SJSU Hosts 2013 Cyber Quests Preparatory Day Camp

SJSU Hosts Cyber Quests Day Camp

SJSU Hosts 2013 Cyber Quests Preparatory Day Camp

Participants of the day camp will learn key skills required to score well in the April 2013 Cyber Quests Qualification Competition (Robert Bain photo).

Contacts for reporters:
Rudy Pamintuan, USCC Media Relations, 312-961-4710
Pat Lopes Harris, SJSU Media Relations, 408-656-6999

The U.S. Cyber Challenge has announced the date and details of the 2013 Cyber Quests Preparatory Day Camp. The day camp will take place on Saturday, April 6 at San Jose State University beginning at 9 a.m. and concluding at 5 p.m. To learn more information and register for the 2013 Cyber Quests Preparatory Day Camp, visit

“As the largest public university serving Silicon Valley, San Jose State must take the lead in providing students with opportunities to become immersed in cyber security, a top international issue,” said SJSU President Mohammad Qayoumi. “San Jose State is pleased to collaborate with the U.S. Cyber Challenge to develop programs attracting the brightest minds to one of the most critical emerging fields of our time.”

Participants of the day camp will learn key skills required to score well in the April 2013 Cyber Quests Qualification Competition. Presentations may include introductions to Wireshark and web application and database security, securing network services, network discovery methods and a host of other topics. Sponsors of the 2013 Cyber Quests Preparatory Day Camp include Visa and the Bay Area Council.

“We are very proud to host our first Cyber Quests Preparatory Day Camp,” stated Karen S. Evans, National Director of U.S. Cyber Challenge. “We believe that equipping students with the knowledge and skills to do well in the Cyber Quests online competition will lead to more students being invited to our Summer Cyber Camps and ultimately exponential growth in the capacity of our professional workforce in cyber security.”

Participants are required to be 18 years or older. There are no specific credentials or skills required to attend the day camp, although camp content will be quite technical and will require some background in computer science. Admission is free, but spots are limited. Therefore, it is suggested to register as soon as possible before the camp is filled to capacity.

Cyber Quests is an online cybersecurity competition operated by Cyber Aces. Top scorers earn an invitation to the U.S. Cyber Challenge Western Regional Summer Cyber Camp to be held at SJSU in August 2013. The Cyber Quests competition will open on April 16 and end on April 30. Registration begins on March 29. To register, visit

About San Jose State University

San Jose State – Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 30,500 students and 3,850 employees – is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.

About U.S. Cyber Challenge

The mission of the U.S. Cyber Challenge (USCC) is to significantly reduce the shortage in the cyber workforce by serving as the premier program to identify, attract, recruit and place the next generation of cybersecurity professionals. USCC’s goal is to find 10,000 of America’s best and brightest to fill the ranks of cybersecurity professionals where their skills can be of the greatest value to the nation.

About the National Board of Information Security Examiners

The mission of the National Board of Information Security Examiners (NBISE) is to increase the security of information networks, computing systems, and industrial and military technology by improving the potential and performance of the cyber security workforce.

About CyberAces

The mission of CyberAces is to identify, enable and encourage young Americans with high aptitude for technical achievement in information security to discover their talents, develop their passion, and determine where their talent can be nurtured so they can make a major contribution to the physical and economic security of the US and its enterprises.The CyberAces foundation achieves its mission by offering challenging and realistic cybersecurity competitions, training camps and educational initiatives through which high school, college students and young professionals develop the practical skills needed to excel as cybersecurity practitioners and to become highly valued citizen-technologists.

SJSU Launches Battery U.

SJSU and CalCharge Launch Battery U.

SJSU Launches Battery U.

There are roughly 40 battery-related companies in California, all working to solve energy storage challenges that are critical to the electric vehicle sector, the solar sector, the wind sector, consumer electronics and more.

New Battery University Program to Train Workforce to Lead Fast-Growing Industry

San Jose State University, CalCharge Launch New Continuing Education Program

Contact for Prospective Students:
Professor Ahmed Hambaba, SJSU, 408-924-3959

Contacts for Members of the Media:
BreAnda Northcutt, CalCharge, 916-446-1955
Sarah Golden, CalCharge, 415-453-0430
Pat Lopes Harris, SJSU, 408-656-6999

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Feb. 12, 2013 – CalCharge, an energy storage innovation accelerator, and San Jose State University, the number one supplier of college graduates to Silicon Valley, are teaming up to launch a “battery university” in the high-tech capital of the world.

