Recently, part of the Web Communications team was able to visit the New Media Consortium conference in South Carolina, just in time to enjoy a tropical storm! The NMC is a group of educators, technologists, and visionaries all centered around improving and innovating education through technology. Erin, Drew and I were also invited to give an overview of OU’s experience using iTunes U and the success we’ve found with that. For now though, we wanted to share some of what we learned and some cool things we were introduced to!

  1. 2D isn’t enough anymore, with 3d TVs, 3D printers, and 3D everything. Now, you can use a simple smartphone to create 3D objects without additional equipment using 123D Catch by AutoDesk, Inc.
  2. Analytics continue to grow deeper and deeper, and we’re slowly finding how to use the data we’ve collected. Some faculty at the University of Delaware have developed software called Macaw that tracks not only mouse clicks, but movement, hovering, and everything to better understand how we can improve experiential learning in an online/digital environment.
  3. My wife can already read my mind, but soon a computer will be able to 3D print out monsters… as IMAGINED BY A CHILD. Monster Dreamer is intended to unlock creativity for everyone, including the little ones.
  4. Distance is a very real barrier to learning for many students, so Network Labs is working on creating experiential learning opportunities for students needing access to laboratory setups in a digital environment, accessible from anywhere with the internet.
  5. A primary method of feedback for our students is ‘liking’ something; a simple one-click approval or acknowledgement. How can we encourage a higher level of engagement with students online through social media/online courses/MOOCs with a population so accustomed to this? (No answer available from me!)
  6. California’s Senate passed SB520, a bill to create popular, introductory courses (50 of them(!)) for an open online environment that, when students pass them, would earn them credit at any of the 4-year institutions in the three systems of schools in California. How long until Oklahoma does something similar? There’s no telling, but let’s make sure OU is already prepared for it!
  7. The Research and Practice in Assessment (RPA) Journal is one of the first academic journals to begin addressing the efficacy of MOOCs. The current assessments are preliminary, but will certainly lead to some really interesting critiques of open courses.
  8. eTextbooks are a hot issue today, and many institutions are looking into the implementation of these. As ‘connected’ and ‘digital’ as our students are, some are resistant to digital texts. However, some studies have found that after using eTexts for the second time, students preferred them. Does this mean that the experience of a digital text should be sustained in order to win favor? We all freaked out when Facebook got the news feed… now can we imagine life without it?
  9. Giving feedback to documents when on the go can be a challenge – a challenge the makers of Moxtra set out to solve. Leave voice, text and annotated notes on documents from your mobile devices with this. FINALLY.
  10. Appception: build apps for an iOS platform… with an app! Briefs is a desktop iOS development app that is visually driven. Make an app for your department, work team, or family, then share it easily.
  11. If you ever have several iPhones, iPads, or TVs laying around and you think to yourself, “I wish I could run a movie on all of these at the same time,” or, “If only I could show a clip on this one, corresponding text on this one, and a picture of myself on this one,” look no further! MultiVid lets you synchronize the displays of several screens from an iPhone!
  12. Educators all over are trying to find ways to use iPads more effectively in the classroom. Nearpod let’s you push information to other iPads to guide lessons and presentations.

All in all, a great trip. We’ll be finding ways to use some of these great tools on campus!

 

castleThis year I celebrate a big anniversary of something that had a profound impact on my career. I guess spending 8 months working for a mouse will do that…

Walt Disney World recruits college students from around the globe to move to Florida, participate in a magical internship, and learn some major life lessons. What they don’t tell you is that sometimes it’s not at all what you expect. Though, that’s when you grow the most (or as my dad likes to say, it’s character building).

Adventures are like that, aren’t they? You have some really high highs and some really low lows, but the true test of a successful adventure is how it impacts you.

Read more

 

Picture of the Final Cut Pro X interface

Very few companies have introduced more truly revolutionary products than Apple.  The Mac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad have all completely changed their respective markets and even created brand new markets.  But one product often overlooked when talking about Apple’s impressive track record is Final Cut Pro.  Final Cut Pro truly changed the way people were able to create films, putting the power of editing into the hands of the masses, while at the same time becoming an industry standard for feature films such as The Social Network, No Country for Old Men and 300.

When Apple announced the new Final Cut Pro X in June 2011, the reaction was mixed.  FCPX wasn’t just an updated version of the software that changed the way people edit films, it was a completely new program built from the ground up.  If there’s one thing editors hate more than anything, it’s change.  While some of the criticism of FCPX’s missing features was warranted, most of the criticism was simply because it looked and behaved differently than previous versions.  Apple has done an outstanding job of updating FCPX, adding back many key features that were missing from its initial release.

