I.   Announcements

Many of us were notified by the Security Office that we are being targeted by “cozybear”, a Russian group.  They’ve been specifically attacking Duke faculty and grad students with carefully targeted emails.

There’s a workshop on drones happening November 29.  Register at drones.duke.edu

II.   Agenda Items

4:05- 4:25 – Research Computing Update Mark DeLong (10 minute presentation, 10 minute discussion)

What it is:   Duke Research Computing offers a broad array of computing and data-related services to researchers across Duke and often in collaboration with researchers at other institutions.  These services range from access to high-performance and high-throughput computing installations and building skills for and learning about research computing resources.  Mark will provide an overview of the GPU Computing Workshop, initiatives and plans related to GPU computing, the Duke Research Computing Symposium, and the Visualizing Scholars@Duke data visualization challenge.

Why it’s relevant: GPU Computing has emerged as an important form of computing for a range of scientific and scholarly projects.  It is still a specialized form of computing, though it is becoming more mainstream.

You might recall a MythBusters video that demonstrates the difference between how CPUs and GPUs approach problems.  GPUs use a massively parallel approach, with lots of things happening all at once instead of in serial.

GPUs are great for small, well-bounded tasks that don’t need a lot of memory.

With great power comes great complexity.  GPU computing isn’t just a matter of recompiling a program; you must think carefully about the problem and use new tools.  It’s analogous to moving from a very simple TV remote to an extremely complicated one.  Our GPU workshop helps us become accustomed to the new approach.

Nvidia brought in instructors and helped with registration.  We provided GPUs via the four machines we have with GPUs in them; we brought them into an isolated environment; we put those at the disposal of the students.  This was possible because of Charley and his team. 

The workshop was lamentably successful.  It sold out too quickly.  I expected a protracted registration because we required proficiency with C and Linux and comfort with a terminal environment.  However, registration was completely full by the end of the day it was announced.

There seems to be a pent-up market here for this sort of program.

Graduate students, staff, and faculty attended.  Most were from Engineering; other areas were represented as well.

We’re hoping for a repeat in Spring 2017.  This may be a two-track affair; not everyone needs to learn CUDA code; some benefit more from application familiarity.

Larry Carin has told me I need more GPUs.  His lab is using these heavily.  The GPUs are rarely sitting idle.  We’re on a track to add more, but we’re thinking creatively about it.

Our current machines are K80s: high-end, designed for computation rather than graphics, and appropriate for science.  They’re also very expensive.

There’s a GPU grant program from Nvidia with a high chance of obtaining hardware from Nvidia.  Requirements are simple; researchers (faculty) are targeted.  Nvidia only provides the card; you must provide the system (which must have proper cooling).

We can’t predict which GPUs will come in from this grant program, and different GPUs in the same machine can be problematic.  Virtualization can help.  This would be a shared resource, so if someone isn’t using their GPU others around campus can use it.

When?  We have a quote and want to begin to take action next week.

We’ll target a range of GPUs (graphic and scientific).  This is a place where units donated through the GPU grant program could find a home.

There’s a data visualization challenge: using Scholars@Duke data, what can people do with it?  Deadline for intent to submit is January 15.

Duke Research Computing symposium: January 18-20.  We’ll start with data management presentations from Duke Libraries.  This will be at the Edge.  On the 19th, a leisurely poster and technology showcase.  The 20th will be a capstone event.

We also have plans to do a group buy for the Duke compute cluster.  More information will be forthcoming.

Questions and Discussion

Question: Were students most interested in exploring new technology, or did they have specific problems to solve?

Answer: We had some of both.  In addition, the variety of interests helped expose interest in both coding and application exploration.


4:25- 4:50 – Evolving the Duke Learning Technology Ecosystem Evan Levine, Shawn Miller, Michael Greene (15 minute presentation, 10 minute discussion)

What it is:  Duke provides technology solutions that help faculty teach and students learn.  Tools such as academic media services, learning management systems, and lecture capture all contribute to Duke’s academic excellence by helping instructors explore and evaluate innovative ways to use technology and new pedagogies to meet their goals.

Why it’s relevant: Duke’s learning technology ecosystem continues to grow and change – while Sakai continues to provide courses a home base, faculty now have more choices than ever. Evan Levine (OIT), Shawn Miller and Michael Greene (CIT) will provide a snapshot of the current Duke learning technology ecosystem, share information about current pilot projects and talk briefly about the future planning for our learning platforms.


