Podcast: Technology Conversations

Welcome to Technology Conversations, brought to you by the IT Training team, Center for Instructional Technology and Training (CITT).

Here you will hear conversations from IT experts in different fields as well as discussions on how technology plays a key role in individuals’ personal and professional lives.


Episode 11: Amateur Radio

In this episode, Allan West, a system administrator with ICT or Infrastructure and Communications Technology shares with us his deep knowledge on amateur radio. You will learn about its brief history and how the technology can be used to benefit both communities and individuals, and most of all how everyone can get involved and utilize this technology themselves.

Jul. 3, 2024

15:23 Minutes

View Podcast Transcript

Technology Conversation – EP. 11

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Welcome to our podcast Technology Conversations, where we discuss technology related topics from how to find resources for your technology needs to how technology can impact our lives. My name is Anchalee Phataralaoha and I will be your host.

Today we have an expert in amateur radio or ham radio, Allan West who is a system administrator with ICT or Infrastructure and Communication Technology Services. Good morning, Allan.

Allan West: Good morning, Anchalee.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: How are you today?

Allan West: I’m doing well.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Could you give us a background about yourself?

Allan West: I’m a Linux System Administrator for ICT and I’ve worked in IT since 1992 as a student assistant and full time since ’95. So I have seen lots of the changes and advances on campus. I own the service called Apache Hosting and it’s not because I’m an expert on Apache although I know a lot about it, but because it has lots and lots of customers and I enjoy talking to people. I’m the precarious, outgoing system administrator and that’s also why I’m an amateur radio operator because it’s another opportunity to talk to people.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: What exactly is amateur radio?

Allan West: Amateur radio is a way for any tools on radios and their operators to communicate with each other with or without infrastructure. Radio was invented..discovered in the late 1800s by Marconi and Tesla. Marconi gets all the attribution; Tesla probably did it first like most things. And in the United States there are broadcast stations which you’re all familiar with when you listen to the radio in a car. But amateur radio is specifically unpaid people who can use radios to communicate with each other and that can be done with voice or can be done with Morse code, which is how original radio communication was done and you can use computers or television or photographs or any number of other technologies with radio to make communication.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So it sounds like it started from a group of people who just wanted to communicate with each other, and then they try to find a way to do so.

Allan West: Yes, and they were exploring new technologies like many computer geeks do. One of the interesting things about amateur radio is that one of the stated reasons for amateur radio to exist under US law is to encourage people to explore and develop new technologies. And people who are into amateur radio were involved in things like inventing cellular telephones.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Are they all volunteers?

Allan West: The work that I do for amateur radio is with testing and we are specifically the volunteer examiners who gave tests. There are volunteers who work in emergency communication serving agencies like the American Red Cross or shelters or the emergency operation centres for the county. We specifically cannot be paid for our service while using amateur radio.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Going back to amateur radio let say as a structure, as an organization from what I heard it is in a way volunteer, non-profit group. Is that so? And then divided into different aspects depending on what each volunteer interested in.

Allan West: I would say the amateur radio is not a group of anything, but many, many groups. As with many hobbyists there’s a joke that anywhere you have 3 amateur radio operators, there’ll be 4 clubs because we like to interact with each other in different ways. I’m a member of several of them. There is gatorradio.org, the UF Gator amateur radio club. It’s got equipment in the dental tower and any students can join and have access to really nice radios and antennas. I am a member of the community organization, the Gainesville Amateur Radio Society, GARS and they are the ones who provide me all the volunteers for our testing. And I would say our parent organization, it’s the American Radio Relay League who just started in the early 1900s.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So if anyone’s interested, they can pretty much google those organizations and learn how to join those groups.

Allan West: Yes, and the Gainesville club is gars.club and the national organization that I’m a member of is arrl.org, that’s the American Radio Relay League. And if you want to learn how to become licensed, you can search for amateur radio license and there’re many sites both free and paid which will give you information on how to study for the tests. All of the test questions are publicly available so the test that you get will have 35 questions out of a pool of 450 or so.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: I have heard the term ham radio a lot. Is that the same thing as amateur radio?

Allan West: We are the same people. Ham goes back to the early 1900s when Morse code was the only way to communicate with radio because the technology was not very advanced and what you really got as a radio communication was interruption of the static and if you listen to the radio that’s not tuned to any specific channel, what you hear is lot of static and early radio sets just interrupted that with a louder splash of static. And so Morse code was how you communicated. 

Anchalee Phataralaoha: But you two need to have the same equipment or at least the same system of equipment to communicate?

Allan West: You need to have compatible equipment for the frequency sets that you’re using. One of the big differentiators between amateur radio and other radios is that we are not obliged to use specific channels. With amateur we’re given bands of frequency and we can be anywhere we want within that band and we can use different bandwidths depending on what kind of information we’re transmitting. 

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So amateur radio or ham radio can use the bandwidth that is not occupied by other technologies, is that so?

Allan West: We are given very specific bands and some of them we are given for primarily use and some of them we are secondary users. In the band where we are secondary users, we may use some or all of that band, but we have to do so with reduced power and taking care not to interfere with other systems. And we have to be careful that we don’t do anything that interfere with the primary users of that band.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Let say everything goes down, cell phones, internet, network and all that would ham radio or amateur radio can play its role in that situation?

Allan West: Yes, that is what most of us who are involved in the amateur radio emergency services are preparing for. We have batteries about the size of a car battery and we keep them charged and we have radios and antennas that are designed to work without having any other infrastructure. So I have collapsible antennas that I can put up and I can reach the state emergency operation center, which runs the net every morning and I can report in and get the information in and out of my area. And because they collapse and travel with me easily, I can take them somewhere and serve an agency and provide communication from wherever I’m deployed back out to areas that have communication infrastructure. And that’s just using voice, that’s what I’m used to doing. There are systems like Winlink which allow you to take a radio and a computer and set up email and then you can send email out to your radio and it will find another station that it can reach and then relay it from station to station until that reaches the station that actually has internet access and then they will join the regular email stream.  

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So what would you say would be the very first thing that people should do if they want to get started?

Allan West: Think about why you want to get started. I got into it for emergency communications. There are 2 or 3 who like to talk to people around the world just as a way to reach out to people who they would never meet otherwise. One of them got his amateur radio license because wifi is on the edge of one of the amateur bands and so he can use his call sign as an SSID and higher power to do a greater transmission distance with wifi. There’s another one who got amateur radio and his wife got license so they can communicate when they were travelling places and didn’t have reliable cell phone particularly travelling overseas. That way they wouldn’t have to get new SIM cards and everything, they can just use their radios.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So people need to acquire at least their very first equipment, right?

Allan West: Yes, and like any other hobby you can spend a lot of money or you can spend a little money. I’m a fan of finding used equipment at Hamfests, which’re amateur radio group gatherings that usually involve swap of old equipment either at tailgates or in big buildings. The biggest one in the southeast is the Orlando HamCation and my wife and I have gone almost every year since we became licensed. But there are local ones in Gainesville and surrounds. You can get a very inexpensive Chinese radio that will do all the things you need for local communication, but it doesn’t do around the world and it doesn’t work without the repeater on the tower. So you get a higher level license and you get the higher quality radio and the bigger antenna, you should move up in what you want to do.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: What would you say is the ballpark number to get in on average?

Allan West: To get in it costs $15 to take the test and $35 to the FCC for the license so $50 to become licensed. And you can get a cheap Chinese radio for $20-30. You can spend more than a car on a big radio if you want to. And I like the guys who buy big radios, use them for a few years, and then turn around and resell them to buy something new because then I can get their radio cheap.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Right. So it sounds like $100 or so $200 max.

Allan West: It’s easily $100 will get you into local communication. And if you have a friend and we can make friends with you very quickly if you need, who has radios, you can come operate with them as the control operator even before you were licensed. As long as there is a licensed amateur at the station, people who aren’t licensed can come and use it and experience how amateur radio works. So one of the things we do every year is having a separate opportunity for public outreach where we have a station set up and one of us is a control operator and then people who are interested can get on the air and just talk to other people.

If you’re interested in finding amateur radio people to talk with or to find a get on the air event where you can use a radio before you’re licensed, you can look at the local club website, gars.club. That’s G A R S dot C L U B. We advertise all our public outreach events. And if you’re interested, and you are not looking in this area, you can look at the American Radio Relay League, arrl.org. If you are interested in becoming licensed, you can reach out to me, my callsign at arrl.net, that’s WA4JD@arrl.net.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Any final thoughts?

