Finding the Power, Finding the Point: Using Technology for Engagement & Retention

Presenter:  Mike Robertson, IsThisMikeOn?

One of Mike’s favorite quotes is:  “Life is a Banquet, and Most Poor Suckers are Starving to Death”

Technology is ubiquitous, it’s the first thing and last things most of us touch every single day.  We often treat tech like a light switch or a button that’s either on or off.  However, it’s a tool.  A tool is something we can use to make our lives better!  Tech can bring light, yes…but it can also bring enlightenment.

Edison invented the motion picture, but didn’t see the value of it.  Hollywood exists because people didn’t want to pay Edison royalties for using his technology.

Mark Twain:  “the difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between the lightning and the lightning bug.”

We’re in the business of transmitting enlightenment.  Presentation is supremely important:  PowerPoint is an unfortunate software title.  Most presentations don’t stick or engage because most of them have no power and no point!  Your presentations should be used to convey deep meaning and be beautiful.

Get with the program!

  • Delve into your presentation program and learn everything about it
  • Try setting animation and transition effects at their longest intervals to make slides memorable
  • Use good fonts, NOT ALL OF THEM.  Fonts should support the meaning you’re trying to convey.
  • All caps is good for just a few words; lower case is easier to interpret
  • Never use all caps with a script or calligraphy font
  • Bump up the contrast
  • Shared a type masking technique
  • Backgrounds:  do Google search for textures, i.e. rust, cork, moss, aluminum, concrete, wood, etc.  Example:  felt background with billiard balls as bullets.  This is memorable!
  • Use layers creatively
  • Use frames to highlight important things and focus attention (TCM billboard, yellow bricks for a Wizard of Oz presentation, M&Ms, add link to your web site, etc.)
  • Make your slides work for you

The Really Cool Stuff

  • Animation with .gif files:  changing backgrounds
  • Monty Python pointing finger
  • Stand in a white circle on a black background as a spotlight
  • Smack the screen and use letter dropping animation (timing is important!) to simulate physical interaction with your slides
  • Play with color saturation

QUOTE:  don’t show your audience a wall of text, show them a brick and teach them to build a wall

Make your slides echo your voice.


On the Horizon: Trends, Challenges & Emerging Technologies in Higher Education

This is my first post from the CSUN 2015 Annual Technology Fair, held on Thursday, May 28 in the Grand Salon in the CSUN University Student Union

Introduction by Hilary Baker, CIO at CSUN

Hilary’s introduction to the event was followed by a video of the AppJam competition recently held at CSUN (tag line:  “Think Fast, Win Big”).  There were two competition categories: Student Finances, the winner of which was uCarpool.  uCarpool is an app that matches students with other students to find and take advantage of carpooling.  The other category was Student Life, the winning entry of which was Matador Patrol.  Matador Patrol is way for students to request a safety escort on campus.

We have New Media Consortium to talk about tech trends, and will also talk about student retention.  We also have a number of vendors here, and we invite you meet with them.

Ben Quillian, AVP for Central IT introduced first speakers

Presentation:  “On the Horizon” Trends, Challenges & Emerging Technologies in Higher Education



Key Trends Accelerating Educational Tech Adoption

One of the key questions we ask in the report is how long do we need to be concerned about these things?  We break that into three categories:

  • Long term:  advancing cultures of change and innovation (i.e. start-up mentality, fail fast
  • Mid-term:  Growing focus on measuring learning
  • Short-term:  Increasing use of blended learning

What Positive Trends are you Seeing at CSUN + How Can They Be Accelerated?

Significant Challenges Impeding Education Technology Adoption

Moving to the “dark side,” here are the challenges the higher education vertical faces:

  • Solvable:  blending formal + informal training.   Lifelong learning Festival Cork Institute of Technology,  In this festival, students drive the ownership of the educational documentation process.
  • Difficult:  teaching complex thinking andimproving digital literacy.  Data specialists needed!  Rochester Institute of Technology,
  • Wicked:  Competing Models of Education.  Minerva University,

Question:  What are some potential solutions to these challenges?  Dream Big!

