Jan 2017 Comm masthead

January-February 2017 Communicator  

Vol. 25, No. 1 [pdf version]

Apigian photo Jan 2017 Comm

Professor Charles Apigian, chairman of MTSU’s Computer Information Systems department, has been using Lynda.com for his Web development course since summer of 2014. He said it is a tremendous resource for MTSU students to learn a “vast array of topics and technologies.”

MTSU educators offer advice for learning with Lynda

After a semester of open access to Lynda.com last fall, professors across the MTSU campus are beginning to incorporate the video training website into their curriculum.

Several educators who have used it even before the MTSU site license was acquired in August offer their advice on how to learn with Lynda.

Professor Charles Apigian, chairman of the CIS department, has been using Lynda.com for his Web development course (INFS 2400) since he started teaching it in the summer of 2014. 

 “I create my own videos for the class, but I also use several courses to fill in the gaps of knowledge. For example, I assign courses and videos that explain the basics of HTML and CSS and then in class and in my videos, I get into the how-to portion of developing a website,” he explained. “I then also assign an entire course as a homework assignment, which allows my students to develop an entire website with step by step instructions--Creating a First Website in Dreamweaver CC 2015.”

He said one of the courses, “Creating a First Website in Dreamweaver CC 2015,” is an actual homework assignment for the course.

“There are good management tools within Lynda.com that allow me to assign playlists and also track their usage, per course and per video,” he said.

Apigian said Lynda.com is a tremendous resource for MTSU students who might not be able to afford a personal account.

“This enables one of the keys aspects to a good education—The ability to ‘learn on your own.’  Too often classes only ask students to repeat what they have been taught in the classroom. With tools like Lynda.com, students can learn a vast array of topics and technologies,” he said.

 A Lynda.com 'playlist'

CIS Department Chairman Charles Apigian said the following playlist is incorporated into his curriculum. (The first two are considered essential for his class:)

Dreamweaver CC Essential Training
Creating a First Website in Dreamweaver CC 2015
Web Design Fundamentals
Bootstrap 3 Essential Training
HTML Essential Training
Dreamweaver: 2015 Creative Cloud Updates
Responsive Design with Bootstrap and Dreamweaver CC 2015

Lynda.com Access for MTSU Faculty/Staff

Log in at myapps.microsoft.com. Under Work/School Microsoft Account credentials, enter your FSA username@mtsu.edu. (If you sign in to your work computer with the FSA username jjones, then you would enter jjones@mtsu.edu.) Type in your FSA password.

Find more resources at mtsu.edu/itd/lynda.php.

From the time campus-wide access began in August, through the end of January, 2,510 active users viewed 3,877 hours of video tutorials, according to a usage report.

A total of 56,356 videos were viewed, the report states. The top three courses were “Excel 2013: Pivot Tables in Depth,” “Excel 2016 Essential Training,” and “Pro Tools 12 Essential Training.”


And it goes beyond subject matter learning into such post-college skills as “resume writing, how to interview, and other soft skills.”

According to usage reports, tutorials related to the recording industry are among the most popular at MTSU right now.

Donham mug Jan 2017 CommRecording Industry Department Professor Tammy Donham is one of the reasons why. Donham worked for 16 years for the Country Music Association, overseeing their marketing and digital efforts. She discovered Lynda.com during that time and when she joined MTSU faculty in 2013, began incorporating it into her teaching very quickly.

“I am a life-long learner, so I find the courses extremely valuable. If I need to get up to speed quickly on a new technology or platform, I turn to Lynda for quality course options. You can generally find random videos that cover similar topics on YouTube, but with Lynda I know the instructor is going to be qualified, and the course will be well produced,” she said.

For students in her Digital Strategies class, Lynda is a “core support element.” Donham refers students who need additional support on a particular topic to Lynda so they can quickly acquire the skills they need to catch up to the rest of the class, or for additional support on a particular topic.

“Before we had campus-wide access I tried requiring them to subscribe to the service but just like with textbooks some students just simply couldn’t afford to keep up the $25 per month subscription. I’m so thankful all students now have access to this amazing resource,” she said.

She uses Lynda in her Marketing class as well, but only when covering social media.

“Lynda has great classes on best practices on every major platform—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and more. Being able to link to the courses allows the student the opportunity to learn the basics in an environment that is comfortable, then I can spend our in-class time working with them on applying what they’ve learned.