As the iTunes U Media Specialist, I edit all of our iTunes U content using Final Cut Pro X. Not only does it offer amazing benefits over previous version of Final Cut, but also over other competing editing programs, such as Adobe Premiere and Avid Media Composer.

Here, I’ve highlighted 5 benefits FCPX offers that make it a great choice for anyone looking to create their own video content.

 

1) Price

With previous versions of Final Cut Pro, Apple didn’t sell it as a stand-alone program.  Rather, they bundled it together with other pieces of software and labeled the suite “Final Cut Studio.”  It was priced at around $1,000.  With Final Cut Pro X, Apple has broken up that suite of programs and even eliminated a few whose core functionality was integrated into FCPX.  You can now buy FCPX as a stand-alone program for just $300 from the Mac App Store.  This price is a steal, especially when compared to the competition.  Adobe Premiere and Avid Media Composer are probably the main competitors for FCPX.  Like the old Final Cut Studio, Adobe doesn’t sell Premiere as a stand-alone program.  The cheapest bundle that includes Premiere is the Production Premium bundle, which is priced at $1,899.  Avid Media Composer is a little less expensive at $999, but still nowhere near how inexpensive FCPX is.

2) Organization of footage 

One big change from Final Cut Studio to Final Cut Pro X is the way raw footage is organized.  FCPX gives users the ability to group footage into “Events,” as well as create subcategories using “Keyword Collections” and “Smart Collections.”  This makes finding particular video clips incredibly fast and easy.

3) Usability

One of the big knocks on many of the non-linear editing programs out there, including the old Final Cut, was the steep learning curve.  If you’re someone who maybe has been using a basic editing program like iMovie, but want to take the next step up, making the move to Final Cut Pro X is going to be a much easier transition than from any other program.  FCPX and iMovie are built on the same core, therefore many tasks function the same.  Some people have noted this as a negative of FCPX, saying that Apple has “dumbed down” Final Cut in this version, but I think anytime you can make something more user-friendly without sacrificing power, that’s a good thing.

4) Speaking of power…

Continuing from the previous point, FCPX has some serious muscle.  Anyone who’s ever edited with the old Final Cut knows the pure evil that is “rendering.”  Any time you added an effect or made any kind of edit, you were forced to render your changes before you could play it back.  Depending on the length of the clip this could take a long time, thus making editing a prolonged process.  With FCPX, all rendering is done in the background where you barely notice it.  You can play back your footage and continue editing while FCPX does the work.

5) Integration with the web

The vast majority of videos today are shared via the Internet, rather than on physical media such as DVD’s.  FCPX has built-in presets and shortcuts for uploading to online sites such YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook.  Being able to share your work to the world in a matter of clicks is extremely handy.

 

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be going over the basics of how to actually get started with using Final Cut Pro X, so be sure to check back!  In the mean time, if you have any questions about FCPX, feel free to shoot me an email and I’d be happy to help!

Working with departments on web content and CMS training, I am constantly preaching the importance of web accessibility. I know how to make content more accessible and why, but explaining the importance to our web authors can be difficult, until the day I met Brian. During a workshop for our Web Accessibility Higher Education project, the campus Disability Resource Center brought in a student to give us some perspective. Brian is blind and in his third year of law school at OU. He is easy-going, patient and despite explaining how difficult it can be to get your education, has persevered. He discussed how difficult it is the get digital textbooks that aren’t just scanned images of the text book pages, among the other simple tasks I am sure many students take for granted. While I can’t fix some of the academic struggles students like Brian have (although our Disability Resource Center does a wonderful job), I can make an impact when it comes to the web.

Our last workshop covered the topic of web accessibility. We hosted a guest speaker, Gates Moskovsky, who does accessibility consulting work. He is also blind and was able to demo his screen reader and help us see what the experience is really like to users with disabilities. A great tip we heard was if you want to demo a screen reader on your website, do it with the screen turned off so you can really understand how it works.

For more basic accessibility tips and tricks, here’s 10 Accessibility How To’s. You can also download the presentation so you can reference all the great links and resources. Web Accessibility Tips and Tricks Powerpoint (includes notes) or Web Accessibility Tips and Tricks PDF.

1. Alt Text: Alt text is not only the description of an image that a screen reader will read out when a blind user comes to that image on your site, but it is also the place you can put in keywords that describe your image and will improve your search engine optimization. People with a slow internet connection, who are browsing with disabled or are using a text only browser would also only see this alt text. Alt text should also be incorporated into Word documents and PDFs that you put online. The links below are some great alt text resources.