Allan West: Well, I would like to mention the most useful thing that I’ve learned from amateur radio I get from the amateur radio emergency service, which runs a weekly net, 8pm on Thursday evenings where we practice talking to each other using voice. One of the nicest things about amateur radio is you learn communications in a way that you don’t for most other things. And when they talk about amateur radio how to be a good operator, they talk about be like a rabbit, not like an alligator. Big ears, small mouth, not big mouth and no ears.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: That applies in real life, right?

Allan West: Right, exactly the thing. If you’re in a Zoom meeting, which used to be a novelty. And when Covid became the norm for most things, it really helps if you have some experience listening and making sure you hear what’s going on in the conversation and waiting for break and then having something to say. And it also helps and this is what I do with the ARES net, I’m one of the net controls so I call the net and I give some information out to people and then I call for other people to check in. One of the things you learn when you are on the radio net like that is to leave a pause when you’re done speaking, and that way somebody else if they have something to interject can get a word in edgewise. And that’s the thing that we could all learn for our Zoom meetings.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Thank you very much Allan for sharing all these valuable resources and getting people to learn more about amateur radio or ham radio.

Allan West: Thank you Anchalee.  

Anchalee Phataralaoha: And that's it everyone. And we will see you next time on a topic of interest in IT.


Episode 10: Accessibility

In this episode you will learn about accessibility and different techniques you can apply to make your work more accessible whether you are an instructor, student, or staff. Hear from an expert, Laura Jervis, Instructional designer with Center for Instructional Technology and Training (CITT).

Apr. 5, 2024

11:38 Minutes

View Podcast Transcript

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Welcome to our podcast Technology Conversations, where we discuss technology related topics from how to find resources for your technology needs to how technology can impact our lives. My name is Anchalee Phataralaoha and I will be your host. 

Today we have an expert in accessibility, Laura Jervis who is an Instructional designer with Center for Instructional Technology and Training or what we call CITT. Hi, Laura. 

Laura Jervis: Hi, Anchalee. Thank you for having me. 

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Thank you for being here. So, first off, could you tell us about yourself? 

Laura Jervis: Yeah, I've been at the University of Florida for a number of years now. I got my undergraduate degree here and my master's. When I was working also at UF at the English Language Institute, teaching English as a second language, I had a friend who worked at CITT and she said we have a job opening up soon, and I think you might really like it here. And I applied and I do. 

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So I guess you love being an ID? 

Laura Jervis: Yeah, I do like being an ID. It feels like a lot of the really fun parts of teaching that I enjoyed, but maybe with a little bit less pressure and less grading. And it helped me move a little bit more into digital accessibility, which I didn't know a lot about when I was teaching and now is my main professional interest. 

Anchalee Phataralaoha: OK, so what exactly is accessibility? 

Laura Jervis: That's a good question. I guess you could say that accessibility is considering what you're making from the perspective of users with disabilities and making sure that the content, like the digital content you create, will be usable for people who have a wide range of physical abilities or impairments, maybe people who are using assistive technology, like somebody who's blind and using a screen reader for example. And it also touches on whether or not the material is cognitively easy to follow. That doesn't mean that it's simple or basic or not deep or rigorous, but it just means that you can expend your brain power on the content and not finding the content and accessing it. 

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So it sounds like accessibility might mean different things to different people, for example, for faculty and staff or students? Maybe the focus is different. 

Laura Jervis: That's very accurate and some people might mainly be creating video content. So when I talk to them about accessibility, I want to know if their videos are captioned and things like that. Somebody else who comes to me because they maybe are an instructor who wants to share PowerPoint slides or PDFs with their students; they have different things that they need to be focused on. 

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So it sounds like accessibility is for everyone. 

Laura Jervis: Absolutely, yeah. I think some people might think of accessibility as something kind of contained, but really it's all of our responsibility. And so I like telling people about it so that they can start to take their share of that and, you know, be empowered to do it themselves. 

Anchalee Phataralaoha: OK. And how does the university support this effort in accessibility? 

Laura Jervis: In a lot of ways, you know, UF does have an Electronic Information Technology and Communication Accessibility policy. I know that's a mouthful. It's the EITCA policy, stating that everything we put online, all of our electronic communications need to comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. And there are also a lot of people on campus doing accessibility work. The Disability Resource Center, of course. And also the ADA office serves employees and faculty. There are also a lot of people like me on campus who are there to answer questions about digital accessibility. My office offers consultations and trainings and some online resources. There's also a community of practice here at UF where a lot of us who are doing work like this get together, ask each other questions, share what we're doing, and anybody is invited to join that. We also have a monthly video series called Accessibility in Five, where the videos are 5 minutes or less, except once because I couldn't stop talking in -6 minutes. And we also have a training called Accessible Online Environments that I highly recommend. 

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So going back to the accessibility. I suppose the university has a requirement, right, for everyone to meet. What are those requirements? 

Laura Jervis: Yeah, so everybody should be making sure that their content online meets with WCAG 2.1 standards up to AA compliance. Which I know is very technical, but that's a pretty, I don't want to say universally, but widely accepted standard for web accessibility. 

Anchalee Phataralaoha: How do people find out more about those standards? 

Laura Jervis: Yeah. So there is a website. If you Google WCAG, that's WCAG standards, you'll find all of the standards listed through an organization called WebAIM, but it can be a little bit overwhelming. So I like to encourage people to start by reading something on our website or taking a training that instead of focusing on, you know, standard 3.4.12. I don't actually remember if that is a standard or not. They have different numbers but instead of focusing on all these standards, they can focus on it more holistically and think about what my audience might need. 

Anchalee Phataralaoha: What do you think is the first step that people should take if they want to make their materials or maybe their teaching or their work practice to be more accessible? 

Laura Jervis: I think the first thing is to stop and reconsider what you're making from the perspective of somebody who maybe is blind and they have a screen reader reading their screen to them, and then somebody who's deaf or hard of hearing and can't access any of the audio. And also somebody who maybe has color blindness or low vision. And kind of just think about all of the different people who might be interacting with your content and think, if I could not use a mouse, would I still be able to navigate this web page with just a keyboard? Or if I couldn't hear this video, would the captions make sense to me. 

Anchalee Phataralaoha: OK. Any resources that people can reach out to if they need help? 

Laura Jervis: Our website citt.ufl.edu has a section of our resources called Accessible Course Design and that includes like a very concise list of five tips for accessibility that I think is a great starting point. It just gives five, well 5 tips that can help. So the first one is just to describe images. You can maybe do this as part of your text, or maybe you have alternative text. And this is so somebody who can't see the image, still knows what's in it. That can also apply to videos, like having an audio description of what's happening visually. The next tip is providing text alternatives for audio. So that might mean a caption or a transcript. Some of you might be accessing this podcast through a transcript instead of listening to it. The next one is choosing color carefully, so making sure that your colors aren't so similar that it's hard to read things and things don't really pop out to your audience. The next tip is easy actually. It's just making sure your text is readable. Is the font big enough? Is the font clear? Is something like Arial or Calibri is usually pretty safe? And then the last one is applying structure like bullet points and headings and things like that. But it's also important to note that those things need to be represented in the metadata of something like a Word document or a PDF or a website. They can't just be bigger text. So the website has links to some tutorials of how to make sure you're doing that correctly. 

Anchalee Phataralaoha: What exactly is metadata? 

Laura Jervis: Metadata is data in a document or file that your average user is not seeing, but the program knows it's there. So if I'm in a Word document and I make text bigger, that might visually look like a title to me because I'm sighted. But somebody who's using assistive technology would not know it's a title unless the program has designated it as a title or a heading. And then the assistive technology knows, when you say what's the title of this document, there it is. 

Anchalee Phataralaoha: OK, sounds good. Any final thoughts? 

Laura Jervis: My last thought is that the easiest accessibility standard to meet is one that I frequently see go unnoticed, and that is color contrast. Sometimes when we're designing things, we want them to look nice. We want to, you know, use this color that works well with our theme. But if the background color and the text are too similar in terms of how dark they are, not just in terms of the hue itself, it can be really difficult for people with low vision to access that content. Or you know, if somebody is color blind and there is a pink so reddish background with green text, you know, those might look very similar or the same to them. So that could keep them from accessing it as well. And it's something that is really easy to do well, but only if you consider it from the beginning. 

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Right. So we got to put ourselves in their shoes. 

Laura Jervis: Yeah, exactly. 

Anchalee Phataralaoha: All right. Thank you very much, Laura, for sharing with us your resources and knowledge about accessibility. 

