Instructional Design at Dartmouth: A History

Instructional design is the systematic development of educational materials, workshops, tutorials, training, and curriculum to ensure quality instruction and increase student success. In the second of a three-part series on the subject, Interface looks back on the history of ID at Dartmouth.

Part 2: A History of Instructional Design

Elizabeth Kelsey

Dartmouth’s instructional designers team up with faculty on a variety of teaching, learning, and technology projects. Instructional designers help professors develop and expand their use of Canvas, Dartmouth’s learning management system. They also collaborate with faculty on creating web-enabled learning environments by “flipping” static content, like lectures, to be accessible outside of class via online recording, so students can spend more time applying the content in class. Additionally, instructional designers recommend and implement new technology, such as lecture capture and data visualization software. They work with faculty on an individual basis, as well as in workshops and online training formats.

According to Barbara Knauff, Assistant Director of Educational Technologies, instructional design has been happening at Dartmouth—and elsewhere—for centuries.  “At its most basic, as soon as you are stepping back and thinking about what you are trying to accomplish with your teaching, and how best to do it, you are designing instruction,” she says. But Knauff adds that Instructional Design as a discipline didn’t really take off until the 90s, and has exploded in the last decade, with online learning as a major catalyst.

Students participate in a class as part of Dartmouth's Master of Health Care Delivery Science, a joint program between the Dartmouth Institute and the Tuck School of Business.

Students participate in a class as part of Dartmouth’s Master of Health Care Delivery Science, a joint program between the Dartmouth Institute and the Tuck School of Business.

Dartmouth’s Master of Healthcare Delivery Science program combines residential sessions with distance learning, and the DartmouthX initiative will launch its first online course in early 2015. But the College gravitated towards instructional technology long before these programs were established. In the 80s and 90s, Dartmouth was a leader in computing across the curriculum and in personal computing. “Many Dartmouth faculty started using technology in their own instruction, be it with projects like hyper-card-based learning modules and tools, or with web-based teaching resources, back in the early days of the Internet,” Knauff says. She cites Dartmouth’s Milton Reading Room, which with help from Academic Computing has enabled Professor of English Thomas Luxon and his students to annotate the English poet’s work online since 1997.

The first printings of Milton's Paradise Lost, from Rauner Special Collections Library. Professor of English Thomas Luxon's Milton Reading Room is a pioneering example of web-based instruction.

The first printings of Milton’s Paradise Lost, from Rauner Special Collections Library. Professor of English Thomas Luxon’s Milton Reading Room is a pioneering example of web-based instruction.

Due to growing faculty interest in technology teaching resources, Academic Computing added a branch called “Curricular Computing,” and hired and re-allocated staff to help professors. The group adopted the Blackboard learning management system (LMS) early in its production. As a result, faculty wanted to learn more about teaching with technology.

“Our roles shifted towards consulting with faculty on their teaching, and away from working on niche technology projects,” Knauff explains. Job descriptions evolved from “Curricular Computing Specialist” to “Educational Technologist” to “Instructional Designer,” with growing emphasis on pedagogical expertise.

Instructional Design at Dartmouth: A Fruitful Collaboration

Instructional design is the systematic development of educational materials, workshops, tutorials, training, and curriculum to ensure quality instruction and increase student success. In this three-part series, Interface explores the role of Instructional Designers at Dartmouth.

Dartmouth's Instructional Design Team. Top row: Adrienne Gauthier (left), Ashley Kehoe. Bottom row: Michael Goudzwaard (left), ​Scott Millspaugh

Dartmouth’s Instructional Design Team. Top row: Adrienne Gauthier (left), Ashley Kehoe. Bottom row: Michael Goudzwaard (left), ​Scott Millspaugh.

PART 1: A Fruitful Collaboration

Elizabeth Kelsey

In the fall of 2012, Dartmouth Professor Thomas Jack taught Biology 11 to a class of 147 students in the same format he had used for the past six years: primarily in-class lecture, in-class polling, and high-stakes bi-weekly quizzes and exams. When Jack received his course evaluations that year, he acknowledged several students were disappointed by the course’s lack of interactivity. Additionally, performance on the final exam was lower than it should have been. “I felt I needed to make some changes in the way I was doing things,” he says.