2. Proper Headings: Every page in your website should have one H1 which should be the main title of the page. Then you should begin to organize your content with H2 and then subheadings within each H2 section could be your H3s.Headings should also be used in Word and PDF docs. Think of it like building a resume.

Proper Headings example:

<h1>Application Process

<h2>Undergraduate Admission

<h3>Admission Requirements

<h3> Application Process

<h2>Graduate Admission</h2>

<h3>OU Graduate College Requirements

<h3>College of Blank Requirements

3. Steps to Make PDFs Accessible: During a conference in October, an accessibility expert from the University of Washington shared some great workflows on how to make accessible PDFs from scratch, exporting from Word to tagged PDF and repairing and creating inaccessible PDFs and PDF forms using Acrobat Pro. Find them here: http://uw.edu/accessibility/pdf.html

4. Use Text NOT Pictures of Text: Pictures that contain text are not readable on a screen reader, on a text only browser or on a browser with images disabled. Pictures become blurry when enlarged and take longer to download, especially on a slow internet connection. Text in an image is not searchable either. If you post an image of a posted from a symposium, all the great info on the poster will not be indexed or searchable online.

5. Choose Your Words Carefully: Word length and sentence complexity have an effect on the ability of certain individuals to decode the words on a page. If I have a learning disability, long winded content may give me difficulties. Proper spacing between paragraphs is also helpful to users who may have trouble following a lot of text on a page.Resources: Juicy Studio Readability Test -http://juicystudio.com/services/readability.php or Struggling with Understandability -http://terrillthompson.com/blog/10.

6. Use Proper Headings in Tables: People need to be able to follow along and clearly understand the information you have built in a table. If you have a contact information table, make sure Name, Phone, Email and other columns of information have proper headings.

7. Become a Closed Captioning Master: All videos posted online, whether it’s through iTunes U, YouTube or some other service, is required to be captioned. But who benefits from a transcript? People who are deaf-blind (easier to read than captions with a Braille device). People with low Internet bandwidth. People who want the information but don’t have time to watch the video. Don’t forget to describe content that is otherwise only accessible to people who can see it. Examples: Words on the screen, critical actions or other critical details about the setting, etc. See the Webcomm website for more captioning resources and how-to’s: http://www.ou.edu/content/home/webcomm/video/captioning.html. You can also check more entries in our blog: https://blogs.ou.edu/webcomm/?s=captioning

8. Color Contrast Checker: People who are color blind are also an audience we have to consider when creating accessible web content. Learn about color contrast, minimum guidelines and how you can analyze color contrast: http://www.paciellogroup.com/resources/contrast-analyser.html

9. Get Involved:

  • Follow #a11y on Twitter
  • Contact the Disability Resource Center and get involved with the Web Accessibility Higher Education project
  • The EDUCAUSE IT Accessibility Constituent Group is working to get accessibility on the radar of EDUCAUSE, CIO’s, and other IT Leaders. Learn more at http://educause.edu/groups/itaccess

10. Screen Readers: If you’d like to demo a screen reader, all of the computer labs on campus have the software on most of the computer. You can also download a demo:

 

I remember when I was interviewing to join the Web Comm team to work on iTunes U, one question they asked me, as many employers do, was “Why do you want this job?” I responded, “You want to pay me to tell people how awesome The University of Oklahoma is. I already do this for free. Plus, it will better our students’ learning experience? What better job could there be?” (Answer: there isn’t one.)

It sounds so simple, but once that responsibility actually gets written out in a job description, becomes tied to a salary, and has some real-life expectations tied to it, it becomes a bit different.

When we are responsible for the representation of the University at an ‘official’ level, we need to be intentional, responsible, and conscious of what message it is we’re trying to express. When we hold the image of the University in our hands, that responsibility takes on a new meaning. We want to tell the WHOLE story of the University, because the whole of the University is great. Our students do amazing things; our faculty provide incredible benefits to our community through their research and through their teaching; our staff devote themselves to the development of students and to the operation of the enterprise – we need to let people know about these things!

With this responsibility in mind, here are some questions I think are useful to ask when we wish to tell our story:

What story are we telling?
This one is pretty easy: we all have amazing things going on; let’s tell the world! Did you know that we have students performing world-leading (literally) research right here on campus?! Did you know that we have faculty members who have worked for the UN?! Did you know that we have faculty and staff members who are presidentially-appointed to federal committees!? This stuff is ridiculous! If WE don’t even know this as a university community, why should we expect people beyond Norman to know? This is where we come in as marketing professionals at a university. Our students, faculty and staff deserve this recognition, and the University deserves to receive the accolades that come with such high-profile people and activities. Something is going on in your department that the world needs to know; tell the story!