Laura Jervis: Thank you, Anchalee. It's been fun. 

Anchalee Phataralaoha: And that's it everyone. And we will see you next time for a topic of interest in IT. 

Episode 9: 3D Printing

In this episode Sarah Prentice, Makerspace and 3D Manager with UF Smathers Libraries shares with us how we can utilize 3D printing technology for work, school, or even personal projects and how we can easily access their services right on our campus.

Mar. 1, 2024

10:27 Minutes

View Podcast Transcript

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Welcome to our podcast Technology Conversations, where we discuss technology related topics from how to find resources for your technology needs to how technology can impact our lives. My name is Anchalee Phataralaoha and I will be your host.

You might have heard about 3D printing. If not, today we will learn more and see how it can help us. With me today is Sarah Prentice, Makerspace and 3D Manager with UF Smathers Libraries. Hi Sarah, and welcome.

Sarah Prentice: Hi Anchalee, thank you for having me.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So to start off could you share with us how did you come to UF?

Sarah Prentice: So I am a graduate of UF, I went to UF. My master's degree is actually in plant pathology with a focus in mycology, but my career background has been in libraries. So I've been full time at Marston Science Library here at UF since 2013 and I worked at the Service Desk and closed the library at 1:00 AM for nearly a decade. And I was at Marston when we acquired our very first 3D printer, I think it was 2014 or 2015. And so I was able to see 3D printing really develop from an emerging technology to a mainstay and when the 3D Printing Manager position opened up, I applied and that's how I came to be.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: That's where you are. OK, sounds good. Now what your day today is like?

Sarah Prentice: So right now I manage the 3D printing service in addition to Marston Makerspace. Marston Makerspace provides shared equipment and workspace for creative projects and collaboration. So we're in the basement of Marston Science Library, right across from the elevators. Just look for the neon sign. We have open lab hours. This semester open lab is Monday through Friday 2:00 to 7:00 PM and during this time anybody can come and use our equipment, use the space. It's supervised. There's somebody there to help you.

So we have sewing and embroidery. We have a soldering electronics workbench, we have hand tools. We have light power tools. We're not like a full workshop, not a full wood shop, but we do have some power tools as well. Things like irons and ironing boards and hot glue guns, and things you might need for a project that you wouldn't necessarily have access to if you live in a dorm here on campus. There's a combination of projects happening in the Makerspace. There are obviously class projects and then there're hobby projects. UF has a very active cosplay community and so we're happy to support them with 3D printing and sewing. And there are different conventions throughout the year, different events, different class assignments.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So you mentioned 3D printing. What exactly is that?

Sarah Prentice: So 3D printing uses digital files to create physical objects. Our 3D printing service it's available to you as students, faculty, staff, and members of the community, and anybody can make 3 dimensional objects and PLA plastic. We exclusively print in PLA.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: OK, what is PLA?

Sarah Prentice: PLA is polylactic acid. It's a bioplastic made from sugar cane or cornstarch. We print in PLA because it's non-toxic. So the way the process works is that we have an online form and you need an

STL file. To 3D print first you need a model in STL format and there are several options for getting this STL file. You can download a ready-made STL file.

So two big websites with many free files are Thingiverse and Printables. And if you go on Thingiverse or Printables and you're looking through the different options, one thing that I encourage people to look at is the number of makes. So if you go on Thingiverse and you see a model that interests you, see how many people have made it and reported back, then it's a good file.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Can you maybe spell out that site that you mentioned?

Sarah Prentice: Thingiverse. T-H-I-N-G-I-V-E-R-S-E

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Dot com?

Sarah Prentice: Yes. Dot com. And Printables which is P-R-I-N-T-A-B-L-E-S.

Sarah Prentice: You can download a ready-made STL file from Thingiverse or Printables. You can create your own STL file from scratch using software like Tinkercad, Onshape, Fusion 360, SOLIDWORKS®. There're many options. Another option is to customize an existing SCAD file in OpenSCAD and then download the STL from there. That's something I enjoy in particular. So SCAD it stands for Solid Computer Aided Design and you can edit the code to change the shape of the model. So that's kind of the middle way between downloading a ready-made STL file and creating your own STL file from scratch.

But you need an STL file however you choose to design it or obtain it. And then you go to our online form and you upload your STL file and you can at that point tell us what color you want, if you have any special instructions like scaling up or down or infill preferences and we’ll review your file. We slice it in our slicing software. We use PrusaSlicer currently, and the software will tell us how many grams of filament the print requires and it's 15 cents a gram. That's 0.15, fifteen cents a gram. Sometimes people hear 50 and are a little shocked. So it's 15 cents a gram and we have a three dollar minimum.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: What is the average cost for, you know, like?

Sarah Prentice: It really varies. We do get many small prints that just hit the $3 minimum.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: OK, so now people probably got very excited. Which lead to how can they request this service? Is there some steps they have to follow?

Sarah Prentice: So I talked a bit about STL files. Once you have your STL file, whether you choose to download one from the Internet or create one from scratch, you submit your STL file on the online form. The website is 3Dprint.uflib.ufl.edu. There’s an order form there. You'll just give us your contact info. You'll upload the STL file, tell us what color you want, include any special instructions for scaling or infill or supports. And we'll take a look at it, figure out how many grams of material it is. It's 15 cents a gram with a $3 minimum and then we will send you a price quote. And once you pay it, we print it and then you pick it up.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Oh, So what is the turnaround time?

Sarah Prentice: So it really varies. We typically try to have things done within a few business days of payment.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: And they have to come pick it up. You do not ship, right?

Sarah Prentice: We don't ship, no. There are lots of online 3D printing services that people can use.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: I see. So it's probably best for the local folks here.

Sarah Prentice: For pickups I actually put them up at our 24/7 Service Desk at the Science Library. Science Library is currently 24/7, though it varies a little bit around breaks and holidays. But finished 3D prints I have a pickup drawer up at the Service Desk, so you don't have to pick up your 3D print during open lab hours. You can pick them up whenever the library is open.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: When it's open -- the Science Library. OK. So how can people reach out to you if they have any further questions? Sarah Prentice: So people can e-mail the 3D printing service at MSL3D@uflib.ufl.edu.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Anything else you would like to add? Or maybe something that people should know or need to know?

Sarah Prentice: You know a lot of people are curious about 3D printing, or they're interested in 3D printing and they don't know where to start. They don't know how to select an STL file and I'm happy to help with something like that if, you know, I'm there during open lab Monday through Friday 2:00 to 7:00 PM and anybody is welcome to come in during that time and chat with me about 3D printing and we can find you something to print or work up something to print.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: OK, sounds good. So check it out 3D printing at Marston Science Library. And thank you very much for spending time with us today.

Sarah Prentice: Thank you.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: That's it everyone, and we will see you next time for a topic of interest in it.

Episode 8: Learning Analytics

In this episode we focus on learning analytics. Dr. Heather Maness, Assistant Director for Learning Analytics and Assessment introduces us to the topic and how instructors can apply different tools to leverage their teaching and enhance student learning experience.

Jan. 18, 2024

12:22 Minutes

View Podcast Transcript

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Welcome to our podcast Technology Conversation, where we discuss technology related topics from how to find resources for your technology needs, to how technology can impact our lives. My name is Anchalee Phataralaoha and today we have an expert in Learning Analytics Dr Heather Maness, Assistant Director for Learning Analytics and Assessment. Hello, Heather and welcome!

Heather Maness: Hi Anchalee, thanks for having me.

Anchalee Phataralaoha : Thank you for being here. And before we start, could you share with us a little bit about your background with our listeners?

Heather Maness: Sure. I have been at the University of Florida for over 15 years now. I got hired by the university. I started working in the College of Veterinary Medicine when I was getting a master's degree, and then my career goals evolved through that experience. And then I learned about instructional design and then I applied to be an instructional designer. And so that's when I came to the university's Information Technology Center for Instructional Technology and Training as an instructional designer. And during that journey, I decided to get my PhD. And so I was working full time doing my PhD, and that's when I really started to focus on assessment of student learning and the data that we have, and so that we can make evidence-based decisions and in our teaching practices. And that evolved into my current role now as the Assistant Director of Learning Analytics and Assessment.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Okay. Since now we talk about learning analytics, can you explain to us what exactly that is?

Heather Maness: Yeah. So learning analytics is about leveraging data about the students and their context, so their circumstances learning environments things like that to better understand learning and to improve student success. So our learning analytics teams provides instructor support for measuring, collecting, analyzing and reporting learning and student engagement data for direct course improvement and for broader pedagogical research.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So it sounds like it would help with teaching, right?