“As an institution of higher education, we know the challenges in meeting the workplace demand for trained personnel in this rapidly growing and changing field,” said SJSU Vice President for University Advancement Rebecca Dukes. “For this reason, we are very pleased to be partnering with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and CalCharge to meet this critical need of California’s clean energy ecosystem.”

Professional Education

Battery university courses—to be offered through SJSU’s professional education program—will educate a specialty workforce needed now for the rapidly growing battery industry. Classes are expected to start this summer in partnership with SJSU’s Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering, which sends more engineering professionals to Silicon Valley than any other university.

Leading scientists, entrepreneurs, industry and policy experts are meeting tonight to provide feedback on the vision and proposed curriculum.

“The fast-emerging energy storage industry is key to the continuing success of the multi-billion dollar global clean energy economy,” said Jeffrey Anderson, interim executive director of CalCharge. “Ceding this important sector to another country would be a tragic and short sighted mistake.”

Currently, most battery manufacturing takes place in China. However, there are roughly 40 battery-related companies in California—working to solve energy storage challenges that are critical to the electric vehicle sector, the solar sector, the wind sector, consumer electronics and more.

Venture Capital Leader

“California is both a patent and a venture capital leader in the battery sector in the United States, but we cannot rest on our laurels,” said Venkat Srinivasan, head of the Energy Storage and Distributed Resources groups at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “Our sector is developing at such a rapid clip that if we want to maintain our leadership position, we must constantly innovate—and we need the top minds to do so.”

Today’s battery university launch event and briefing on the state of the California energy storage industry starts 6:30 p.m. Feb. 12 at the SJSU Network Meeting Center, 5201 Great America Parkway, Santa Clara. Doors open at 6 p.m. for a special State of the Union watch party before the official event begins.

Highlighting the importance of tonight’s event, former Sen. Jeff Bingaman, the longtime chair of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee and a major champion of clean energy, will be on hand in one of his first appearances since leaving office a few weeks ago.

The event is open to the press and public and free of change.

About CalCharge

CalCharge is a partnership of CalCEF and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. CalCharge will bring together emerging and established California companies, academic and research institutions, government bodies, and financing sources to jumpstart a new era of energy storage technologies for the electric/hybrid vehicle, grid, and consumer electronics markets.

About San Jose State University

San Jose State University is the number one supplier of education, engineering, computer science and business graduates to Silicon Valley, the world’s high tech capital. SJSU is ranked in the top 15 master’s-level public universities in the West by U.S. News and World Report. San Jose State’s Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering also received top marks, ranking third in the nation among public engineering programs offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees, excluding service academies.

About Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory  addresses the world’s most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab’s scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

About CalCEF

CalCEF works to promote the transition to a clean energy economy by creating institutions and investment vehicles that grow markets for clean energy technologies. CalCEF is a non-profit umbrella organization that pursues statewide and national agendas via 1) CalCEF Innovations, a 501(c)(3) that leads CalCEF’s analysis and product development efforts; 2) CalCEF Ventures, a 501(c)(4) that executes and scales the CalCEF investment strategy via a fund-of-funds model, partnering with leading investment managers; and 3) CalCEF Catalyst, a 501(c)(6) a platform for the creation of replicable models for “demand driven innovation” requiring the sustained collective action of stakeholders from across the clean energy sector.

Art Students Introduce PechaKucha

Graduate Art Students Try "PechaKucha"

Originating in Tokyo, where this photo was taken, PechaKucha Night is a global network of informal gatherings where creative people share their ideas and works in a simple presentation format: 20 images discussed for 20 seconds each (photo courtesy of

Contact: Sieglinde Van Damme, SJSU PechaKucha Night publicist

SAN JOSE, CA – Eighteen San Jose State University students, graduating this spring with a master of fine arts degree, will host a PechaKucha Night to introduce themselves and their artwork to the public at a new downtown San Jose venue, Cafe Stritch, on Feb. 27. SJSU’s PechaKucha Night will provide a glimpse into the technical and visual research and creative production that each artist has pursued while at SJSU.