She doesn’t incorporate tutorials directly into her grading system, but a student’s completion of an assignment is dependent upon learning from the course they viewed.

“If they choose not to complete the Lynda course and jump directly into the assignment, I almost always can tell because there are elements missing or not handled correctly; their grade on the overall project suffers as a result,” Donham said. “I include test questions from the courses, but I also have them place a PDF of their Certificate of Completion in the appropriate dropbox on D2L.”

Trevor de Clercq, an assistant professor in MTSU’s Department of Recording Industry, also has been using Lynda.com since 2014 in his RIM 4200 class. He said it was a great resource even before it was offered free to students.

“It allows the instruction of the ‘nuts and bolts’ of how to use the software to be moved out of the classroom, so that class time can be spent applying this knowledge to real-world projects,” de Clercq said. “It allows the students to get more hands-on time in the classroom, which encourages deeper learning I think.”

Since that class is centered around learning Pro Tools and audio signal processing, there are many relevant resources on Lynda.com.

“I use Lynda in a ‘flipped classroom’ manner, where the students watch videos for homework and answer questions about the content of those videos as a written portion for the daily homework. In class, we can quickly go over the assigned questions at the beginning of class, which then frees up most of the class time for lab work, without getting bogged down in teaching the software during class time,” he said.

He doesn’t officially track student viewership, but includes test questions about the videos, which count as a daily participation grade.

“I think my students are very appreciative of the resource," de Clercq said. 

ITD Staff Profile: Stacey Tadlock

Communication at MTSU has been big part of her life in several ways

Tadlock mug Jan 2017 CommStacey Tadlock graduated with a major in communications from MTSU in 2004.

Nearly 10 years later, she was back on campus, this time “majoring” in resolving communications problems for students and employees.

Tadlock, secretary in the Telecommunications Services Department, is the first point of contact for anyone who needs help with their phone or cable service. She also is in charge of account reconciliation for the department, which is an auxiliary operation charging and paying for its services.

“I am the first line of troubleshooting, to get people up and running gain. If I can’t help them I’ll send out a technician,” said Tadlock, who has been with ITD two years. Nearly 99 percent of the calls and emails to the department are routed to her. 

She said she enjoys working on a “large campus that still seems like a small hometown.”

“In this office we celebrate each other’s birthdays and we all know each other,” she said.

The challenges of the job are the ebb and flow of the workload, which hits peaks in August as the year begins and again this time of year, after the holiday break. Recently, she has been heavily involved in handling work orders for the Skype For Business migration, which is about halfway completed.

MTSU has been a huge part of her life in another way.

Not only did she earn her degree here, she met her husband, Lee, when they were both mass communications students. She later worked for Cummins Inc. in Nashville for several years before becoming a stay-at-home mom.

Their daughter, Brenna, is now 3, and they enjoy watching her play soccer and spending time on Tadlock’s parents’ quarter-century-old farm in Clarksville, where she grew up.

Her hobbies also include photography, which is attested to by the professional-quality photos of her family adorning her cubicle.

The family lives in Christiana and attends New Vision Baptist Church in Murfreesboro. 

Pontia joins ITD as Instructional Technology Specialist


Jan Pontia jointed ITD on Jan. 3, 2017, as an Instructional Technology Specialist in the Faculty Instructional Jan PontiaTechnology Center.

Originally from Ohio, Pontia has lived in Alabama and Destin, Florida, where she was able to enjoy a lifelong love of water.

“Any water activity interests me, including fun at the beach, fishing, boating, and swimming. I swam with the dolphins in Cozumel, ” Pontia said. “Traveling has been an exciting part of my life and I’ve traveled to shorelines from Nova Scotia to Key West; from Key West over to Texas, from Ensenada to Alaska and of course Hawaii! Riding in/on any vessel that floats always brings me smiles. ”

But living in this area now has a special benefit.

“All three of my daughters have chosen the Nashville area as home. I’m thrilled to be closer as their families grow, ” she said.

Pontia earned a master’s degree in math and science education from Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia. She holds a bachelor’s degree in math education from West Liberty University, also in West Virginia.