In the fall of 2013, he heard about Lecture Tools, a new feature-rich polling platform, and scheduled an appointment with Adrienne Gauthier, one of Dartmouth’s instructional designers. The simple tutorial about the technology turned into a dialogue about how Jack wanted his students to benefit from the new tool, which led to a bigger discussion about his course.

“When an instructional designer helps a faculty member design their teaching, it can facilitate a different and more effective learning experience for students,” Gauthier says. “When a professor can articulate what students should be able to do, be able to effectively assess that they can do it, and create activities to bring students along that road, then the learning experience can be richer and have more relevance.”

Professor Jack wanted to change the way he taught Bio 11, and more importantly, how his students were learning. Together, he and Gauthier redesigned the course to incorporate active learning and student-centered approaches. This new framework included pre-class activities such as short videos, multiple-choice self-assessment, and open-ended questions where students could voice what they were struggling with. The in-class sessions took the course’s concepts to a higher level where students continued to follow lectures but were also doing group problem-solving and more polling with peer instruction.

The average score for Bio 11’s 2014 final exam rose to 91 percent, compared to 74 percent before Professor Jack changed the course’s pedagogical strategy. In feedback, students praised the new pre-lecture videos, Lecture Tools, screencasts, smaller class size, group work, and “engaging” class sessions. Jack’s expectations were exceeded.

“I had a gut feeling that the students would like this approach more, but I underestimated the degree to which they found it valuable and were enthusiastic about it,” he says. “As far as the learning goes, I was skeptical if they would actually learn the material better by using a different technique in the classroom, but the evidence is that they did learn it better. The literature states that would be the case, but I didn’t believe it until I saw it myself.”

For full background on Gauthier’s and Jack’s collaboration, read their paper “The Professor and the Instructional Designer: A Course Design Journey” on The Academic Commons



Closets Within Closets: A Virtual Tsunami of Stuff

WaterColorCloset(2) copy

Susan Lee, Director of Web Services

Comparing a website to a house is barely an abstraction. When building websites we use words such as blueprint, architecture, structure, and making paths to describe the process of creation and use. Similar to our homes, websites create spaces and places where we hang out with people we know, play with new friends, study with classmates, and store the things that make life so interesting.
Like our homes, over time websites too can suffer from TMS syndrome—Too Much Stuff!
Taking a tour through the big house,, reveals this truth. It is comprised of over 2,200 rooms (websites) and inside these rooms are more rooms, and these have closets within closets brimming with stuff.

Taking stock of a content inventory this large can overwhelm even the most seasoned information architects, but in the end everything will find a purpose, be properly organized, or be archived.
Here’s a general breakdown of the multitude of websites Dartmouth hosts:

  • 19 library sites
  • 24 athletics sites
  • 49 graduate school or related sites
  • 68 academic department or academic-related sites
  • 128 center, program, or project sites
  • 160 student organizations and activities sites
  • 165 administrative, service, and utility sites
  • 195 courses and labs sites—some dating back to the late 1990s
  • 100s of faculty, student and staff personal sites
  • … and a bounty of miscellaneous

Even in a virtual home, the accumulation of too much stuff has costs and consequences. A good example is the frustration of conducting a simple search only to bring up documents from a course offered in 1999 or information on an internship opportunity—that expired three years ago.
The tens of thousands of html pages, PDFs, and other documents on our public sites are continually crawled, indexed, and listed by the search engine. When a project, event, or course is complete, the associated website often persists, either due to neglect or a conscious decision to maintain a living site archive.
This past year Web Services began working with our 200 website clients in a massive community house-cleaning project in which we remove old content, prioritize, and re-organize information as we migrate websites into the new content management system. Dragging all that stuff out onto the front lawn to take a closer look and decide what to keep and what to discard is part of the work Web Services will be doing with you when we start your website migration.
Whether we work with you on your department site or you have other sites that you manage, we hope you’ll join in and look through your closets as well. If you have an old site that no longer serves a purpose, send a note to the Computing Services help and request its removal. We’ll all feel lighter.

Revised from a previously published post.


Combatting Extreme Scheduling


By Hoi Wong ’17

“You’ve got mail.” Remember the good ol’ days of AOL and the monotonic male voice notifying us that we have received new email in our inboxes? It seems like it was just yesterday when I had to sit in front of a desktop to check my email, maybe a maximum of three times daily.