PechaKucha Night is a global network of informal gatherings where creative people share their ideas and works in a simple presentation format: 20 images, discussed for 20 seconds each. Christian L. Frock, an independent writer and curator who is designing the Lift Off 2013 MFA Art Exhibit for SJSU, to be held in May at the Art Ark Gallery in San Jose, suggested the PKN format as a fun and informative way for the students to give her an introductory overview of their art.

“I am not aware of any art colleges conducting a PechaKucha Night for the general community to meet their graduates. This is a special opportunity for the public to get a cross section of fresh talent out of the South Bay,” said Frock. “It will offer a composite image of San Jose State University’s singular art program and its influences. We anticipate a great evening of contemporary art and ideas,” she added.

The participating students represent the Pictorial Art, Spatial Art, Photography and Digital Media Art programs in the Department of Art and Art History. Founded in 1911, the department is one of the largest schools at SJSU with academic instruction and fabrication facilities that attract students worldwide. In 2012, U.S. News and World Report rated the art school as one of the top 100 MFA visual arts programs in the country.

The participants are Ara Ahadi, Armine Sargsyan, Avery Palmer, Barbara Boissevain, David Kempken, Esteban Salazar, Gloria Huet, Jacqueline Donecho, Jeffrey Opp, Jennifer Groft, Jonathan Huang, Kat McKinnon, Lan Liu, Marianne Lettieri, Meiru Huang, Sieglinde Van Damme, Wesley Wright and Yvonne Escalante.

Christian L. Frock is the director of Invisible Venue, an independent curatorial enterprise she founded in 2005 that collaborates with artists to present art in the public realm. She is a regular contributor to KQED Arts, Art Practical, San Francisco Arts Monthly and Art ltd. Frock has a master’s degree from Goldsmiths College, University of London.

This event will be the first collaboration of PKN San Jose with Steven Borkenhagen and his new restaurant and performance space, Cafe Stritch (formerly Eulipa Restaurant).

The SJSU PechaKucha Night will be held 6:30 p.m. Feb. 27, 2013 at Cafe Stritch, 374 S. First St., San Jose. Admission is free.


Young Entrepreneurs Showcase Ideas

Students Showcase Biz Ideas

Young Entrepreneurs Showcase Ideas

Business majors Vanissa Hernandez, Sandhya Kodippily and Danny Vongkhamchah won third place in the Elevator Pitch competition (Robert Bain photo).

The Student Union was buzzing with confidence Dec. 6 as students rivaled for top prizes at the 2012 Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge.

Only the cream of the crop made it to the poster and elevator pitch competitions this year because all entrants were pre-screened online.

“Through the use of social media, we were able to build a community of 1,200 members from all over the world,” Silicon Valley Center for Entrepreneurship Director Anu Basu said.

Judges selected forty-seven finalists from more than 250 submissions from all seven SJSU colleges and, for the very first time, West Valley College and Mission College.

Cash Prizes

Cash prizes ranged from $1,500 for Best Innovative Idea to $500 for the top elevator pitch. Partners and sponsors include Bridge Bank, Cisco, TechShop and Signature Building Maintenance.

Many entrants focused on highly technical topics, such as Brandon Schlinker, Stephanie Fung and Phil Cyrthe, who took the top prize with “Smart Bulb,” a lighting system that adapts to your needs.

But among the ideas wowing the poster session’s 400 attendees and judges was third place elevator pitch winner “Froyotini.” You got that right — it’s a combination of frozen yogurt and your favorite mixed drink, plus toppings.

Business majors Vanissa Hernandez, Sandhya Kodippily and Danny Vongkhamchah pitched the idea, which was of course an instant hit with the student crowd.

“We brought a lot of color and glitz and glam and we do appeal to Generation Y through the Las Vegas beauty and glamor,” Hernandez said.

Practical Thinking

To help students outsmart bike thieves, economics major Roy Vera came up with MyCycle, which uses NFC (Near Field Communications).

The bike only works when the owner’s in the saddle, carrying a special device embedded in many cell phones that communicates with a receiver in the bike itself, unlocking the chain and wheels.

So a thief can take the bike, but can’t peddle away without the phone that goes with it. Vera received a “special mention” from judges for his idea.

View a complete list of this year’s Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge winners.