“I started off my career as a math teacher. I’ve taught preschool through college level courses throughout my career," she said. "One year while I worked for a NASA Teacher Resource Center at Wheeling Jesuit University, one of my job responsibilities was to do workshops with preschool children to help teach them about the space shuttle missions; it was such a delight to work with them.

"While working for Wheeling Jesuit, I also taught in the Math, Computer Science and Education divisions. ”

She later moved into IT, first at Wheeling Jesuit, then at Birmingham-Southern College, then at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville, Florida.

“Through the years, I’ve dealt with Blackboard, Moodle and also (Desire2Learn) D2L when helping faculty. Helping instructors use technology to assist with teaching and learning has always been a passion of mine, ” she said.

“I’ll be working with faculty who use D2L and other technologies in the classroom. I’m sure the evolution of technology in the classroom will continue to change as will the work that I do with that technology in helping faculty. ”


Professor encourages more use of Skype 'windows' in classrooms

Foley photo Jan 2017 CommMTSU history professor Sean Foley touts the value of education in “creating windows where there were walls.”

When he encountered problems bringing an expert speaker to his MTSU history classroom this fall, he consulted with ITD on another way to open such a “window.”

Foley conducted his first interactive classroom Skype For Business session in mid-October featuring Manav Jain, a 15-year veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service. Since then he has done several more and said it will become a regular feature of his classrooms.

He had previously done very small Skype sessions with students huddled around a computer. But this was to be for a full classroom.

Because his class was in Peck Hall, a building that had not yet been migrated over to Skype For Business, ITD staff worked with him over a two-month period to set up his classroom for the video-conference and prep him to conduct it. 

The one-hour session with an integrated PowerPoint presentation “worked out perfect,” and he did it again in December with a Syrian scholar from the United Kingdom.

“The point of technology is to allow me to be a better teacher,” he said. “(Students) are not going to remember a lot of the basic facts … but you can open up the idea of creating windows where there have been walls and say, ‘OK I can go there.’”

He said he’s always felt that quote from French historian and philosopher Michel Foucault—“My job is making windows where there were once walls”—applied to the teaching profession.

Educators can sometimes be “technologically averse,” whether due to their workloads or past experiences, he said. But he encouraged colleagues to consider using Skype For Business more in their classrooms.

“If we do this right, there are a lot of very powerful opportunities for faculty as a way of transforming how we teach, how we reach our students,” Foley said. “We can bring different voices to the classroom.”

Bringing in expert speakers is expensive and time-consuming. Video-conferencing allows faculty members with connections around the nation and world to bring that expertise into the classroom more quickly and cheaply.

Jain is an example. Foley has known him for years, and knew he had served as Immigrant Visa Chief in several posts around the world. So he wanted him to speak to his students on the topic of “How Does the U.S. Government Issue Visas?”

Starting last August, he began planning to bring Jain in as a guest speaker. But when scheduling conflicts arose, he began working with ITD to instead do the Skype session.

“Visas are a hot topic and that allowed me to bring in that subject in a way I wouldn’t have otherwise,” he said.

The ITD training was “done very quickly and efficiently,” he said, and involved more than just technological talk, but practical advice. That preparation involved determining what level of interaction Foley wanted to have, what equipment he needed, and some testing.

He said History Department executive aide Tara Hayes was closely involved in the process, as well.

“Not only did they provide me with technology, but their advice to me was the type of advice you want—which is something that doesn’t just tell you what to do, but to take what you already have and take it to the next level,” he said of ITD.

They recommended putting a small tripod camera next to where he was speaking, in front of the video screen facing the classroom. That allowed Jain to look out onto the classroom while the students looked back at him.

“I could create an environment that was as close as I could to a classroom experience,” Foley said.

A U.S. and World History teacher, Foley specializes in the contemporary history and politics of the Middle East and the wider Islamic world.

He is a frequent visitor to Asia and the Middle East, follows events in both regions closely—speaking Arabic and Bahasa Malaysian.

And he envisions using Skype one day the other way around, bringing lectures to his class from foreign locations, for example, the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

“Not a picture, not a video, but talking to students directly from there—that is what I envision Skype being able to do,” he said.

Any MTSU faculty members who would like help in conducting a Skype For Business video-conference in class should contact the Faculty Instructional Technology Center at 615-904-8189 or e-mail at itdacad@mtsu.edu.  