In 2009 following work of an e-learning roadmap group, we decided to move from Blackboard to Sakai.

By 2012 we had a “bullseye” diagram of Duke’s tools that might touch on some aspect of teaching and learning.  We needed to decide which of these many tools we were going to support, and which we weren’t.

Cloud vs. Local was a paradigm we were thinking about a lot.  With Sakai and other projects, we learned that if you have the right partner, cloud is fine.

We’ve traditionally focused on applications that were “NetID-first”.


Sites@Duke (WordPress) filled an important gap.  This enables us to template and brand and make it easy to create a website that looks like Duke.  There are 8,700 active sites, with 12,500 created and about 4,000 deleted with very few issues.  Next up: an updated theme, and vanity domains.  Look for pilots in the spring.  (There’s some concern about manageability for vanity domains, but there’s a high level of demand from our users.)

Warpwire is like an internal YouTube.  This filled a major gap between Kaltura and YouTube.  Usage is up from Kaltura, and so is Duke YouTube use.  Faculty use of video is higher.  Cost has been cut, and peer institutions are evaluating this as well.

Panopto has been around a while, and usage is high.  7,464 hours viewed October 2016.  There aren’t many products to compete with this, although we do regular evaluations of others such as MediaSite.  Faculty satisfaction is high, and the featureset matches what Duke needs.

Voicethread is a media-based discussion tool, integrated with Sakai.  It has lower usage than Panopto, but Voicethread content units tend to be shorter (3-4 minutes).

Piazza is a discussion tool focused on Q&A.  It’s used in 114 courses.

Sakai: we conducted a survey over 3 days and collected 1000 responses; we’re very happy with it.  We asked the single question: “Overall, I am very satisfied with my experience with Sakai this semester.”

Coursera: more than 4.5 million total enrollments, 70+ Duke courses.

Current pilot projects

PlayPosit: an in-video quizzing and engagement tool with 20 active users.  You can have many questions in your video.  There are a variety of different ways to ask questions, and there are connections with the Sakai gradebook.

DukeExtend: a Duke online course and/or module platform.  It’s similar to what we’ve done with Coursera but specific to Duke, and more scalable than Sakai.  Open EdX platform (different from the EdX consortium).  We’ve run a few classes through this with great results.  If you’ve used Coursera, this gives much of what students expect of an online course experience.  We’ve heard from faculty that they’d like to reuse content on a non-semester basis.

This is also an opportunity for us to challenge our identity management systems, allowing lots of non-Duke users. A massive open astronomy course is part of this pilot.  We’re hosting materials (not in Coursera) and allowing access either to a course, to a set of students at Duke, to anyone at Duke, or open to others beyond Duke.  There’s lots of movement around changing how access works; OneLink promises to be very useful.

It seems that we’re moving into a more highly integrated ecosystem of even more apps in the future.  One of the things we’ve done at Duke is Toolkits, to create a wrapper around the integrations.  Should there be a Toolkits 2.0?

We had a Sakai governance group in the past, but now we’re forming a Learning Technology Ecosystem governance group and we’re forming a Sakai power users group.


Questions and Discussion

Question: What about the longevity of course management systems in higher education?  Maybe we’re just going to integrate the various applications.

Answer: We don’t today have enough standards and APIs to make it happen without a centralized system.  Maybe in a few years we will.  There will probably always be something central (such as a roster and a gradebook), but it may take a different form.

 Warpwire was an example of an application where we learned to think “mobile and global” as we discovered the need to consider customer bases away from Durham.


4:50- 5:15 – SISS DukeHub Check-in , John Campbell (15 minute presentation, 10 minute discussion)

What it is:  DukeHub is the new Student, Faculty, and Advisor portal and was developed with the following principles in mind:

  • Ensure the data is accurate and secure
  • Create a modern browsing experience
  • Show the information quickly and cleanly by reducing the clutter on each page

Why it’s relevant:  The newly designed DukeHub allows all members of the Duke Community to access the student information system from a single location.  For Students, Faculty, and Advisors, your access has been transformed to allow for a cleaner, more modern look and feel. Over time, DukeHub will be the central location for any user of the Duke Student Information Systems – Applicants, Students, faculty, Advisors, Staff, and Guests.

DukeHub went live August 6.  We believe it has gone well for students.

Our first registration cycle finished yesterday; we had no hub-related issues.  We’ve now been through a full cycle of registration and grading with no issues.