Heather Maness: Absolutely. the goal is to help instructors with teaching, but we also want to empower students directly in their self-regulated learning practices so that they can really evolve on their learning journey so that they have the skill set that they need to be successful for lifelong learning.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So it seems like it's all around, you know, help with teaching and help with learning as well.

Heather Maness: Exactly. Our primary focus is on the instructor side, but we do also aim to do some direct student facing work.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Can you provide us maybe a few examples of the current projects that you have going on?

Heather Maness: Sure. So we really help instructors access the variety of data that is available to them when they're trying to work on course improvement or do their educational research. So that data could come from Canvas e-Learning, their online learning management system. It could come from a specific tool that they might be using in their teaching, like iClicker data where they're collecting student responses to questions or it could be other types of tools like video data and the metrics that are there. And so they want to harness that data and so they can get insight into their students and help intervene and guide them into improvement and larger achievement in those learning objectives that they have set out for their course. And so we have facilitated access to that data in a few ways, one, by providing some direct training on the data that's available within certain tools, within Canvas, things like that. They might not know where the data is hiding. So when they have questions and they want to look at that, we kind of talk through what they need and what might be available to them now and show them how to access that. And also some of the caveats to it, because there is, you know, the data isn't always forensic level quality, where it's exact and precise and everything is there. There's some nuance to it, some obscurity to it, some room for ambiguity and interpretation and. So, you know, we can help provide some of that insight where this isn't exactly 100% accurate, but it gives you a rough idea so we can let them know where in that data they might need to have room for error in their studies.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So do you have a large number of faculty reaching out to you for this type of data or you have to reach out to them, you know, for them to be aware that these are available?

Heather Maness: So some faculty have found us. We're a newer unit. So the learning analytics and assessment we've always had assessment technology services. Learning analytics is newer. So we've done some outreach, but we're still working on promotion of our services since we are a newer unit and what we're and what we're doing is newer. So we've worked with the chemistry department several times looking at different questions that they had about whether how they were doing their class schedules might be impacting outcomes. And then we were also able to help with a project where they wanted to look at their quality of assessments and trying out a new tool, Gradescope, which is a grading platform that lets them do more handwritten work, which because of their class size, they hadn't done a lot of before because it's so intensive to grade and provide feedback on all of that. But the Gradescope app was able to provide them with an expedited workflow so that they could do more feedback to students on handwritten work, and they're working through how to best incorporate that into their courses.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So it sounds like most instructors are receptive of learning analytics and they got excited about it.

Heather Maness: Yes, I would say lots of people are excited. Lots of people are interested. The hardest thing is finding the time to engage with this kind of work. It's nice to have a unit like ours, where there're people to help you on a project and collaborate with you, and I think that gives you a little bit push and willingness to jump into this project now, because it might have been a research question that was on their mind for a long time, but they didn't know where to start, or they didn't think they had enough time to it. And we provide that collaboration. We've helped with IRB, which is the Institutional Review Board, to make sure that there's proper oversight of human subjects, our students in this research, and so helping to get permission through them, providing examples of how we've set up studies in the past so that it will meet the ethical research standards.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So it sounds like, you know, it is very time-consuming process. So with that, do you have any tools that you have been using to help?

Heather Maness: Yes. So, one of the newer tools that we have started at the University of Florida through our Unizin consortium membership, which is a group of institutions, higher education institutions that have come together to really leverage their collective resources to improve education. And so one of the tools that was brought to us through that consortium was Terracotta. And Terracotta is now an award-winning product. It won the X Prize for education. It was runner up, but that came with money. So it won a prize of the X Prize for education. And it is a tool that helps the instructors conduct research in their own classrooms because it collects the informed consent from the students. So you can set up an assignment in your Canvas learning course, where it will let students opt into the study or opt out, and keeps that anonymous to the instructor so that you can maintain your ethical integrity while you're conducting your research, and there's no potential bias for grading impacts or things like that. So it collects that information and sorts them into the groups of like a treatment and a control group for those that have opted into the study. And then you can set up your experimental design where they might get different assignments or different content, things like that, based on what you're looking to study. And then it'll keep all of that data for you and export that out so that you can do your analysis all in an anonymized format, which is really cool. So that's one of the biggest ones that we've added.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: That sounds great. I hope that's going to help faculty saving their time. So since you're very involved with learning analytics, what do you see as a future trend in this field?

Heather Maness: You know, the big one that I think everyone has on their mind is artificial intelligence right? We're seeing that in our research projects. People are interested in tools that incorporate AI like Packback and how they can set up research with that. And you know, that has coaching for students on their writing. So, it's AI coaching on their writing. So, a generative AI type of tool. How does that impact the final student learning outcome when they've gotten this automated coaching and feedback on their writing versus maybe no coaching in a previous environment, because the instructors are too overwhelmed with large class sizes or in place of instructor coaching. So in general I would say learning analytics is promoting evidence-based decision making. And that has been a trend for a while and continues to grow that, um, you know, we need to have strong support for our pedagogical decision making and make sure that we're meeting the needs of all our students. And in fact, when we look at a lot of the data and we dig a little bit deeper under the surface, we often find inequities and how our education is serving different communities. And so, it's becoming highlighted more and more, and it's giving us opportunities to intervene and do better, which is really great.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Okay, sounds great and I'm sure a lot of people would become very if they're not aware already, they would become very interested in applying these tools. So how can they reach you?

Heather Maness: Well, they can reach out to us on our website form. So we are a part of the Center for Instructional Technology and Training and that is at CITT, citt.ufl.edu. And we have consultations available there. Once you fill out a form for a consultation service, those are free and available to all instructors and credit bearing programs for work, we'll reach back out to you and schedule a meeting and talk about what it is, what ideas that you have, what it is that we can do, and timelines for that.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: All right. Thank you very much, Heather, for spending time with us today.

Heather Maness: Thanks for having me, Anchalee.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: And that's it, folks, for today and we will see you next time for a topic of interest in IT.


Episode 7: UFApps

In this episode, Michael Kutyna of Infrastructure and Communications Technology (ICT) talks with us about UFApps. He explains what it is and how faculty and students can access several software applications through the Apps from anywhere at any time.

Nov. 17, 2023

9:48 Minutes

View Podcast Transcript

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Welcome to our podcast technology conversation, where we discuss technology related topics from how to find resources for your technology needs, to how technology can impact our lives. My name is Anchalee Phataralaoha and I will be your host. Today, we have with us Michael Kutyna with UFIT. Hi Mike, how are you today?

Michael Kutyna: I'm doing great, thank you.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So could you please tell us a little bit about yourself?

Michael Kutyna: Well, I'm a native Floridian. I've lived here pretty much my entire life. I got my degree with the University of Florida and I'm also a part-time instructor with the university. My full-time job is working with Infrastructure and Communications Technology Services, which is a part of UFIT.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So is that what they call ICT?

Michael Kutyna: Yes, that is ICT. A big part of what I do is a lot of the services that UFIT provides, they have like a single front end, but there's a lot of stuff that goes on the back end to make sure that everything works and it's running all the time. So there's multiple services and we coordinate that and make sure everything's running really well for people. Two of the big services that my team works on is Mediasite and UFApps.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: What is UFApps?

Michael Kutyna: It is a cloud -based service that students and faculty can access Windows-based applications from any device at any time from any location.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: How old is UFApps?

Michael Kutyna: Close to 10 years old now I think.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: How many applications do you have in UFApps?

Michael Kutyna: We've got over 100 applications. Some of the really popular ones are applications like MATLAB, ArcGIS, SolidWorks, SAS, SPSS, and more.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: How do people access that?

Michael Kutyna: We have a website called info.apps.ufl.edu. You can also just search for UFApps and that will bring you to the info.apps website.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Since you said it's a cloud service, does it mean people can use any device?

Michael Kutyna: Yeah, that's one of the big benefits for using the service is that no matter what kind of computer, either an iPad, or Mac, or a Chromebook, or a regular Windows laptop, any of those devices can access these applications, and you don't have to install the actual applications on your computer. You can just run them directly through the website.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Do you know how many use UFApps so far?

Michael Kutyna: The last time we checked, we had, let's say, for the spring semester, we had around 8,000 unique users on the service.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: How do students normally know about these apps? I mean, did the faculty inform them before the class, or did they just look up themselves?