Governor Helps Launch SJSU Plus

Top elected and higher education officials joined Silicon Valley’s leading entrepreneurs at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library on Jan. 15 for the advent of a groundbreaking partnership aimed at bridging public higher education with a promising Silicon Valley startup.

Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. spoke at the event about the long-term potential for San Jose State Plus before SJSU President Mohammad Qayoumi and Udacity Inc. CEO and Co-Founder Sebastian Thrun signed the official agreement.

In his first public appearance at SJSU, recently appointed California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White provided a systemwide perspective on the announcement and online education. Silicon Valley entrepreneur Marc Andreessen attended to lend his support.

SJSU community members joined the media and officials to participate in a rigorous question and answer session including Brown, Qayoumi, Thrun, White and SJSU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ellen Junn.

Read the full news release about today’s announcement. View a recording of the news conference and join the conversation about #SJSUPlus on Twitter.




"(In)security" Art Assesses 9/11's Impact

“(In)security” Art Assesses 9/11’s Impact


"(In)security" Art Assesses 9/11's Impact

Michele Pred with her piece, Fear Culture 2 (photo courtesy of Art Animal).

Jo Farb Hernandez, Director of the Natalie and James Thompson Art Gallery and a Professor of Department of Art and Art History who specializes in outsider art, has brought to campus an artist with a unique perspective on the World Trade Center attacks.

“If anthropologists were to assess items representing the aftermath of September 11, 2001, they might include the piles of random materials left behind at airport security checkpoints across the country,” writes blogger Elizabeth Coleman.

“For over 12 years, conceptual installation artist Michele Pred has been an anthropologist of sorts, gathering items like lighters, matchbooks, sewing scissors and pocket knives that were confiscated at the security checkpoints at San Francisco International Airport.”

In her newest exhibit, “(In)security,” on display at the Thompson Gallery through Dec. 14, “Pred uses these items to visually represent how our lives have been impacted in unexpected ways since 9/11 … By placing the confiscated items together in recognizable shapes such as a heart or the red, white and blue of the American flag, Pred brings new meaning to the material.” Read more from the Art Animal blog.

7x7SF: Urban and Regional Planning Lecturer Ranks Among the City's Top Thought Leaders

Urban & Regional Planning Professor Seeks to Save Ocean Beach

San Francisco-based magazine 7×7 recently posted its annual Hot 30 list. Among those featured was Benjamin Grant, a lecturer in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning who also serves as San Francisco Planning + Urban Research Association (SPUR) 
program manager and Ocean Beach Master Plan architect.

Leilani Marie Labong writes, “It’s Indian summer in San Francisco, and temperatures are on the rise. As are the local luminaries in our annual Hot 20, er . . . Hot 30. That’s right. We were so impressed by the crop of talent and brains moving the needle this year—in fields as diverse as technology, music, education, sports, and arts—that we added 10 bright stars to our list…

“Oakland resident Benjamin Grant has devoted the past two years of his career at SPUR to preparing a roadmap for the inevitable: sea-level rise at Ocean Beach, thanks to that leading culprit of environmental havoc, global warming. ‘Ocean Beach isn’t just a piece of infrastructure that needs to be armored,’ says Grant, who holds a master’s degree in city planning from UC Berkeley. ‘It’s also a national park, a sensitive habitat, and a beloved landscape for the people of San Francisco.’

“The Ocean Beach Master Plan’s approach sets it apart from other urban-design initiatives with six key moves—from native sand-dune restoration to bicycle and pedestrian upgrades north of Balboa Street—to improve and protect the beach. ‘When it comes to climate change, we can’t put our heads in the sand,’ says Grant, whose recent venture into fatherhood deepens his motives. ‘We need to get ahead of it to create the best future possible for Ocean Beach.'”



"New Media Visionaries" Series

“New Media Visionaries” Series

"New Media Visionaries"

Bruce Carlisle

In a move to help students and faculty members keep pace with the ever changing communications landscape, the School of Journalism and Mass Communications has introduced a “New Media Visionaries” speaker series.

Next up will be Bruce Carlisle, CEO and founder of Conference Hound and Digital Axl. He will speak at 6 p.m. Oct. 23 in Engineering 189. Carlisle will discuss how the rise of interactivity and content has changed the distribution landscape, and he will offer insight into where he thinks new media might be going next.

