Social Pedagogies and CourseNetworking at Purdue University

Purdue is currently collaborating with CourseNetworking (CN) to explore the possibility of offering faculty an alternative learning management system (LMS) that requires little administration and allows first-time users to quickly create courses independently. This light-weight LMS uses a familiar interface and focuses on academic social networking.

Ali Jafari, , professor of computer and information technology at Purdue’s School of Engineering and Technology and director of the CyberLab, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and the founder of CN was quoted in a recent Purdue News article:

“The learning systems we have today were developed almost two decades ago,” Jafari says. “We need to invent the next generation. We need to learn a lesson from Facebook and Twitter that connecting people together and let them learn from each other is a more effective way to go.”1

A new social learning-based system focused on networking and collaboration that produces a highly interactive learning environment, CN has the potential to connect instructors and students from around the world based on shared interests and subject areas. The walls between classrooms are broken down enabling learners from different classes and schools to have dynamic discussions and freely share learning resources through: Posts, Polls, Events and more. CN transforms the traditional teacher-centered learning environment to a more engaging and effective student-centered learning environment. Students enjoy their learning experience by “following” and “colleaguing” other learners, by compiling learning resources on their own, and through a unique reward system, collecting Anar seeds, that many instructors use to incentivize the learning and engagement.

Randy Bass in his 2012 Educause article, Disrupting Ourselves: The Problem of Learning in Higher Education, discusses the pressures that are being felt in higher education due at least in part to the evidence that significant learning experiences are happening outside of the formal curriculum. He describes the pressures coming from two sides: 1) “data surrounding experiential learning, and 2) the informal learning and the participatory culture of the Internet.”2

Instructors can create tasks in CN that include “Smart Links”. These links allow the students to quickly access functionality such as: creating posts, responding to polls, and submitting assignments into a “Dropbox” area of the course for grading.

The course interface is familiar to the students. CN is designed to allow students to post multimedia easily and efficiently. Students frequently share resources found on the Internet. This informally appears to be quite motivating for the students. Their observed interactions frequently indicate their understanding of the content being learned and their ability to connect it to real life experiences, making the learning relevant.

To learn more about CN, visit

Debbie Runshe, Educational Technologist

1Tally, S. (15 October 2013). “Purdue, Course networking to collaborate on next-generation edtech.” Purdue News.

2Bass, R. (2012, March/April). “Disrupting ourselves: The problem of learning in higher education.” EDUCAUSE Review. 47(2), 23-33. Retrieved from

Need a Wiki for Your Course? Choose the Confluence Wiki!

For some faculty, the use of wiki software during a class can provide a easy way for students to quickly develop content that can be easily edited, updated, or modified during the term. Students can obtain practical experience in creating online documentation on a myriad of topics.

Purdue supports two wiki platforms – Confluence Wiki and the Blackboard Wiki. While the Blackboard Wiki is a part of the overall Blackboard Learn course management system, the Confluence Wiki is a stand-alone system.

One of the key advantages of the Confluence Wiki over Blackboard’s Wiki tool is that the Confluence Wiki can be opened to the world beyond Purdue. Faculty can show student work through making their course’s wiki available for read-only access to anyone inside or outside of Purdue. Additionally, faculty can invite in colleagues from other institutions to interact with students within Confluence.

Confluence wikis are also not limited to a specific academic term. Faculty can create a Confluence wiki where students over several years can all add knowledge to the same wiki space. This can serve as a record of what students were learning about and focusing on during a specific term.

Confluence wikis created specifically for classes do keep track of what students are enrolled in the class. Currently enrolled students will enjoy the ability to create and edit pages within Confluence, and enrollment information is updated once daily. Students who withdraw from the course will lose their access privileges to the wiki, but any content they have added will be retained.

Furthermore, with a Confluence space (a specific site within Confluence), individual pages can be restricted to editing by certain users, while remaining open for all in the course to view. For example, if a group of students is assigned a topic, a new page for the topic can be created and only that group of students given access to edit the page. All other students can be given permission to continue to see the page, but they won’t be able to make changes.