We continue focus groups about registration.

The best thing we did?  Adding a feedback button at the bottom.  We get instantaneous feedback: some easy to fix; some not.  Before, it might take a week or more to get information, but now there are some things we can fix within an hour.  Issues don’t seem to be piling up as they did in the past.

Who was to monitor the feedback?  We now have someone in the Registrar’s Office who monitors every day.  We try to answer quickly, but it isn’t real-time.

165 feedback entries since August, which comes to about 2% of our users.  Students asked early on about how to download the calendar before that feature was deployed.  Faculty had confusion about changing terms, and we made a change to reduce confusion.

There’s still some confusion over dual roles, but we plan to move staff into the hub in December.

Our biggest issue by far has been browsers.  In particular, MSIE has been problematic for us.  We have that stabilized.  In the middle of advising period, Apple released a new version of Safari which doesn’t behave the same as the prior one.  More issues have come from faculty advisors than from students.  Using an alternative browser helps.

In general everything has been successful, and we continue to take feedback.


Questions and Discussion

Question: What does the feedback button generate?

Answer: A table in a database, which we check each day.

The permission numbers are so much easier!

Question: I have three entries for each of my courses.

Answer: Today, the display looks for multiple meeting times and multiple locations with cross-listed classes.  We’re going to look at changing the way these are displayed.


Feature request for a user interface change.


5:15- 5:30 – Ivy+ Update,  (10 minute presentation, 5 minute discussion)

What it is:  Representatives from Ivy League schools meet on an annual basis to discuss and share information in various areas.  Topics range from overall university directions, budgets, projects, online learning tools and daily operations.

Why it’s relevant:  Sharing experiences and discussing challenges with our peers helps to provide a collaborative environment where ideas are formed and problems are solved.  Attendees will share experiences from the conferences held in 2016.

The Ivy schools plus Chicago, Duke, MIT, and Stanford, get together.

Charley attends the Infrastructure group.

We’re moving from frequent meetings to a once-a-year meeting supplemented by electronic communication.

Some schools are in a big cloud-first space, with a goal of moving almost entirely to the cloud due to facility constraints on their data centers.  Some campus are going Amazon-specific; others are container-based.

One school is making a big investment in critical infrastructure.

Some schools are still consolidating their email systems into Office 365, and we’re an early adopter and in a good place there.

One of the schools is very happy with SAP HANA.

Lots of schools have Salesforce on campus; one tried to use it for undergrad admissions but that didn’t work out so well.

At least one school is replacing Oracle Identity Management with something else, as we have.

One school is rebooting its ServiceNow implementation.

Some schools are dabbling in Master Data Management, which comprises processes, governance, policy standards and tools that define and manage a single point of reference.

One school reported it is happy with its Workday implementation, but another school had a bad experience with theirs.

One school is adopting a cloud-first project.  They’ve put together a framework group to identify standards & tools for going to the cloud.

Several schools are investigating using Mulesoft (Integration Platform as a Service) for API management.

Learning & Academic Spaces

At one school lots of people are moving toward consumer technologies like Apple TVs in various rooms.  They’re having good luck with it.  Crestons are useful but people aren’t as comfortable with them as they are with the systems they use at home.  For us at Duke, reliability has been pretty good, occasionally quirky.

A challenge that is not unique to us is the variety of web conferencing tools (WebEx, Skype for Business, Skype, Google Hangouts, and so many other tools).  Bridging those is tough.  BlueJeans was discussed, but it was agreed it is very expensive.  At Duke we will be piloting a Cisco technology as a possible approach.

Video streaming – what we’re doing with WarpWire is for the 95% use case really impressive.  Others use a cloud Content Distribution Network (CDN) offering.

On-campus printing: lots are moving to Pharos, which is what we use.  Some were moving to PaperCut.

Lots of schools are in a transition to Canvas.

Oxford announced their very first MOOC.

At Stanford we toured their virtual reality spaces, using consumer equipment. 

We’re thinking about sending 3D cameras to fragile locations around the world to document their current state.

Ally, bought by Blackboard, analyzes things uploaded to learning management systems to assess accessibility.

Diversity & inclusion: we talk about whether discussion forums should be anonymous, what should be private or public, and so on.  NameCoach lets students privately pronounce their names for their instructors to avoid faux pas.

Captioning is a challenge when faculty are reusing YouTube videos.