 

Whose story are we telling?
Obviously, the university is made of numerous departments, colleges, etc., but each of these individual units are a part of the Sooner family. Our individual stories are but pieces of the whole, and they all tie back to the university. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts – but the whole isn’t complete without any of those parts. As pieces of the university we should always tell our stories, but always within the framework of the university. As much as we deserve glory for the wonderful work that goes on in our units, this is all done as a part of the University of Oklahoma, an institution we’re lucky to be associated with!

And finally:

Why are we telling the story?
The main reason I think we tell the story of the university is because it benefits our students, and they’re the entire reason we exist. Without our students, there would be no University of Oklahoma, and we wouldn’t be here! We tell the story because we build the reputation of the University, which opens up opportunities for our students. We tell the story because we gain more support from the community, which again opens up opportunities for our students. Our students need to know the blessing they have to be called Sooners, to understand the history of what it is to be a University of Oklahoma student, and why they should care. It’s our job to help them recognize this.

We tell the story because it’s a story worth telling. The University of Oklahoma is an amazing place, with awesome people, awesome projects, and awesome stories to tell. Let’s make sure the world knows it just as well as we do!

The transformation of Netflix has been interesting to watch. They started streaming TV episodes and movies over the Internet in 2007 but have since become one of the largest distributers of online TV and movies. They have muscled their way into the domain of cable TV and satellite TV by offering a product that is tailored to individual viewers.

Due to a focus on getting the most out of their data, Netflix is a leader in suggesting content that is of interest to subscribers. They regularly outperform their competition in areas of product experience, depth of titles, and cost point. They are almost single-handedly changing the way society expects to interact with streaming media and television.

Recently, I watched an interview with Netflix’s Chief Content Officer, Ted Sarandos, on WSJ Live. He was promoting the new release of House of Cards and the upcoming new episodes of Arrested Development.

Regarding House of Cards being the most watched show on Netflix he said, “Engagement really matters to Netflix. So the more people watch the longer they stay. The more they tell their friends… There’s a real direct correlation between engagement and retention.”

The “direct correlation between engagement and retention” part caught my attention. Engagement and its benefits are topics regularly discussed and promoted in higher education. But the difference is that Ted was talking about engagement with a digital application, whereas in higher education we usually think about engagement being in the person-to-person realm.

What if we could measure digital engagement at the university level? The good news is we can. At most universities, a great deal of interactive data is already being recorded; we just rarely analyze the data, especially in an effort to improve student experience or academic success.

In the case of Netflix, customers only interact with a single “video provisioning” system, whereas in higher education we have several systems with which students interact (such as course material delivery systems, registration systems, resident life systems, and portals). Given that we have more data than other types of organizations, we can potentially reach a broad, multifaceted understanding of how engaged a student is with his or her learning process or how engaged he or she is at the university.

The reality is that figuring out what to do with the recorded data is challenging; the data must be gathered, transformed and analyzed. There is intrinsic value in knowing what systems or subsystems appeal to different types of students. But, we likely won’t know how to ultimately use the data until we have had a good chance to study our initial data gathering attempts and come up with questions for what we would like to know next.

At OU Web Communications our initial analysis has involved experimenting with Roambi. We are working on understanding how our iTunes U courses are being used and Roambi gives us a nice interactive graphing system that can be used with either an iPhone or iPad. As we get it figured out we are looking forward to providing the data to course instructors and other university departments.

Our efforts tie into the University of Oklahoma’s Digital Initiative, which encourages us to find innovative ways to individualize and improve the educational outcomes of our students. This means that we expect to eventually see the information we gather used to tailor each system involved to the preferences and interests of each individual student. If we can manage that then maybe Netflix will be able to learn a few things from us.

References:

Ted Sarandos Interview:
http://live.wsj.com/video/netflix-house-of-cards-is-its-most-watched-show/6E2DEFD9-D54E-40C7-9654-1F463BDDBBA5.html#!6E2DEFD9-D54E-40C7-9654-1F463BDDBBA5

Charlie Ergen Interview (Dish TV):
http://live.wsj.com/video/dish-bought-blockbuster-to-open-wireless-stores/E3A1FA21-B37B-47FE-980C-DA7E9B6B8588.html#!E3A1FA21-B37B-47FE-980C-DA7E9B6B8588

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netflix

Want to improve on your website but don’t know where to start? Many website owners think that the only way to achieve a better website is a complete overhaul – a brand new design. In some cases that may be true, but there are also hundreds of improvements you can make on your own to bring your website from bland to beautiful.