Michael Kutyna: There're a couple different ways. During UF orientation, it is mentioned as one of the many, many services that are available to students. We understand that that's kind of lost in the amount of services that the students are told about. So what we like to do is work with the faculty and show them the benefits of the service and how they can tailor their training and teaching assignments and help them work with the students. And if they're using the service for their teaching purposes, then that will get the students to use the service as well.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So it sounds like there's a training available on how to use it?

Michael Kutyna: Yeah, we have some web -based training that is available through the info.apps website. Additionally, we do some other training through various organizations on campus, such as the Center for Teaching Excellence and Academic Technology Training. And then even if a faculty member is just, wants some basic one-on-one work, we can work with them individually to help them make the most of their course while using UFApps.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So if people travel overseas, can they still access those apps?

Michael Kutyna: Yeah, that's another big benefit is that the applications are available anywhere. I remember talking to some students when they were originally, when we were originally set up the service and there was a student in Jamaica. That was a distant learning student from Jamaica and they were working on their applications and completing some of their assignments and it was a big game-changer for her to be able to complete her assignments without having to try and she had an older laptop that couldn't run some of the applications and she was able to complete her assignments.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So do you know I think you mentioned it has over a hundred applications, right?

Michael Kutyna: Yes.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Do they keep increasing adding more apps?

Michael Kutyna: We will add applications based on request and if a faculty, primarily if a faculty member needs it for a course, we will evaluate the application to make sure that it works in the environment and the licensing is available for it. And we'll figure out ways to assist the professor in either coming up with funding or however it needs to be purchased. We're evaluating new applications on a fairly regular basis but also over time applications maybe a faculty member leaves and we need to and they're the only user of that application. So we do prune applications occasionally so it's been relatively steady the past couple years.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So let's say a faculty member is interested in getting, using an app that is not on the list, what would be the step for them to make a request or propose that app?

Michael Kutyna: Again, back on the info.apps website, there is some form drop, some links to form requests so that they can submit either an application request or a course usage request, or just contact us and let us know that you're interested and you want to know a little bit more details about what it's about, and we can contact you and work with them directly on how to get their application working or get their course working well with the service.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: And what is the timeframe, you know, before they can hear back?

Michael Kutyna: We usually try to reply within a day or so. For new application requests, however, I would definitely give that a couple months of leeway because there's a lot of processes that we have to go through to make sure that the application is safe, that the license is compatible, that the application actually works in the virtual environment, and actually get funding for the application. There's many, many different steps and it takes a couple months typically.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Does it have maybe the limit of number of users that can access, let's say the same app at the same time without burdening the system too much?

Michael Kutyna: We definitely have some busy times of the day and less busy times of the day. For licensing purposes we've got several hundred people that can use the service at any one time, and we average in the 300s on busy times of the day as far as how many people are actively using the service at any one time. It's kind of interesting to see the peaks and valleys of when students are using the service. There's obviously during the middle of the day like afternoon we get some large usage spikes and then it'll taper off when people go have dinner and then students get home and they start studying and then trying to finish up assignments before midnight due time and we get another spike late at night and into the early morning hours until around 1 or 2 a .m. and then it tapers off at that point.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: How can people access the site again?

Michael Kutyna: The main site is info.apps.ufl.edu and you can just do a search through your favorite browser for just UFApps as well. UFApps all one word.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: What about the support? Do you provide any support?

Michael Kutyna: Yes, on the info.apps website there is a link for submitting a problem report or support request and that will typically be routed to the UF Computing Help Desk first and if they cannot resolve the problem, then that will be forwarded to our team where we would work with you to resolve the problem.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: All right, thank you very much Mike for sharing your thoughts and resources on UFApps. I'm sure it will be very beneficial to faculty and students and that's it for today and we will see you next time for a topic of interest in IT.

Episode 6: Multimedia Production

In this episode, we have a conversation with two experts in multimedia and video production, Josh Mills and Steve Zill of Video Production Services with CITT or Center for Instructional Technology and Training. They share the common tools they use at work, what to look for when considering a multimedia project, and how to maximize the resources they provide.

Sep. 28, 2023

11:20 Minutes

View Podcast Transcript

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Welcome to our podcast technology conversation, where we discuss technology related topics. From how to find resources for your technology needs, to how technology can impact our lives. My name is Anchalee Phataralaoha and I will be your host. Today, we have two experts in multimedia and video production, Josh Mills and Steve Zill, our multimedia specialists. So we are glad to have you here to share your expertise in multimedia production. To start off, could you please share with us your background and your expertise?

Josh Mills: Sure, so my name is Josh. I work in studio production here at UFIT. I've been at UF for about eight years. Before this, I worked in TV news. I started out here as a videographer and then eventually moved on to doing more studio and post-production.

Steve Zill: Yeah, so I have about six to seven years making videos in the higher ed space starting out at Santa Fe College, moving on to the College of Education at UF and now here at UFIT. And before that, I was making videos for a startup here in town that revolved around ecotourism. And yeah, I'm originally from Daytona Beach, Florida, just a couple hours from here and got my degree in advertising and visual arts here at the College of Journalism and Communications.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So could you share with us in a nutshell the video production or maybe audio production process?

Steve Zill: It really starts out with a consultation with an expert of somebody who has really lived in that world with that medium for a long enough time to know how to fit your message into the proper form. Because so many times it's like, you know what, it is good that it's in a text format. And that's actually the easiest way to digest the information. Or maybe, you know, this is a good format for an infographic or poster or something like that.

Josh Mills: It doesn’t need to be a video.

Steve Zill: Yeah, basically, sometimes it really doesn’t and especially information heavy things.

Josh Mills: Yeah, that's a big part of our process. One of the things that we really emphasize with our clients and all the people we work with, which are often faculty, is you don't have to have a whole video planned out in your head and know how to do all that. Like, we're gonna help you figure that out. Like, that's really our goal is the consultation thing. Like Steve said, we want you to come in and give us, what's your idea? What's your goal here? What do you want to do? And then we'll kind of take that and help you figure out how to put it together and how to actually make it into a compelling video. And like Steve was saying, sometimes that means maybe this doesn't all need to be a video. Maybe some of it could just be an article or a graphic or something else is breaking that up.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: With that, I suppose when they come in or maybe seek your help for any kind of production, do they need to prepare some way, somehow, or they can just come in as is?

Steve Zill: Yeah, there's no hard and fast rule. It's nice to have a vision for the project or even to know what type of video you want to make. Like, oh, it's a tutorial or just a welcome video. But, you know, that's not a prerequisite. Like you can come in and say, you know, I just have been kind of bored with my course and I'm finding engagements lacking. And I'm wondering how can I add some media that will get these students to engage more thoughtfully in discussions or something like that.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Any tools or particular software that you normally use? And if so, any favorites?

Josh Mills: Yeah, we mostly use the Adobe Suite, the Creative Cloud Suite. It's just a patchwork of different software and programs such as Adobe Premiere, which is our main editing software. Other people might use Final Cut or Avid or some of those other ones. I think it's mostly Premiere, Final Cut, and DaVinci Resolve for the big ones right now and iMovie. And then we also use Adobe After Effects, which is our motion graphics program. And so motion graphics is just moving graphics and that's actually a pretty big part of video production nowadays. It wasn't when I started. When I started, it was much more just camera and lighting focus, but now it's very multimedia. It's like, you know, graphics and text and pictures and all sorts of things kind of combine together. So we use the Adobe Suite. That also includes Adobe Illustrator, which is a graphic making program. And then there's also Adobe Photoshop, which we use for all manner of things. And we use all those in concert to kind of construct these very layered videos.

Steve Zill: And there are some fascinating tools within these creative cloud programs. For instance, in Adobe Premiere Pro, there is a tool that will lengthen your music soundtrack past its end. If you need a little bit more duration of the track, you can just grab the slider, slide it over and extend it. And AI software will generate these loops and melodies that fit the rest of the song and give you like that 10 seconds extra you need to round out the video.

Josh Mills: And the transcription too. That's huge.

Steve Zill: Right. Yeah. Transcription. I mean, you know, the click of a button, you're transcribing a five-minute video. And it's pretty accurate. You have to go back through and refine it. It's not perfect.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: What do you find is the most challenging or the most difficult project or task that you have come across?

Steve Zill: So one of the most difficult things we run into is jumping into the process without enough prep. That usually leads to a lot like heavy improvising and a lot of going back and fixing things later in a more tedious fashion than doing it ahead of time and having a plan. So that's why we really emphasize when you can have a script. But most of all, just come in and talk with us.

