the University of Washington have recently developed a new interface for their students that presents, in a mobile-friendly way, the likely most useful information to students based on what year of their program they are in, and what week of the term it currently is.  Their views are driven by a combination of deep analytics, user surveys, and gut instincts about what is important to students at different career stages.

Why it’s relevant: As Duke deigns a new interface to its own student information system, it is useful to consider how we might unify access to many student services in a single location.  The University of Washington model gives us one intriguing approach to consider.

Designing A Better Portal:  At the University of Washington, users of their 10 year old student information system were suffering from information overload.  They found it hard to find information and navigate the system.  A study showed that students primarily access a small subset of content on a frequent basis (email, registration, Husky Card account, class schedule).  They also found that information needs are dynamic but predictable based on time within a semester.  This information led them to design a new interface that would better meet user needs, replace old portal technology and be responsive with a mobile first design.  They accomplished this through user research, user-centered design and agile development.  User research consisted of diary studies, focus groups, interviews, log data analysis, surveys and usability studies.

The research showed that a new design needed to provide students with information that is personal (grades, courses, financial balances), critical, curated, relevant and timely (early weeks – directions to classes, near registration – time schedule and advising info, end of quarter – finals schedule and final grades).  They mapped out a typical student profile for each week and developed a card model that provides actionable and personalized content on cards by time within semester.  The cards can be re-ordered based on what is most relevant at the time.  Everything is still available, but the most important information is shown at the top.

Comments:  We’d have to find out what is important to our users and what is important to Duke.  Analytics would be a big part of that.  Log analysis can give us insight into how faculty are using SISS and Sakai.  The new process will allow google analytics to track what people are doing.