Here are 5 steps you can take that will get you well on your way to a better website:

1. Figure out why you have a website

This may seem obvious but it’s often overlooked. Ask yourself these two questions: What are the goals of my website? What do I want the people who visit my site to do? Once you’ve got the answers, make sure your site addresses them.

2. Consolidate your navigation

Do you have twelve items under one category on your navigation? If so, you might want to look at tidying up. A cleaner navigation makes things easier to find and when things are easier to find, it creates a better experience for your site’s visitors.

One easy way to accomplish this is to take a look at the items in your navigation. Are any of them similar? Could they all fit under a general heading? If so, create a page with that general heading. Then combine the content from those similar pages into your new, general page.

3. Give each page a purpose

Every page on your website should be intended to make your visitor act on something. Maybe it’s to get them to watch a video, fill out a form, or direct them to an enrollment page. Whatever it is, make it obvious to the user.

4. Remove the clutter


Do you have the Harlem Shake playing on your homepage? Or maybe you have images for the sake of having images that don’t relate to the page’s content? Remove it all. Why? Nobody likes clutter and it distracts your visitor from the page’s intended goal.

5. It’s weird to be weird

We all have our favorite websites and every day new and mind-blowing techniques pop up on the web. But remember, your website is part of a bigger picture. It should, at least in part, fall in line with the branding guidelines set forth by the OU Homepage. As current and/or prospective students browse from department to department and from college to college, we want them to know that we’re one big, happy family.

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, sometimes all the tweaking in the world won’t get you to a place where you’re comfortable with your website. Luckily, if that is the case, the University has provided a (free!) resource that you can take advantage of. Contact your friendly CMS Migrations manager and get set-up with a meeting to discuss a new design and what that entails.

A man of many talents, Brandt is the member of our team in charge of iTunes U. He received both his B.A. and Masters from OU, and after a two-year hiatus, he is very glad to be back on campus!

Brandt manages the iTunes U team and continually seeks out new and interesting ways to represent the University through well-produced videos. He is very excited to showcase the many aspects of campus that make OU outstanding as an innovative research institution.

A master woodworker and lawn-scaper, Brandt is a jack of all trades! We’re very excited to have him on our team!

More about Brandt…

Drew comes from Texas, but he definitely bleeds crimson and cream! Our resident Apple pro, Drew has all the lowdown on new products, and tons of tricks involving Apple software!

Drew is part of the iTunes U team, which is a new(ish) project for WebComm. He brings superb video editing and production skills to the table and has helped put together great videos like this and this. He does a great job of quickly editing videos and works with Brandt Smith to make sure that our iTunes U content is relevant and professional.

When he’s not working, Drew and his wife, Kate, do wedding videography throughout Texas and Oklahoma. He also has a vast knowledge of Saved By The Bell trivia, so you should challenge him if you run into him around campus.

More about Drew…

We’ve all been there. After staring at the umpteenth Instagram post about how delicious the $45-dollar, artisan grilled cheese is at whatever hip restaurant is using the Apple Chancery font on their menus this week, you begin to wonder what social media is really all about. And then two inmates on work detail make a mad dash for it in your college town and change the game. No worries. Everything came up Milhouse! But, imagine trying to communicate this information to tens of thousands of people in your community and their parents. In situations like this, influence matters most.

The University of Oklahoma uses several channels to communicate emergencies to the community and general public, but none more important than good ole Facebook and Twitter. Text messages and voicemails are very effective during the first wave of communication, but social networks allow us to track overall message effectiveness in real time through feedback, likes, shares and re-tweets. During the aforementioned incident, we gained 62% more Facebook followers and 88% more Twitter followers than on average. We had 459 shares, 1,714 likes, and 201 comments just on Facebook statuses about this one incident.

Not impressed yet? As of today, OU Facebook fans have 47,865,426 friends. That’s not a typo! Almost 48 MILLION people are Facebook friends with people who follow The University of Oklahoma. Are we going to reach them all? Absolutely not. But that potential reach is powerful. And every single time someone shares the message, our sphere of influence grows. Okay, so maybe we’re no “Sneezing Panda”, but the impact of our communications is very real. And all the likes, comments, shares and @tweets help shape how we communicate with people now and in the future.

So, if you haven’t already, please follow The University of Oklahoma on Facebook and Twitter and sign up here (OU students, faculty, staff) to receive emergency notifications!

Next Page →