Residing near San Francisco, Carlisle is a pioneer in the digital advertising world. He graduated from St. Lawrence University in 1978. Carlisle worked at ad agencies for 13 years in New York and then moved to Washington, D.C., to start a marketing services agency.

In 1996, he moved to the West Coast and launched SF Interactive, one of the first digital ad agencies which became Digital Axl. Now he is focusing on Conference Hound, a company that has helped business professionals organize over 100,000 business conferences.

Learning from entrepreneurs

The “New Media Visionaries” lecture series, a project of the graduate students in the Journalism 215 course of the same name, is in the middle of its first season and it is already receiving good reviews from audiences.

“The School of Journalism and Mass Communications relaunched its graduate program this fall with an emphasis on emerging technologies and new media storytelling,” said Assistant Professor for New Media Kim Komenich. “I geared the visionaries toward learning first-hand about what it takes to bring an interactive product to market in the mobile communications world.”

In an effort to define itself, the class met backstage with “City Arts and Lectures” founder Sydney Goldstein before the taping of the September event at Herbst Theater in San Francisco.

“Ms. Goldstein has been running her lecture series, which is broadcast weekly on 170 NPR stations, for 30 years,” Komenich said. “I distinctly got the feeling she thought we were a bit niave, a bit ambitious, and a bit nuts.
Students have told me that the most valuable bit of advice Sydney gave us proved to be to somehow make personal contact with your speaker.”

Calling on mentors

At the beginning of the semester Komenich grouped the students and assigned six topics related to developing an interactive product–ideation/entrepreneurship, venture capital, interactive project management, interactive design, development for interactivity, and marketing– and told them to find the most cutting-edge speakers for each topic.

“I asked them to make cold-calls,” Komenich said. “My experience as a SJSU student in the 70’s was that the more successful a person was, the better they understood their responsibility to teach and mentor students who call for help.”

It worked. The lecture series opened on Sept. 25 with an historical overview by Silicon Valley historian Piero Scaruffi, followed on Oct. 9 by an entrepreneurship lecture by Catalog Spree CEO Joaquin Ruiz, and an interactive design lecture by Element 8’s Allan Enemark.

Follow “New Media Visionaries.”

SJSU Showcases Flipped Class

SAN JOSE, CASan Jose State University invited members of the media Oct. 18 to experience a collaboration with edX, the transformational new online educational initiative founded by MIT and Harvard, resulting in SJSU’s first “flipped class.” View a video of the news conference.

Preliminary results described in The Chronicle of Higher Education suggest this class, which is using an electrical engineering MOOC (the MITx 6.002x Circuits and Electronics Massively Online Open Course), may be an effective way to reinvent and transform the academic experience of electrical engineering students.

“Public higher education needs a new teaching model,” SJSU President Mohammad Qayoumi said. “Advances in technology, the expansion of online learning and the needs and expectations of tech-savvy students are changing the role of colleges and universities.”

EdX Collaboration

SJSU’s innovative effort brought together the not-for-profit edX, which offers interactive education wherever there is Internet access, and the only public university serving Silicon Valley.

SJSU serves 30,000 students, including 4,600 engineering students on the threshold of the world’s leading tech companies including Adobe, Apple and Cisco. U.S. News and World Report recently ranked SJSU’s Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering third in the nation among master’s level public universities excluding service academies.

“Here at San Jose State, in the heart of Silicon Valley, there is so much that is happening in terms of innovation and technology,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ellen Junn. “This is the right time for this institution to really step up and try to utilize some of the new technologies for the purposes of improving student learning.”

This past summer, SJSU faculty members traveled to Cambridge, Mass., to meet and work with the edX team. Their goal was to integrate 6.002x materials into an SJSU course.

SJSU students have been viewing and using online materials as homework, including lectures, quizzes and virtual labs available through the edX platform. Then they go to class to work through problem sets with their instructor, thereby flipping the conventional approach of lectures in class and problem sets at home.

Watching Lectures Anywhere

“The best thing about the class is I can watch the lectures anywhere,” said Jordan Carter, ’14 Mechanical Engineering. “I have watched the videos at my own home. I’ve watched the videos on the light rail train coming to school. It’s really convenient.”