In today’s society, we are increasingly relying on technology to assist not only with communication, but also with scheduling and productivity. Through the years, as I became more obsessed with occupying every single moment of free time, I slowly migrated from writing down meetings and assignments on a paper calendar to inputting every minute of my day on an electronic calendar. Technology, in a way, has made it easier to be busy.

I started college never having used the calendar application on my phone or computer. I relied solely on my memory to keep track of homework assignments, due dates, and meeting times. Although this method got me through the first two weeks of class, I soon found myself tangled in scheduling conflicts.

I began my process of hyper-organization by first merging my BlitzMail account to my Gmail account so I could utilize all the Google applications seamlessly without having to constantly jump between Google and Microsoft Outlook. Adding my Gmail onto my phone, I was soon able to view and send Blitz on the go. Next, I added my Google account into the Calendar application onto both my Mac and my phone, allowing me to view and add events on the same calendar across my different devices and have them sync automatically.

The final touch for the complete revamp of my productivity was setting up alerts on my phone so I would receive a reminder on my phone ten minutes before each scheduled event. Although I am still guilty of over-sleeping from time to time, my failure to show up due to forgetfulness is now a thing of the past.

Being able to manage my email and calendar across platforms has drastically improved my productivity. Although technology has made my life easier in some ways, it has arguably made my life more difficult in others. With an electronic calendar, scheduling has become a game of Tetris where the goal is to fill up every block of spare time I had. I would feel a sense of accomplishment when my commitments fit together perfectly like a puzzle.

However, a danger of extreme scheduling is the domino effect, where missing one event or being late to a meeting can cause the rest of your schedule to collapse in a chain reaction. I learned this the hard way when I missed the first leg of my journey to New York City, having no other option than to take a $60 taxi ride or miss the next two pit stops.

Extreme scheduling and the personal pressure to maximize productivity can quickly lead to over-commitment and burnout. I found myself physically exhausted and unable to mentally focus on or enjoy my activities. For some time, I was could not fully engage and was present for the sake of being present.

By the end of this past term, I could not remember feeling so tired. I had planned activities back-to-back without making room to take a breather. At the peak of my extreme scheduling, I would have class from 10am – 1pm, work from 1pm – 3pm, a fencing practice from 3pm – 5pm, dinner from 5pm – 6pm, meetings from 6pm – 8pm, and studying/homework from 8pm – 12am. I learned an important lesson: although my calendar theoretically allowed me to schedule events for all the 1,440 minutes that existed each day, I needed to take time to sleep, to eat, and to enjoy the red brick buildings, the changing colors of leaves, and the quaint New Hampshire scenery. My solution? I scheduled “me-time” into my calendar daily: a mandatory hour and a half to breathe and to be me.


ITS, ISTS Wrap up Securing eCampus Conference

ecampusYesterday ITS and ISTS (Institute for Security, Technology, and Society) wrapped up the 8th Securing the eCampus conference, which took place on the Dartmouth campus on July 15 and 16. The event drew 60 information security experts from across the country.

In her introduction speech, Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Ellen Waite-Franzen noted that many of the security issues relevant in the conference’s first year still prove challenging today.

“The work you do is so important to our institutions,” she told the room full of security experts.

The conference featured professionals from a range of fields and viewpoints. Keynote speaker Nate Fick ‘99, CEO of the security firm Endgame, stressed how social norms will need to evolve in today’s security environment. Rodney Petersen, Executive Director, Research and Education Community Collaborative at EDUCAUSE discussed how the education community must collaborate and share services to maintain security. Paulina Haduong of Harvard’s Berkman Center’s Youth and Media Privacy Initiative offered insights into how pre-college students use social media and attempt to stay safe online. ITS security alum Patrick Perry, now Systems Engineer at FireEye, discussed advanced attack detection.

Other topics included lessons learned in the aftermath of natural disaster, geopolitics and the cloud, and “Keeping the Lights on and the Hackers out.”

IT Security Engineer Adam Goldstein, Chief Information Security Officer Steve Nyman, and ISTS Program Administrator Karen Page organized the conference. Goldstein: “Our goal is to bring those who may or may not be working in higher ed, but who would have a viewpoint that would be informative or provocative for those of us in higher ed and how we think of information security…I think that’s what sets us apart from other higher-ed security conferences—to bring in some folks on the periphery and to look at things from a national and global view, and how that impacts higher-ed in terms of the future and our planning.”

