Monthly Archives: April 2007

Syndicating and Subscribing to Course Content (RSS)

 (from the April 2007 Emerging Technologies and Pie Presentation)

Audio Episode: RSS

RSS (“Really Simple Syndication”, among others) is a process that allows people who want to keep track of new content on a site to “subscribe” to the site and receive updates automatically when new information is posted. RSS also allows content providers to “syndicate” their content, pushing updates out to subscribers simply by posting new information.

Although current tools automate the process, the system behind this is the posting and updating of a text file, called a “feed”, that follows a standardized form (the RSS Specification) for describing updates or episodes. When someone wants to “subscribe” to a site, they simply copy the link to this file and insert it in the software that they use for reading feeds. Because the RSS specification is not proprietary, there are many varieties of tools that can read, display and organize content from RSS feeds.

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Blogs for Courses

This February, OIT introduced a Blogging service to the campus in a low-key beta release (meaning that we didn’t advertise it and we tell all users that policies and features may change by the time it is officially released.) In the first month we had over 500 blogs created. Most seem to be “hello world” posts with very little content. Most of the active blogs are by students and record social activities and political musings. There are a few that show how blogs can be used in support of academic pursuits:

  • A course blog with a very simple purpose: each post asks if there are any questions about an exam, students post their questions as comments.
  • A blog for majors in a department to get announcements and updates and post comments on various topics.
  • A faculty blog containing the musings of a faculty member on topics related to his specialty.
  • A blog by a graduate student commenting on articles and books she has read as part of her thesis development.
  • A research blog posting updates on research activities.
  • A poetry blog with regular posts of a student’s writings.

Our primary purpose for introducing the blogs is to provide faculty an easier way to post public course sites and for students to create public sites for posting course work. (SPARK makes these possible, but in the confines of a registered class.) In June, we are replacing our three-day Dreamweaver class with an hour and a half on how to do the same thing with a blog.

Stay tuned to see what happens next.

Purpose of this Blog

This blog is about teaching. Specifically teaching while using some sort of “technology”. For some people, this can mean just about anything that was invented since they left college. For others, it means the latest widget or thingamabob that has been on the cover of Time Magazine. We plan to cover all of these, but most of all, we plan to cover what works, not just what is cool and new and exciting.

Topics on this blog will include:

- Simple things you can do with technology that will save you time (or your sanity).

- Specific teaching goals and which technologies will actually help reach those goals.

- Neat things we’ve seen faculty do with technology in their classes.

- Plain-English explainations of the latest widgets and what they are most useful for.

We’re not yet sure of the posting schedule for this blog. If it looks stale, consider subscribing to the RSS feed so you will recieve updates as soon as we post again.