Today, the men and women of SJSU’s first flipped class met their online instructor in person for the first time. The instructor for MITx 6.002x is Anant Agarwal, an MIT professor of electrical engineering and edX President who is capturing the attention of learners worldwide with his engaging, substantive online lectures.

SJSU faculty members and students shared their experiences, including their midterm exam results. These results represent the first-ever, classroom-based preliminary data assessment of the San Jose State University experiment, designed to see if MOOC material can effectively enhance student learning in a for-credit class at a major university.

“We found that midterm exam scores of students in the flipped class were higher than those in the traditional classes,” SJSU Lecturer of Electrical Engineering Khosrow Ghadiri said. “Although the midterm questions were more difficult for the flipped students, their median score was 10 to 11 points higher than those for two other sections of students who took a traditional version of the course.”

SJSU’s Next Generation Initiative

SJSU recently launched a $28 million initiative to upgrade the campus’ information technology infrastructure while supporting faculty efforts to use and apply these next-generation technologies to better support student learning.

This effort is part of an even larger campaign led by SJSU President Mohammad Qayoumi, who argues educational institutions urgently need new approaches to teaching and assessing learning that are personalized, collaborative, engaging and that relate to real-world, 21st-century problems.

Learn more via President Qayoumi’s newly published white paper, “Reinventing Higher Education: A Call to Action.”

San Jose State — Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 30,500 students and 3,850 employees — is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.

SJSU Hosts 21st Century Teaching Symposium

21st Century Teaching Symposium

SJSU Hosts 21st Century Teaching Symposium

“Technology is changing everything, and teaching should be no different. But what stays the same is the learning process: reflection, discussion, and problem solving,” said keynote speaker Candace Thille, director of Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative.

To strengthen the faculty’s interest in next-generation technologies, SJSU hosted the “21st Century Teaching: Opportunities and Incentives” symposium Sept. 24 at King Library.

The one-day workshop focused on using online educational resources to enhance student learning. More than 150 faculty members attended, building on SJSU’s Next Generation Technology Initiative.

“It is so exciting that faculty members want to learn something new to help our students and leverage technology we have here in Silicon Valley,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ellen Junn.

Keynote speaker Candace Thille, professor and director of the Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University, discussed developing better tools for teaching today’s student within an open-source learning environment.

“There is a great diversity in how well prepared students are and what skills they have to engage [in university life] once they get here,” Thille said.

She also discussed developing goal-directed practices, building fluency in open-source learning environments, and using interactive student data to guide teaching.

“Technology is changing everything, and teaching should be no different,” Thille said. “But what stays the same is the learning process: reflection, discussion, and problem solving.”

After Thille’s address, SJSU faculty members from the colleges of engineering, education, business and social sciences presented existing online education initiatives and the results of these experiences.

Over lunch, faculty members discussed and joined various technology-related Faculty Learning Communities to explore the new teaching landscape with colleagues.

Topics include Affordable Learning Solutions, Big Datalecture capture/video conferencing, and learning and games.

You can view the full symposium here.

SJSU Satellite Launches From International Space Station

SJSU Satellite Launches From International Space Station

SJSU Satellite Launches From International Space Station

With NASA support, a team of SJSU aerospace engineering students worked on a cube satellite called TechEdSat, part of a group of cube satellites that were deployed from the International Space Station, October 4. An Expedition 33 crew member aboard the ISS captured this image of deployment.

Posted by NASA Oct. 4, 2012.

NASA engineers, student interns and amateur radio enthusiasts around the world are listening for signals from a small, cube-shaped satellite launched into orbit from the International Space Station Thursday.

The satellite, dubbed “TechEdSat,” was released at 11:44 a.m. EDT from the new Japanese Small Satellite Orbital Deployer aboard the space station.

TechEdSat measures about 4 inches (10 centimeters) on a side and carries a ham radio transmitter. It was developed by a group of student interns from the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering with mentoring and support from staff at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. TechEdSat arrived at the space station aboard the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle July 21 and the station’s Expedition 33 crew processed it for launch.

“TechEdSat will evaluate plug-and-play technologies, like avionics designed by commercial providers, and will allow a group of very talented aerospace engineering students from San Jose State University to experience a spaceflight project from formulation through decommission of a small spacecraft,” said Ames Director S. Pete Worden.