Women in Technology: Christina Dulude, Web Architect/Engineer

As technical lead for the Web Services team in ITS, I manage the development of Darxtina copytmouth’s websites and their integration with other campus systems. Web Services client websites include those for academic and administrative departments, as well as centers and initiatives and the homesite—for a grand total of close to 200 separate sites. We’re in the middle of a major web redesign and the migration of websites from one content management system to another.

What I most appreciate about our team is that we all wear many hats, rather than being siloed into specific roles. One day I might be coding PHP for a custom website module, and the next day conducting an index-card sorting exercise with an academic department to gather user-feedback on how to best structure the pages on their website.

I became interested in technology in a very roundabout way. Growing up, I always assumed my strengths were in the creative or artistic fields. In high school, I leaned more towards literature and creative writing; I never really gave much thought to math, science, or computers because I just assumed I wasn’t very good in those fields—despite getting the same grades in my math and science classes as I did in the humanities.

In college, I triple-majored in Comparative Literature, Gender Studies, and Classical Studies (Latin and Greek). It wasn’t until my junior year that I took my first computer class—only because it filled a general education requirement for my degree. The class was Java programming; much to my surprise, I not only found the class quite easy, but I also really enjoyed it. I then proceeded to pack my schedule with as many IT classes as I could for the remainder of my college career, and ended up with a minor in Computer Science.

I was particularly interested in making websites. This was back in the late ‘90s when being a “webmaster” meant that you coded your own HTML from scratch, designed your own graphics, maybe did a little Perl—and you probably managed the server yourself too. As someone who likes to do a lot of different things at once, this was right up my alley. I was also interested in the human factors of web design, so I completed a masters degree in Information Science. There, I learned about usability and information architecture, which is the field of organizing websites so they are intuitive for people to use.

In my undergrad Computer Science classes, there were very few women. In my masters program, however, there were slightly more; although still a greater number of men than women. I have been at Dartmouth since February of 2011. Previously I worked at Duke University for six years as a web developer. Before that, I was the web specialist for the Indiana University School of Medicine.

I am very involved with higher-ed web organizations and web design and development communities (particularly for Drupal, which is the new content management system we use at Dartmouth). I recently presented at the national Drupal conference in Austin, TX with folks from Harvard, Stanford, and Yale on scaling Drupal for higher education. As part of the conference, I also co-organized a day-long higher-ed specific summit. Closer to home, I speak fairly regularly at Boston events for Drupal and WordPress (another content management system we use at Dartmouth). I always enjoy meeting designers and developers from other universities, as well as from other industries.

Overall, I haven’t found it terribly difficult to work in a male-dominated field. The main challenge I’ve faced has been people assuming I’m the graphic designer when they first meet me in an IT context without knowing my role, or thinking that they need to dumb down technical language around me. I sometimes joke that one thing I quite enjoy about being a woman in technology is having no line for the ladies’ restroom at IT conferences, while the men’s has a line out the door.

I think more women don’t pursue careers in technology because we just assume we won’t be interested in or good at it—especially when we are young and considering career paths. I also think that a lot of young women feel like they need to be perfect and are afraid of falling short, so they don’t step outside their comfort zone. My main piece of advice to women considering a career in technology is to not fear failure, or at least not let that fear prevent you from trying new things. Your male counterparts aren’t inherently smarter; they are just more confident.

Computers in the Classroom: Tools or Toys?


Earlier this month, Dan Rockmore, Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth wrote “The Case for Banning Laptops in the Classroom” in The New Yorker and Mary Flanagan, the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities wrote “The Classroom as Arcade” in Inside Higher Ed.  Here,  Rose Wang ’17 offers a student perspective on the topic.

At Dartmouth, most students carry their laptops around on school days, both for studying after classes and also taking notes during lectures. As I sit here in the 1902 room of the library and count the number of people studying with computers, about thirty out of the thirty-five people in this room are staring at their computer screens, presumably studying, as they choose to be in the library. For the rest of the group, two people are checking their iPhones, two are chatting with friends in whispers. I only found one person studying from a good ol’ fashioned binder, sitting at the window, flipping through paper notes once in a while. For better or worse, computers have become a significant part of a Dartmouth student’s learning experience.

Students have complete autonomy over their study habits outside of class, but in the classroom, it’s a different story. Professors have surprisingly different policies in each course, ranging from encouragement to absolute abhorrence. After many years of sitting through boarding school and college courses, I noticed the professors’ attitudes towards computers in the classroom tend to be consistent with the nature of their subject, specifically whether the subject was quantitative or qualitative.