The look and feel of Confluence is also similar to other wikis, and with options to add page sections and split individual sections into columns, Confluence provides more page formatting options than Blackboard, although it is easier to add multimedia content within the Blackboard Wiki. Confluence can also create a dynamic table of contents for individual Confluence pages to assist with navigation if the page includes a large amount of content.

One final advantage that the Confluence wiki has over the Blackboard Wiki is the ability to create a hierarchy of pages. Each space has a main page, but a tree of pages can be built from the main page, allowing for the creation of a series of child pages that exist in the hierarchy directly under the main page, and then each child page can have a series of sub-pages branching off of it. In the Blackboard Wiki, while there is a main page, there is no ability to create a hierarchy of pages.

The Blackboard Wiki does enjoy two advantages over the Confluence Wiki. First, the Blackboard Wiki is located within a course, so there is no need for a student to go to another website to complete assignments. The second advantage is that wikis in Blackboard can be integrated with the Grade Center, so grading of wiki assignments can be done completely within Blackboard Learn.

If you are interested in using the Confluence Wiki for your course, you can learn more about Confluence at, and you can set up a space in Confluence automatically by going to the self-service application located at If you would like to receive training for you and/or your students, please contact us at

Brett Creech
Educational Technologist

Kurzweil 3000, Read & Write Gold and VPN (Virtual Private Networking)

Several students on Purdue’s campus use Kurzweil 3000 and Read & Write Gold on their own computers, either Windows or Macintosh.  These programs require connection to a server on Purdue’s campus to work.  This connection is easy to make

on campus through PAL (Purdue Air Link).  There is one more step to the process when using either Kurzweil 3000 or Read & Write Gold from off campus.  Users must launch VPN (Virtual Private Networking) before launching either Kurzweil

3000 or Read & Write Gold.  Information on using VPN can be found at  Technical assistance with using VPN can be found at the ITaP Customer Service Center (

David Schwarte

Wearable Technologies

It seems that I  just missed the wearable technologies convention that took place in Europe last month (  The conference emphasized the enormous business potential and economic growth rates, and drew in 600 participants from around the world.  The participants competed to be named the most innovative technology in categories such as gaming, health, medicine, etc… Noticeably (for me), there was no category that examined the educative possibilities that these “new” technologies present.

I put “new” in parenthesis, because by some definitions, wearable technologies have been around for centuries.   I would venture to say all readers of this post either have some, or know someone who owns them; I own glasses…not Google glass, but reading glasses that are a technology I use to improve my eyesight while reading.  However, I do acknowledge this line of thinking engages in the debate over how technology is defined more so than what a wearable technology is thought of today…

The organizers of the conference, as well as most real techies would expand on the definition to make sure that it incorporated the idea of ubiquitous computing, or computing that is seamlessly incorporated into everyday objects.  With that definition, I would say that you still have been exposed to it… if you know someone with a calculator watch, for example, which have been around since the 1980′s.

Today’s wearable technology, however, attempt to allow users to go above and beyond simple algebraic concepts, and into the world wear dreams are made, for a realistic, customized experience.  For example, Vivi-touch promotes an experience with its 4-d haptics and audio devices as “Pure, Unadulterated Feel-tainment”, as it purports to bring a “…new sensory dimension to gaming that lets you actually feel what you see and hear—explosions, crashes, aerial battles, the stretch of a slingshot or the smooth roll of a pinball”.  Heathrow airport is using Google Glass and Sony Smartwatches to deliver “up-to-the-minute information such as flight updates and destination”. In the future, they hope to use the technology to “communicate passengers’ dietary and refreshment preferences to staff”, and even tie in discounts related to this data, that passengers can use once they reach their destination.

If applied to the education field, the potential is limitless in both miraculous and terrifying ways.  These tools and the related analytical data they are drawing from allow us to customize the student experience to every last detail. This is a good thing… if we stay mindful of the ethical and legal implications that come with access to such information.  Many of these tools are waiting for educators to re-purpose them for the classroom, or out-of-school educational practices… How do you see them being used in your field?

- Akesha Horton