Josh Mills: Yeah, there's a lot of problems we can solve before we do anything that will make the whole process a lot more smooth and coherent if we go in with a good plan.

Steve Zill: Prep is important.

Josh Mills: A lot of it is just about getting everybody on the same page before we start something.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: With that, can you sum up three items? I would say the top three need-to-know items that you can pass to someone who would like to do an audio or video production.

Steve Zill: The top three things that people need to know before working with us is that the process will be consulting with us, prepping with us, and then communicating with us throughout the entire process. So it's not as much of a drop-off thing a lot of the times, at least with field productions. There's a lot of times where I need to check in along the way and share, review drafts, just to make sure that we're getting the details down properly.

Josh Mills: Yeah, and I think really the main point of all of these is the same, which is that we want to be involved in the process. We don't want to be viewed as just an end step for someone. Like, okay, I'm ready to make a video and then they just come and it's like a vending machine. You put a coin in and then we give you a video a week later. It's going to go a lot better if you work with us from the start and we help you kind of visualize everything and help you kind of figure out what's going to make this more compelling as a visual medium.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: With things keep evolving and changing, how do you stay current in your field?

Josh Mills: One thing I try to do to stay current is to look kind of outside of the sphere that we're in here. What are people on YouTube doing? What are streamers doing? What are content creators that are wildly outside of the academic sphere? What kind of things are they doing? And we've gotten a lot of good ideas from that. As we learn that stuff over time, we try to make sure that we pass that down to our newer folks because it's like, man, I wish when I was 22 and just starting out, somebody had taught me that because I knew the basics, but I didn't really know the more detailed things.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Where do you see this field heading to, let's say, 5 to 10 years from now?

Steve Zill: Well, just based on the current trends in video production, the form keeps changing. I think that's the main thing that's been, especially through the internet and social media platforms, which seem to just hijack attention spans. For me personally, the best thing that I can do as a videographer is try to master the forms that I'm seeing, like vertical videos with captions, making mini documentaries, having solid event coverage, and then in the higher ed space, you know, mastering the forms that are the most requested items like welcome videos or departmental promos or a tutorial video. Just mastering those initially and then trying to innovate and kind of break the patterns that people are used to seeing is really important to kind of add an element of novelty to these old forms.

Josh Mills: So what do I think video is going five to ten years from now? The thing that I think that's kind of fascinating about it is it hasn't changed that much in a hundred years. Only it's just gotten easier and more accessible and faster. We're still kind of doing the same thing that we were when cameras were invented. We just have better tools that make it a lot simpler and they're much more accessible to an average person. So that's why, you know, anyone now with a cell phone can basically produce a full video. And so, you know, for us, like for Steve and I, you know, we have to always think about, where do we fit in as these professional, you know, video production specialists that have been, you know, doing this for a long time and amassing all this, like, knowledge and technical skills and yet it's really easy for somebody to just grab a phone and film something. And I guess for me, where I see that growing in, you know, the next five to ten years is like, those tools are going to just get easier and, you know, the camera resolution is going to get higher and all, but that does have a diminishing return at a certain point. The only thing that matters is that it's compelling. We always talk about length of videos a lot and how, you know, oh, the videos need to be short and to the point. And that's true, but at the same time, like, what does that mean? And I think it's not so much the actual length of the video. It's that how long it is interesting for because you can make a short video that's not interesting. You can make a longer video that's really interesting because it has a lot of change of pace, it has a lot of compelling elements to it and so it needs to be as long as it needs to be and that's tough sometimes with the attention spans. But I think the mistake is just assuming that well the only thing we can do is we could just keep making them shorter. I don't think it's the length. I think it's just making it interesting.

Steve Zill: Yeah, and with the increase of everyone having phones and cameras I think that’s made a lot more rallying points for people to connect over a very specific topic in the world. And I can see that in the next five to ten years amounting to a higher demand for connection through these kind of blended courses that might not even be attached to higher education.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Thank you for joining us. It has been a very fun and informative conversation. That's it. We will see you next time for topic of interest in technology.

Episode 5: CITT Instructional Design

In this episode, Rodney Gammons, Assistant Director for Instructional Design with Center for Instructional Technology and Training (CITT)  explains how his team of instructional designers help faculty and staff with their course development. He also shares available resources and how we can reach out for help.  

May. 30, 2023

7:28 Minutes

View Podcast Transcript

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Welcome to our podcast Technology Conversations where we discuss technology related topics from how to find resources for your technology needs to how technology can impact our lives. My name is Anchalee Phataralaoha and I will be your host. Today we have a pleasure to talk to Rodney Gammons, Assistant Director for Instructional Design with CITT or Center for Instructional Technology and Training. Hello, Rodney how are you?

Rodney Gammons: I am doing well today Anchalee, how are you?

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Very good. Now to get started, could you share with us about your background and essentially your journey to UF?

Rodney Gammons: Well, it’s a pretty long journey, I won’t go too far back but before coming to CITT I was an academic advisor for the instructional technology department at Santa Fe College and I was also an adjunct professor. During that time, I got my degree in instructional technology, to be specific curriculum instruction with a concentration on instructional technology, educational technology, and design. So after getting my degree and working for a few years as an adjunct faculty member and academic advisor, I applied for a job here and I finally got it, and I became an instructional designer and a few years later I am now the Assistant Director for the Instructional Design team.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: It sounds like you have a lot of background in teaching and learning.

Rodney Gammons: Yeah, I do, I definitely do and academic advising which played a key role into some of the things I did with the CITT.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So now you know with your current position, essentially what do you do?

Rodney Gammons: Well, yeah with my current position now as the Assistant Director I manage a team of instructional designers. Some of the biggest things I do is working on initiatives like outreach initiatives and just making sure people know about our services as well as you know managing the team doing the day to day things like approving time, making sure people are on schedule with their developments, introducing clients to our services, and pairing them with our ID. Things like that, so there are a few things that I do on campus where I work with other departments and make sure we collaborate. Like for the Center for Teaching Excellence, I do a lot of collaborations with them, UF online, and other instructional design units across campus and with people within our own department of Academic Technology in the CITT as I am sitting here with you, we are a part of the same team I would say, you’re with training and I’m with the ID team but we are collaborating right now.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Exactly. So how many instructional designers do you have on your team?

Rodney Gammons: Overall I would say 12 and then we add in the student workers we can bump it up to 21. There are 9 student workers so overall there are 12 people that work on the instructional design team.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So it sounds like you did shift from teaching to instructional design and with that what do you find is the most challenging in your position?

Rodney Gammons: Faculty members have a lot of strain being placed on them, they have a lot of deadlines they have to meet, a lot of them do research, here at UF my understanding the demands of grading, meeting with students, but couple that with the research, it’s just a lot so I have an understanding of what they go through. I think the most challenging thing is just finding time that works for the faculty members to meet their demands and making sure that they can do what they need to do and not feel like we are piling more on them. And what they do directly affects student engagement and student success and that’s what we are all here for to make sure students get where they need to get to in life and we are a part of doing that. We try to help faculty members to do their part the best way they can.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So, it sounds like you provide a lot of support for the faculty. And with that what kind of service do you provide for them?

Rodney Gammons: The biggest thing that we provide is course development services. We help faculty members build their courses and perfect their courses whether that be online, in person, or hybrid whatever it may be. So they can come to us and we can provide them with a sixteen week or fifteen week course development, we can do partial development, we can just do consultations if they just want us to help improve the accessibility of a course. We also provide some workshops and trainings as well that are more corelated to teaching and learning and making sure the course is more pedagogically sound. If anyone is interested, they can just reach out to us and we will try to cater and make a, I would like to say a meal plan for them that will fit their diet and what they’re trying to accomplish.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So, does it mean any faculty from any colleges can reach out to you?

Rodney Gammons: Pretty much anyone can reach out to us for the free service. We are centrally funded so all the services that we provide are free of charge for anyone that wants to come and sit down and talk with us and we just go from there once we figure out what needs to be done, we come up with a schedule with you, a schedule that’s flexible for you, one that will fit your needs.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Any particular time they should reach out to you?

Rodney Gammons: As soon as possible. Preferably a semester before you want to launch a course or whenever you need to but sometimes, we’ll take them right then and there if it’s something urgent if we can fit into our schedule, we will make sure to help the faculty member in some way. We may not be able to build a full course in a week, but if you come to us, we’ll talk you through some things and see where we can help and at the very least provide a consultation for you and set you up on the right way to get you started.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So, how does it work? Would you assign a faculty member to a particular instructional designer?