I noticed that usually humanities professors with less quantitative background are more reluctant to allow students to use computers to take notes, such as my government professors, and my creative writing professor, who explicitly banned computers in class. From my experience, professors who discouraged students to use computers in class generally provide the same reason, sometimes even word by word: “the computer screen gets in the way of your listening to your peers,” they said. I even had a media studies teacher in high school who brought research results to the first class to prove it.

In comparison, some quantitatively-inclined faculty, such as my statistics professor, did not even notice the “computers in the classroom” issue because he saw it as completely natural to take notes on a computer (the class did not require computer calculations, so it was not a stats-specific issue). In high school, I also had a fluid mechanics teacher who said we could take photos of the board in class with cell phones or computers, if we took notes with these devices.

There are also professors who fall in the middle category. In my personal experience, philosophy professors tend to be ambivalent about computers in the classroom. I had a philosophy professor who expressed his concerns over students’ browsing the Internet during class, but eventually said that he understood that most students study on the computer these days.

Teachers who hold more liberal views about education even encourage students to use computers, and digitalize readings across the board. While I haven’t experienced this level of digital involvement at Dartmouth, back at my boarding school, I had a philosophy teacher who also taught at Harvard Divinity School. She was very liberal about educational inclusivity and progressiveness. She explicitly said she welcomed our bringing iPads to class and wanted us to be able to access our readings this way. She believed it to be the future of education.

Now let’s take a look at the other side of the problem. Some opponents of computers in the classroom might raise the objection that students would browse online instead of taking notes. I sometimes find myself in that situation—the computer screen does offer an escape from the classroom. One can check email, go on Facebook, read the news, etc. As I look around the computer screens in the 1902 room, I quickly spot multiple screens displaying Facebook’s blue interface. Social media websites have become so common for our generation that they become the go-to sites when we are stressed or bored.

It seems there are two debates in this topic: first, whether there exists an interesting relationship between professors’ subjects and their tolerance for students to use computers in class. This question discusses a positive statement about how the world is, not how it should be. Secondly, there is another debate on whether computers should be used in class or serve as a significant part of the learning process. This is a normative debate on how the world should be. Until we can find satisfactory answers to both of these debates, we would have to struggle every day in the morning, whether we should bring that computer to class today.

My intention is not to generalize about teachers’ political attitudes, subject differences and technology tolerance. Such a relationship could only be revealed by careful research with a large enough sample. This article intends to explore the “curiosity phase” that leads up to designing such research, and I invite my readers to consider their own experiences, regardless if they are consistent with my own.

IMG_1695Rose_WB copy

Rose Wang is a rising sophomore from Beijing, China. She attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts and came to Dartmouth to study economics and philosophy. She co-founded an online education consulting company two years ago to explore the use of technology in learning.own.

Staff Spotlight: Dave Ricker of IISS


Dave Ricker

Dave Ricker, Associate Director of Data Warehousing and Business Intelligence in the Institutional Information Systems and Services (IISS) Department

How did you become interested in technology?

As a kid, I was always very interested in math and science.  In 1981, my high school in Avon, Connecticut got its first computers: TRS-80s (“Trash 80s” as we called them) from Radio Shack.  From the moment I first started writing BASIC and running programs, I was hooked. I still get a thrill out of writing and running code. There is something magic about creating something and then setting it in motion. In college I majored in Computer Science with a minor in Math, a program that was part of the school of Arts and Sciences. It was here as part of my arts and humanities class requirements that I also developed a passion for the arts, and literature in particular. Coming out of college I worked for the IT consulting wing of Arthur Andersen (which later became Accenture).  When many of my peers were getting MBAs, I decided to get an MA in English and pursue a passion for writing. My ambition to become a novelist never came to fruition, but the honing of my writing and communications skills as part of my MA has served me well in my IT career. The technology is less important than the people who are making use of it, and being able to not only understand difficult problems, but communicate them so others might understand is really key to working in IT today. Now my interests lie in data, information discovery, and visualization, which is where art and technology come together.  I still get into code once in a while, but mostly it is with my 12-year-old son, who is learning Python courtesy of Code Academy and doing a sampling of Computer Science and Data courses through Udacity.

What did you do before Dartmouth?