Important Trends

Developments in technology you should be aware of

  • Near-term:  1 yr or less; byod
  • Mid-term:  2-3 yrs; maker spaces, Grand Valley State University,; The Garage at USC, (VCs come to look at student creative projects)
  • Far-term: 4-5 yrs; wearable technology in nutrition and education (i.e. Apple watch).  What does this mean for education?  Quantifiable self movement and possibly language learning.  Embedded disposable sensors – UCSD; Fitbit & Jawbone up; Adaptive Learning Technologies:  Mooculus at The Ohio State University (which uses a hidden Markov model)

Question:  How could these developments in edtech support increased student retention and graduation rates?

Audience Questions

What are universities doing with ePortfolios?  Buying, building, using freely available products?  We see people using free tools like WordPress or SquareSpace, behance, etc.

What’s your position with respect to intellectual property rights, specifically for student-created IP?  It’s a big issue for educators, because students are often re-using materials in their own projects.  Students need to understand how this all works.

What’s your advice for people with children in this new world?  Digital Literacy is important!  Teach them what they need to know to be effective in this new world

How do we avoid design obsolescence?  We need to train data scientists how to deal with this.  A lot of work is being done with this in the digital art space, especially around preservation of the artist’s intent, longevity, etc.

How do we deal with scale?  There’s a big gap between maker spaces and web-scale projects.  Spaces should probably use public resources to help guide projects from nascent to global scales.

What are some things CSUN is doing?

  • Virtual Classroom (special education)
  • Embedding Universal Design (special education)
  • Creative Media Studio (Library)
  • “Flipping the Flipped Classroom”


2015 Kurogo Conference Mega Post

This post is the culmination of all the live blog posts I made at the 2015 Kurogo Higher Education Conference…a practice I have that I like to call a “MEGA POST.”  Like any other conference I attend, I make it a point to document the sessions I attend.  This keeps me engaged at all times (often difficult in post-lunch sessions), gives me notes I can refer to later on, and provides a source of information for others who could not attend.

If there’s anything I took away from this conference, it’s that higher education institutions have EXACTLY the same kinds of needs.  The differences between solutions are simply variations on a theme.  Whether it’s transactions like course selection and tuition payments, MarCom needs like campus tours and micro sites for alums, or student life needs like safety escorts, the needs are the same.  Only the implementations differ.  What differentiates the Kurogo platform is that it’s open source, and campuses are actively contributing to it.  A great example of this is was Matt Willmore’s announcement of Notre Dame’s contribution of several open-source modules to the Kurogo community (see my post on Student/Citizen Development with the Kurogo Platform below).  This is a welcome gift to the community, and should be encouraged.  By the way, Notre Dame was a wonderful host…thanks Matt!

With that, here’s my list of posts.  I hope you find them useful.

Monday, April 27

Tuesday, April 28


Student/Citizen Development with the Kurogo Platform


  • Matt Willmore, Mobile App Program Manager, University of Notre Dame
  • Nikita Shamdasani, UNC Chapel Hill
  • Kyle Koser, University of Notre Dame
  • Zach Waterson, University of Notre Dame

This presentation showcases some of the work that has been done by students with the Kurogo platform.


  • Collaboration between 3 students and ITS at UNC
  • Student-driven intiative created through collaboration with ITS
  • Mobile app team has continued to work with Modo Labs for actual app dev, University departments and other campus stakeholders.

Step 1 – Gather Feedback

  • Student priorities listed in focus groups, a kind of “dream list”:  account services, news, maps, notifications, social media, sports, building info, student info and resources

Step 2 – Research other university apps

  • Developed sense of feasibility by using other apps for comparison:  Harvard, MIT, Ohio State, Stanford, Notre Dame, Princeton, Georgetown
  • I looked for partners, specifically a developer who could explain things in layman’s terms without being condescending, a designer and a project manager

Step 3 – Development of App

  • Student government special project
  • Independent project with Carolina Creates
  • Collaboration between CarolinaGO team and ITS