Whittenberg participates in EDUCAUSE conference 

Albert Whittenberg attended the EDUCUASE annual conference in Anaheim, California, Oct. 25-28. 

EDUCAUSE is a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education through the use of information technology. 

 “I had the opportunity to attend a number of very informational sessions while there that I hope to share with not only my colleagues in ITD but the entire MTSU community,” said Whittenberg, director of Academic & Instructional Technology Services for ITD.

Some of the sessions he attended included:

  • Quiet: How to Harness the Strengths of Introverts to Change How We Work, Lead and Innovate
  • Changing the Conversation: The Faculty Voice in Tool Development, Deployment and Evaluation
  • Living in Harmony: Technology and Academic Objectives
  • Practicing What We Teach: Evaluation Online Faculty Training Programs
  • Virtual Reality in the Classroom
  • The Flipped Learning Academy: Preparing Faculty to Create Flipped College Courses
  • Meeting Student Needs in Introductory Courses through Personalized Learning Technologies
  • Rethinking Academic Technology for 21st Century Teaching and Learning

This year’s conference had more than 7,000 attendees from all over the world.

“Along with this, I was able to see a number of demonstrations of new advancements in software and hardware we are currently using at MTSU or investigating for the future,” he said.

“For example, I had the chance to sit down and talk with representatives from both Desire2Learn (our current learning management system) and FourWinds Interactive (our digital sign provider) about how their new products and features may help our campus.”  

Banner upgrade to bring record-keeping improvements in 2017

Banner Hardware graphicITD is working on an upgrade to the underlying infrastructure for MTSU’s Ellucian Banner system, which is MTSU’s primary information system for student records, admissions, financial aid, finance, human resources, and course scheduling.

The new infrastructure will improve data-loading times and scalability, while providing better resiliency and redundancy in the event of a catastrophic disruption.

This project will require a data migration and conversion from the existing system into the new infrastructure, which is being installed and tested in a parallel environment.

ITD plans a cut-over to the new system from 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, to 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11.

Known as a hyper-convergence, this infrastructure system uses software-centric architecture that tightly integrates computing, storage, networking, and virtualization resources. A hyper-converged system enables the integrated technologies to be managed as a single system through a common administrative toolset.

This upgrade will replace outdated, proprietary computer equipment with state-of-the-art, commodity-based hardware running software-defined workloads. The project involves replacing Banner Sun M5000 host servers running Sun Solaris as physical machines with Dell servers powered by Nutanix running Red Hat Enterprise Linux as VMware virtual machines.

Upgrading the data center network was also part of this project. ITD will convert the University’s data center network to Cisco’s ACI software-defined networking platform with 10Gbps switching for server connectivity and 80Gbps connectivity between data centers.

On top of the data center network, ITD upgraded to new Palo Alto firewalls with 10Gbps connectivity between the campus and the data centers. This upgrade will also lay the foundation for additional improvements in the future, such as improved Banner access from mobile devices as ITD upgrades the Ellucian Banner software itself. 

New Year's Resolution: Finish Skype For
Business migration process at MTSU

To date, approximately 1,500 telephone users have been migrated to the Skype for Business unified communications system.

Projections are that all telephone users will be on the Skype for Business system by Summer 2017. Below is tentative building-by-building schedule for the final migrations:

February 2017

  • Holmes Building (Maintenance Complex)
  • Student Services and Admissions Center
  • Floyd Stadium
  • Student Union Building

March 2017

  • James Union Building
  • James E. Walker Library
  • Stark Agribusiness and Agriscience Center
  • Saunders Fine Arts Building
  • Andrew L. Todd Hall
  • Wright Music Building

April 2017

  • Midgett Building
  • Peck Hall
  • Parking Services Building
  • Public Safety
  • Stephen B. Smith Baseball Clubhouse
  • Tennessee Livestock Center
  • Internal Audit (Wansley House)
  • Warehouse (Maintenance Complex)
  • Women’s Softball Complex

May 2017

  • Kirksey Old Main
  • Ned McWherter Learning Resources Center
  • Murphy Center
  • Voorhies Engineering Technology

June 2017

  • Cope Administration Building
  • Paul W. Martin Sr. Honors Building
  • Keathley University Center
  • Printing Services Building

    For training on Skype for Business, sign up for a workshop at mtsu.edu/itd/workshops