I worked at Sandia National Laboratories, a Department of Energy nuclear laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  I have also been on a board for Western Governors University (WGU) since its founding in 1998 and still continue in that capacity today.

What is your most memorable moment at Dartmouth?

It was one of the convocations a few years after I started working here in 2001. I like the feeling that I am working at a place that has some greater role in society. I grew up during the Cold War and my work at Sandia National Labs was infused with a sense of higher purpose. At the time, I was struggling to find that same sense of purpose at Dartmouth.  But at the convocation, then-President Jim Wright gave a speech that put it all in perspective. I got it. And I have felt that sense of mission again in my work ever since. I strongly suggest staff attend this ceremony every year. It is a good reminder of why we are here.

Most surprising little-known fact about you?

I did search and rescue in New Mexico for almost seven years. Some of the more formative experiences of my life occurred on these missions. They also help prepared me for dealing with life and death issues concerning one of my children, who has a serious chronic health condition. My experiences in the raising of this child and the interactions with the medical establishment formed the basis for my role in helping create in 2009 the curriculum for the “From the Other Side of the Stethoscope (FOSS)” program at Geisel, a requirement for all 3rd year medical students at the completion of their 6-week pediatric clerkship. I still serve this program as a facilitator and a member of its Family Faculty.

Where did you last go on vacation?

My family and I go to a folk music and dance camp called Pinewoods every year. Multiple generations of many of the same families have been attending for decades. It is kind of like having a big family reunion in a beautiful setting with incredible food, music, singing and dancing, as well as swimming, canoeing and general revelry. Three of my kids are being classically trained on the violin, but it is here I get to watch them participate in the magic of traditional music and how it is transferred from the old to the young.

What books are you currently reading?

I am thumbing through Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu, an anthology of international poetry edited by Czeslaw Milosz, and I’m currently making my way through all the Booker, Nobel, and Pulitzer novels on that special shelf at the Dartmouth Bookstore.  I also recently read The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, by David McCullough.  It has a lot of material on Augustus Saint-Gaudens whose home is a national historic site just down the road in Cornish. Well worth the trip.

Are you using any new apps? What are they and why do you find them useful?

Flightaware.  When I travel for WGU, I am always getting loused up. Flightaware’s “misery map” at least lets me know what is coming.

Do you have a twitter handle, blog, or publications you’d like to share?

I have been publishing a few essays of late.  Just Google me and you are liable to find them.

Anything else you’d like us to know about you?

I sit on the school board for the Rivendell Interstate School District, the best kept secret in the Upper Valley. We are building something truly special there. Any extra time I have in my life amidst my job, four kids, a 150 year old house, 13 acres of brush and trouble, and a small flock of sheep, I put into thinking, reading, or doing something about education in this country.  It is the most important thing we do as a society.  With a well-educated populace, we can solve the rest.

The IT Help Desk: A Computer’s Trip to the Doctor’s Office


By Hoi Wong ’17

Since I started working at the IT Help Desk, a computer no longer looks like an object to me. Computers are like human beings, needing maintenance and good care. A trip to the IT Desk is a trip to the doctor’s office, minus the blood.

Like those my age, I have grown up surrounded by technology. I started using computers when I was five years old, back when people slowly switched from Windows 98 to Windows 2000. I remember the days of constant buffering and inescapable frozen desktops.

In my family, I am known as the one to fix…or break computers. I was either praised for helping solve a computer problem, or blamed for the problem itself, like the time I got a virus by installing antivirus, but thanks to improvements to computers, those are issues of the past.

I am not your typical computer wiz. I do not know how computers work, and neither do I know why certain fixes work. I can’t give you a list of command prompts and neither can I tell you what a computer’s keychain does, but by virtue of being a life-long consumer of technology, computers have just somehow clicked for me. Computers are designed for consumers; three desktops and three laptops later, I may well be the definition of the typical computer consumer.

Coming into the IT Desk, I had little background in the “behind-the-scenes” work of computers. Hesitant, I went into the job with only the experience of being a user and not a fixer. I have always been the patient, and rarely ever the doctor. As the computers started trickling in to the doctor’s office, though, I noticed many had the same symptoms and illnesses. Like the common cold, helping someone connect onto Dartmouth Secure was as routine as clockwork.

Similar to health issues, there are two types of computer problems: those that arise from poor maintenance and care and those that come from sheer bad luck. Like cancer, a broken piece of hardware on a computer is sometimes inevitable and happens only to a small subset of the population. For such cases, the only treatment we can provide is damage control; we back up the client’s data and let the Dartmouth Computer Store, which takes care of hardware issues, do the surgery.