Rodney Gammons: Yeah, we will assign them to a particular instructional designer. Depending on the schedule of that instructional designer we will assign to them and also if the faculty member or staff member wants a particular instructional designer to work with them if they worked with them in the past, we try to make that happen as well.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: With that how do people reach out to you?

Rodney Gammons: Oh, that’s pretty easy if you go to our website citt.ufl.edu, you can go to the About area and you will see all the information for the instructional design team. Also if you go to the Request Assistance button, if you click that button even if you don’t know what you need help with, just fill it out and someone will respond to you within 24-48 hours.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Alright sounds good, now any word of advice or recommendations for the faculty?

Rodney Gammons: Yeah, I would say to faculty members and staff, you have a wealth of free resources here at the University of Florida, CITT is one of them. We do have the instructional design team which I lead, you have the Training team, the Learning Analytics team, our studio team that we work hand in hand with, and our Educational Technology team. So, there are a lot of free services for you all at this top 5 university that they try to provide so I would just say use them at your disposal, we all try to pride ourselves on great customer support service so just come see us and we will help you on your way.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Thank you very much Rodney, for spending some time with us today.

Rodney Gammons: You’re welcome. You have a good one.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: You too. That’s it everyone and we will see you next time for topics of interest in IT.

Episode 4: e-Learning Support

In this episode, James Kocher, e-Learning Support Manager shares with us resources, service, and support they provide and how we can get help with anything e-Learning related.

May. 4, 2023

7:54 Minutes

View Podcast Transcript

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Hello, my name is Anchalee Phataralaoha. I am a training specialist with UFIT training. Welcome to our podcast technology conversations where we discuss technology related topics from how to find resources for your technology needs, to how technology can impact our lives. We have today here with us James Kocher, e-Learning Support Manager. How are you today, James?

James Kocher: I’m doing well, how about you?

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Not bad…Not bad, so to get started could you please tell us your background and how did you end up here at UF?

James Kocher: Well, It’s a pretty long story. I got my started in education in the military, the navy. After moving to Gainesville after the service I started teaching at City College and went into pursue my degree in English to become a teacher, which I was a middle school teacher for a few years, and I also taught at Santa Fe College teaching prep reading and writing. Also during that time probably like the mid-2000s, I started working in the Department of Entomology creating online labs for the distance courses using Flash. In 2010, I got a full-time job here -- college of health professions working in online education and have been doing online education ever since.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So what is your thought about e-learning you know from when you first started and then up until now that would be like more than a decade?

James Kocher: Definitely over a decade. So when I was working in entomology, we used WebCT back then and a lot of our courses were actually delivered via DVDs or even CDs. So we would print off CDs and mail them to our distance learning students back then. So definitely with the increase in internet speeds and computer speeds, online education has exploded in the past you know two decades.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So With today’s technology, as you said, things have changed a lot, so with that how is your day to day? How does it look like?

James Kocher: Really our busiest time of the year is the beginning of class, people are getting their courses ready. Sometimes these courses might not be completely ready, something's unpublished or linked to the wrong place, so we'll get a lot of calls and tickets on things just not being completely ready to go. That's our busiest and also with during course creation time when we produce courses. And then of course the end of the semester is pretty busy with people getting ready to finalize their grades, finals are coming up, you know, we want to make sure everything is ready to go for the end of the term as well.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: With that what do you say is the most challenging that you have run into?

James Kocher: When I started this position, I realized that communication would be the biggest issue. We do have a curated listserv that we use to send out information. We try to not only use our listserv, but we'll post in Canvas on our e-Learning website, and if we can, we'll try to also reach out through our media source to get it pushed on Twitter, socialize it through the other social medias and get added to some newsletters as well. But yeah, letting people know when things are happening has probably been the biggest challenge.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: I'm sure there are people who might have missed your message. How would you deal with that?

James Kocher: That's a good question where like I said, we're trying to hit every channel that we possibly could. I’ve made sure that our messaging is short and concise and easy to follow because no one likes to read a wall of text and e-mail. I think when someone sees, you know, paragraphs of text come through an e-mail, they just instantly turned off. So definitely, trying to keep everything easy to read, short and concise, so to ensure that more people will read.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So with that, what is one thing or maybe two things that you would like people to know about e-learning?

James Kocher: Well, one is basically we have two kinds of tickets or two kinds of calls. One is “How do I do something in Canvas?” And the other one is “I probably should have called you first. I messed something up. How do I fix this?”

We would definitely prefer the former type of question of people calling us (asking) how I do something rather than trying to fix things because even though we can fix a lot of things, there are some things that can't be undone. So we would love for people to be proactive and contact us first before trying to do something. And I think that another issue is a lot of people may not know that we even exist. We really want to kind of get the word out, let people know that we're here, we're here to serve all of the university and we would rather that you call first before trying something on your own.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: How can people reach out to you for support?

James Kocher: So you can contact us in a few different ways. We are part of the Help Desk so you can call us at 352-392-HELP or 4357. To get one of our e-Learning support specialists right away, we are option 3. You can send in e-mail to learning-support@ufl.edu. It will come to our ticketing system and create a ticket for you, or you can also go to the UFIT service portal and send a ticket from there as well.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So do you provide a walk-up service?

James Kocher: We usually have someone downstairs. So if you come to the Help Desk, you'll be able to request help. We also have a service where you can request a zoom meeting. We've got an end of the semester wrap-up if you were interested in going over your grade book, make sure everything is ready to go to transfer to One.UF. You can set up an appointment if you're wanting help getting your course set up for the next semester you can get some help. Or if you just need a 30-minute general session with someone, you can go to go.ufl.edu/canvashelp and you can look at our appointment calendar, set up an appointment. You will have one of the support specialists reach out to you with a zoom link and we'll be able to connect with you on your time and able to, you know, through zoom, share your screen so we can walk you through or help you with what you need.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So, what are the support hours if people would like to get live help?

James Kocher: Our main e-Learning support staff do work from 8:00 to 5:00, but we do have trained specialists on evenings and weekends who will be able to give some just-in-time support as well.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: OK, sounds good. Now any final thoughts?

James Kocher: Again reach out. UF doesn't require students or faculty to go through any kind of Canvas training. But if you have any questions at all or want to know how to do something or you know looking for something innovative to do in your class with technology using Canvas, just reach out to us and one of our specialists would be very happy to work with you on that.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Thank you very much James for spending time with us today and that's all everyone. So we will see you next time for topics of Interest in Technology and see you then.

Episode 3: AI for Research

In this episode, we discuss the use of AI for research with Dan Maxwell, an AI Trainer and Consultant with Research Computing. He provides us a better understanding of AI, how it became, its current state, and available resources for those interested in its applications.

Mar. 23, 2023

7:22 Minutes

View Podcast Transcript

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Welcome to our podcast Technology Conversations where we discuss technology related topics from how to find resources for your technology needs to how technology can impact our lives. My name is Anchalee Phataralaoha and I am a training specialist with UFIT Training. I will be your host. Sitting here with us today is Dan Maxwell, AI Trainer and Consultant with Research Computing. Hello Dan, how are you today?

Dan Maxwell: Well, hello there, thank you for having me here.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So to start off can you share with us your background and also how did you end up here at UF?

Dan Maxwell:
I graduated from college and my undergraduate degrees were in history and French and so I transitioned into information technology and got a master's degree from Indiana University, and then followed that up with a Ph. D and a master’s in organizational systems much later. About half of my career has been spent in business environment side. I worked as a software engineer; I was actually a technical lead for Fortune 500 companies such as Rockwell, Alcoa, Bowater.

In 2016 I saw a position announcement here at the University of Florida for an informatic & data science consultant. So I applied and I was accepted to that position. So I have been at UF since 2016.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: UF is very lucky to have you here. So with that what do you do?

Dan Maxwell: I took my current position in January of 2021. And my current role is to act as an AI trainer primarily in the Research Computing Department. That includes both machine learning and deep learning. Those are two different sub-fields of AI. Since I came on board in January 2021 we have spun up what we called Practicum AI training program and our program is designed for non-technical students. I do do some consulting, but that’s not my primary role in the department.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So in a nutshell how would you define AI?

Dan Maxwell: Well that’s a really difficult question. I think a really simple answer here would be it is any algorithm that simulates human intelligence. What we see right now in the field in artificial intelligence is called artificial narrow intelligence. So the goal with AI right now is to move towards AGI, which is Artificial General Intelligence, which is more of a kind of intelligence that you and I have.  

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Interesting. So now with that what do people need to know or do if they want to take advantage of AI?