Our Choice to Use Kurogo

  • Free Android iPhone versions
  • Future development opportunities
  • Sustainable trajectory

Step 4 – App Release

  • Soft launch in October of 2014
  • Modules:  emergency alerts, calendar, dining, athletics, campus map, video, news, virtual pit


  • Maintaining consistency in app framework:  differences in backends among departments
  • Integrating student priorities:  having services like Sakai on app was important in focus groups, but do not always have capability to integrate
  • Expanding app while keeping UX simple:  expanding offerings important, but have to figure out best categorization for main page of app

Past Semester’s Tasks

  • Lots of collaboration with interested groups

Notre Dame Past, Present, Future

  • Missing 4 modules:  weather, webcams, OIT, lab finder
  • What to do?  Grab some students!
  • Told students:  focus 100% of your efforts on learning Kurogo, it’s all PHP (we don’t know PHP).  OK, learn PHP first, then learn Kurogo.
  • Worked with another student to develop Mobile Printing – student-coded, OIT-owned
  • Based on Print@CU (



  • Keep momentum going
  • Other needs, including & beyond Kurogo
  • Need to strike a balance between student dev and university needs
  • Governance!
  • Working on a strategy to connect departments needing development with students wanting to develop
  • Projects would be hosted in “civilian” AWS account that ND owns and provisions resources for
  • Participating departments agree that OIT is NOT responsible for issues
  • High-reward, low-risk modules
  • What happens when students leave?  Document, break work into scheduled segments (semesters/terms/etc.), don’t forget the high-reward/low-risk balance.
  • Departmental Publisher modules (commencement, admissions, etc.)
  • We build it and give it to the customer, or give them the keys from the start
  • Continued engagement & consulting to ensure info is accurate, timely and makes the best use of the template

We LOVE Open Source and Kurogo!

  • We’re open sourcing all student-developed Kurogo modules:  weather, webcams, transit (ride request & shuttle schedules), transit backend.
  • MIT license (do whatever you want with it)
  • Available via Modo Labs package channel


Kurogo Publisher Power!

Presenter:  Eric Kim, VP User Experience, Modo Labs, @huafi

What is Publisher?

  • Browser based page assembly tool
  • gives non-devs an easy fast way to assemble mobile-optimized content and nav
  • Power to publish instantly to multiple mobile platforms, including native iOS and Android apps without IT deployments or app-store re-submissions.

Publisher Templates

  • Newspaper:  navigation-centric, best for highly visual presentation of 3-6 primary plush optional 2-6 secondary nav items.  Layout for both portrait and landscape.
  • Big Idea:  nav-centric, works best for highly visual presentation of 1 primary call to action.
  • Card Navigation:  content as nav, mix curated and feed-based content, content in cards in various sizes, card can contain either curated content of image/text.  Can be highly designed / customized with lots of formatting options.
  • List Navigation:  nav-centric, highly visual for 4+ nav items, nav items shown in a vertical list.  Can do interesting layer effects with this template.
  • Spectra:  nav-centric, highly visual presentation of 4+ nav items, touch-appropriate design that not everyone likes.
  • Springboard:  nav-centric, space-efficient, 8+ nav items, shown in grid of images (often icons) with text labels, below hero section and/or text intro
  • Content:  meat-and-potatoes of most publisher module, text-based content, optional hero image, sidebar, and top or bottom-block.
  • Longform:  completely modular approach, build a page from any combo of content blocks, 11 content block types (hero, heading, text/HTML, pull quote, image, HD image, video, Twitter, FB, feature box, links block, many more coming – table, gallery, map, lead generation, carousel feeds, social, etc.), optional inset (“responsive margins”) = greater flexibility in layout and function.


  • Showed a site-within-a-site that contained pages with most every element available within each template.

You’ve Got the Power

  • Combine curated + dynamic content + navigation
  • Assemble app-type experiences
  • Delegate admin roles
  • Iterate quickly
  • Create timely destinations to keep users coming back
  • Experiment, prototype, combine
  • Have fun!


Continuing Adventures in Higher Ed & Technology