On the flipside, most of the issues we face come from poor treatment and care of the computers. A cluttered desktop and an occasional drop of the machine are grounds for both hardware and software failure. By simply deleting unnecessary files, regularly installing updates, and turning off the computer daily, it is amazing how one can turn a slow, buggy device, into a near mint condition piece of effective hardware.

I often recommend our clients to treat their computers as they would their own bodies: turn off the computer because it needs rest just like us and install antivirus just as we would receive vaccines.

Through working at the IT desk, I have learned to take better care of my own computer and to view it as an extension of myself, requiring just as much care and maintenance.

Hoi Wong

Hoi Wong is a rising Sophomore (’17) from Southern California planning to major in Economics and minor in Psychology. He began working at the IT Help Desk in February and is an Apple enthusiast. He most enjoys fixing issues with Mac computers and helping clients better make use of and take care of their computers.

Web Services Launches Six New Sites

When landing on Dartmouth’s departmental websites, it’s easy to just visit, find the information you need, and give no further thought to how that information got there. But there’s actually a lot of teamwork that goes into building a site.

The Project

As part of Dartmouth’s Website Redesign project, the College selected a new digital publishing system (also known as a content management system or CMS) and is in the process of transitioning from one system to another. The complete conversion requires moving 200 websites over the course of two years. According to Web Services Director Susan Lee, the project is “a huge overhaul of our web presence,” since each site must be completely cleaned up and rebuilt in the new system.

So far, Web Services has launched 16 of the 30 academic sites it manages, is working on five more, and hopes to move all academic sites into the new system by the end of fall term 2014. After that, the team will take on the College’s various centers and administrative sites, of which there are over 100 (see the full list of sites). Because of the length of migration, the Web Services team is performing a “visual refresh” on all assigned sites, including those awaiting transition, to improve appearance and make them mobile-friendly.

In March and April 2014, Web Services launched six new sites:

The Process

For each site they build, Web Services members meet with departmental faculty and staff to determine text and images and to plan how the site will be updated with new content once the initial build is complete.

The Department of History site is one of six Drupal sites launched in recent weeks.

The Department of History site is one of six Drupal sites launched in recent weeks.

The redesign process begins with a kick-off meeting in which the Web Services team explains the project to an academic department and provides guidance on the organizational structure (the information architecture, IA), for a new site. From there, the team adjusts the architecture, builds the site, and migrates the content from the old CMS to the new one. Several meetings take place, including an internal review within Web Services and consultations with the department. Once the entire team agrees a site is ready to launch, Web Services schedules a training session to show the department’s chosen site editors how to keep the site up to date.

Case Study

Like other Dartmouth site editors, Judy Danna, the sociology department’s administrator, was already managing web content for her department using the previous digital publishing system. At first, Danna says, it took a while to acquire the mindset for a new website, but she finds the new CMS  “very dynamic” and more interactive than the old site editing process.

“The new website design provides opportunities for a more active presence from the site editor to keep it lively,” she says. “Realizing that now, I think this aspect is what makes it fun to work on. It’s satisfying to try to give the site lots of eye appeal, in terms of both attractive photographs and succinct wording that will hopefully have just enough information to grab the reader and make him or her want to explore the site more fully.”

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Administrator Judy Danna is the site editor for the Department of Sociology.

For content changes in areas such as personnel, publications, research, and course offerings, Danna finds it important to update the information promptly.

“I ask the faculty at the start of each term to pass on any news that might be featured,” she says. Student worker Morgan Matthews checks the Dartmouth College website weekly for upcoming events that might be pertinent to the website’s readers, and Danna curates and posts them as appropriate.

Danna found the Web Services team enjoyable to work with.

“There was lots of communication throughout the process and good support,” she says. “In addition to all the behind-the-scenes development work invisible at our end and done by them, there were several onsite  training sessions here with User Experience Designer Ben Morgan as lead. He explained things clearly, and was very patient and quick to answer follow-up emails. Content Strategist Sarah Maxell Crosby also made several site visits to the department.  We also had contacts with Oliver Ghingold [Web Designer/Producer], Susan Lee [Director of Web Services] and Rick Nadler [Web Support Specialist].  Thanks to all for the hard work that made it happen!”