Dan Maxwell: Well, I think there is kind of a little bit of misconception that I have to be really technically talented, I need a background in computer science or mathematics or statistics or physics or whatever. And the good news here you don’t need that. You do need to have however a real sense of curiosity. So first you need to be a curious person. Second you need to have an idea, what do I want to do with AI, what kind of service do I want to offer or what is my research question. And if you’ve got those two or three elements and a desire to continue to learn, we are here for you.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So now with the university a lot of researchers I’m sure they would like to use AI so how can people take advantage of this?

Dan Maxwell: Well, the applications are so numerous. Keep in mind that this is actually artificial intelligence is actually a fairly well developed field. This is not something new. In fact the word artificial intelligence, the term was coined in 1956. It’s a broad field and so there are many, many different kinds of techniques. Machine learning kind of came into its own in the and it has only been since 2010 that we see deep learning coming into its own. You got to explore many, many different ways to apply AI to your research and I would really encourage folks to contact us because that’s what we are here for. We are here to help you figure it out and try to determine where we can use this. We’re going to have this conversation, what is your research method, and then we take that. We start with that conversation first and then we say okay where what kind of technologies do we have that would make you more efficient or effective as a researcher. A lot of folks if you already had expertise or a lot of exposure to AI, machine learning, and deep learning, you probably don’t need those kinds of conversations with us. Your conversation will be more like what kind of resources do I need, what kind of computational resources do I need.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So now beyond consultation with research computing what type of other resources available if people would like to integrate AI in their research or study?

Dan Maxwell: Again we have our practicumai.org. Research Computing offers or has Wikipedia like pages where you can get additional information there. Feel free to reach out to us, reach out to me, danielmaxwell@ufl.edu. I got a reading list for those who want to do some initial reading. We also have what we call bird-of-a-feather. Research Computing offers bird-of-a-feather where we get folks who are interested in a particular sub-field of AI and we come together and we have conversations and we talk about what you’re doing and how we can support you and what not.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So what about if people need to get help, where should they go?

Dan Maxwell: So if you want to reach out to us and contact us directly to schedule a conversation with our AI consultant in Research Computing, you can email us at it-rc-ai@ufl.edu

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Thank you very much Dan for sharing your insights and expertise on AI today. And I hope you have a great day.

Dan Maxwell: Thank you for having me on.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: That’s it folks. And we will see you next time on topic of interest in technology and thank you for joining us today.  

Episode 2: CITT Video Productions

In this episode we talk to Greg D’Angio, Video Production Manager for UFIT Center for Instructional Technology and Training (CITT). He shares with us available resources for faculty and staff looking for a high-quality multimedia production.

Jan. 19, 2023

6:16 Minutes

View Podcast Transcript

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Welcome to our podcast Technology Conversation where we discuss technology related topics from how to find resources for your technology needs to how technology can impact our lives. My name is Anchalee Phataralaoha. I am a training specialist with UFIT Training. I will be your host. Today I have a pleasure of someone sitting with me, our Production Manager, Greg D’Angio. Hi Greg and welcome!

Greg D’Angio: Hi Anchalee, thank you for having me.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Could you please tell us about your background?

Greg D’Angio: Sure, I’ll be happy to. I graduated from the University of Florida in the early 90s. I think it was 1993 that I graduated from the University of Florida and 2011 I decided to move back to Gainesville and applied for a job in UFIT to work as a production specialist for the CITT video studios. I think Gainesville is my hometown and I think it’s a wonderful place to live and I’m happy to be back here.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: We’re glad to have you here.

Greg D’Angio: Thank you.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So with that what do you do here?

Greg D’Angio: Well, I’m the production manager for UFIT Center for Instructional Technology and Training video studios. We run two full-service studios and one on-demand studio. We also have a field production team.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So you have full-service and on-demand studio. I suppose those are two different services. Can you tell me about the difference?

Greg D’Angio: Absolutely. That’s a great question Anchalee. Full-service studio we provide you with technical support during your recording. It is a studio offering many tools including a lightboard, iPad Pro integration, and other available tools plus we do all of your editing for you. The on-demand studio is somewhat like a one-button studio, but there are three buttons so we couldn’t call it a one-button studio. We decided to go with on-demand studio. It is available for you to come on your own. You bring a USB drive. You put it in the computer and it automatically records your video or audio track and you take it with you and you edit it on your own. It’s free of charge to faculty and staff.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So that’s on-demand studio.

Greg D’Angio: To us we call it on-demand studio. And we’re hoping that it catches.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So where is the studio? Is it on campus?

Greg D’Angio: Yes, the studios are Room 226 in the HUB, second floor of the HUB right in the center on campus above Starbucks and Chick-Fil-A

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Can everyone use your service?

Greg D’Angio: Anybody can use our services. Our services are free for faculty providing content for official UF courses. Our services are available to anyone at a very, very affordable fee, hourly fee.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So does it mean the faculty has to pay to come use your services?

Greg D’Angio: No, not if they have official registrar UF courses.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So who has to pay then?

Greg D’Angio: Sometimes it’s people doing grant proposals, or lab practicals that are not being used in a course.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So like researchers?

Greg D’Angio: Researchers, yes. We do a lot, ever since Covid, we have done a lot of videos for people presenting outside the country who can’t leave or are at risk and would rather not fly. And we will make them a high-end professional video for them to present over Zoom or Teams.

Staff can use it, but again there is a nominal fee for that. There is a fee for that. We do have an on-demand studio that is free to faculty and staff. And I encourage folks to go to our website, which we will give you the address here in a moment to check out that on-demand studio. Book it at your leisure on the website and feel free to come in and try it out. It’s free of charge.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: How far in advance do people need to schedule?

Greg D’Angio: We prefer that it’s two weeks out at the minimum. During certain time of the year we get booked solid in both studios up to a month to six weeks in advance. So if you are on a short timeline, you need to contact us quickly and we will find time to squeeze you in. But if you’re looking to have a recurring appointment twice a week and you want to get on a schedule which we suggest so that it becomes part of your weekly routine, please reach out to us sooner.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Anything else you would like to add that people need to know, you know maybe before they come into your studio?

Greg D’Angio: Yes. I strongly encourage you to go to the website, citt.ufl.edu. We are under the UFIT umbrella and you will see many of the services we have available there. Click Video Productions and you can see tour of the studio, sizzle reels of the type of the videos we do, a 360-tour of the on-demand studio. You can also from that website access training, instructional design services, web services, and other technical support opportunities.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: That sounds great. Now final question. Any parting words you would like to leave to everyone?

Greg D’Angio: Well, I’m not much of a person that get quoted. But if I had to say something, I would probably say that content is important, but quality matters equally.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: That is pretty sharp Greg. So thank you for being here with us. And I hope you have a great day.

Greg D’Angio: Thank you Anchalee.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: That’s it for today everyone and we will see you next time for topics of interest in IT.


Episode 1: Introduction

In this episode we have a conversation with Kim Standifer, Assistant Director, on our podcast program and how our community can connect and engage with each other through technology.

Dec. 1, 2022

2:07 Minutes

View Podcast Transcript

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Hello, and welcome to the very first episode of our podcast program called Technology Conversations. My name is Anchalee Phataralaoha and I will be your host. I am a training specialist with UFIT Training. We bring you technological expertise to fill in any training needs you might have. We can also help you design IT training programs and provide consultation on a wide range of technical knowledge for your team. In this first episode I have a pleasure to talk to Kim Standifer, our Assistant Director for IT Training and Web Services.

Good afternoon Kim, how are you today?

Kimbley Standifer: Good afternoon Anchalee, it is such a pleasure to be here.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: I’m glad that you are here. So, to start off could you please share a little bit about yourself?

Kimbley Standifer: Sure. Well, again I am Kim Standifer and I am the Assistant Director in the Center for Instructional Technology & Training and I manage a team of trainers, web designers, and web developers. Really great people to work with.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So, for this podcast what do you hope for people to get out of after listening to it?

Kimbley Standifer: You know I hope this podcast serves as a platform for us to share ideas, share resources, share knowledge from industry experts. And when I say industry experts I mean particularly those who are working in information technology or academic technology.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: So, any final thoughts that you would you like to share?

Kimbley Standifer: Yeah, I hope that people will become engaged, listen, and want to contribute to our discussions.

Anchalee Phataralaoha: Thank you very much Kim for joining us today and for spending some time with us this afternoon. That's it for today. We will see you all next month for a topic of interest in IT and we look forward to seeing you all again soon.