TechEdSat’s mission showcases collaboration among NASA, academia and industry to set the standard for future endeavors with small satellites known as Cubesats.

TechEdSat is funded by Ames and NASA’s Space Technology Program. The total cost was less than $30,000 because engineers used only commercial off-the-shelf hardware and simplified the design and mission objectives.

Watch an SJSU video profiling a recent graduate who worked on the project. 

For more about TechEdSat, visit SJSU’s site about the mission.

For more about Ames Research Center.

For more information about NASA education programs.

Experimental Class Promotes Interdisciplinary "Big Data"

Class Promotes Interdisciplinary “Big Data”

Experimental Class Promotes Interdisciplinary "Big Data"

CS185C : Introduction to Big Data takes a look at wrangling data that can be used for establishing business trends, tracking infection rates, fighting cyber crime, or even screening potential employees.

This semester, the Department of Computer Science introduced an experimental class that is expected to fill a huge unmet need for businesses to pull together and analyze “Big Data” from their growing databases.

“If you understood some of these techniques and could do this, you would be invaluable, instantly employable, and have a ton of job security,” said Department of Computer Science Chair Jon Pearce.

CS185C: Introduction to Big Data takes a look at wrangling the giant amount of data generated by the explosive growth in online communications to address all sorts of issues including establishing business trends, tracking infection rates, fighting cyber crime, or even screening potential employees.

According to class instructor Peter Zadrozny, with the exception of a few master’s programs back East, no other universities are producing graduates that can read Big Data. The class is expected to turn into a four-course certificate program by next semester and hopefully increase interdisciplinary studies on campus.

“We have the tools, we have the techniques, we have the understanding of how to do big data analytics, but we need other departments to tell us what the problem is,” Zadronzy said.

The focus of the course is hands-on, designed with employers in mind. Students in CS185C work in a real-work environment and on a real network and real cloud, thanks to a collaboration with Cloudera, a data management company. Other sponsors for the class include Splunk and GoGrid.

Academic Tech Officer Seeks to "Capture Peoples’ Imagination"

Picture of Catheryn Cheal, new Senior Academic Technology Officer, wearing a black jacket and light pink dress shirt. Her hair is light blonde, short and feathered.

Associate Vice President and Senior Academic Technology Officer Catheryn Cheal (Robert Bain photo)

As San Jose State embarks on reinventing the classroom experience through its Next Generation initiative, our new Associate Vice President and Senior Academic Technology Officer Catheryn Cheal talked to SJSU Today about her passion and vision for the field.

An expert in classical archaeology, Cheal has extensive experience with academic technology. She was an assistant vice president of e-learning and instructional support at Oakland University, Michigan, and she helped create and direct the Office of Online Instruction at CSU Northridge.

The following was edited for length and clarity.

Our president emphasizes “agility through technology” and “blended learning,” which combines in-person and online classes. Can you tell us what you meant when you said “the efficiencies of online teaching are not as important as the variety of good online pedagogical methods available?”

Certainly you need to choose between the vast amount of software that is out there and adapt to the constantly changing landscape of what is available and what students are interested in and the direction things are going. You need the agility to hop from one thing to the next and to determine how to use it in teaching. One tool might be good for a specific subject matter but not work for another. It varies a great deal as to what people do with it and so we are going to try to provide as much as possible from a central unit in academic technology.

Learning management systems are good at offering different tools within one program. I think teaching hybrid courses means that a university needs to offer an entire suite of tools such as learning management systems with course evaluations, web conferencing systems for synching, virtual worlds such as Second Life, iclickers, and GPS software. With these tools, you improve efficiency and pedagogy. Both are important.

You talk about using discussion boards as a method of teaching. Do people like to teach each other?

People love to teach each other. Just go online in any community. People like to say what they know and they like to ask questions of others to find out things. We can take advantage of that ability among people. The lecture doesn’t take advantage of that in quite the same way. When you have 50 people seated in a room, they all can’t talk at once. It’s just chaotic. The discussion board, which has always been the heart of online teaching, can do that in an orderly fashion that you can’t do in a classroom. Basically what I am trying to find was a way to keep people active and interested in their learning and realize the fun of it. And they get that when they begin to share with one another. There is something about the back and forth that gives people energy.

Tell us about a course you taught online — subject, number of students, methods. What worked? What didn’t?

I started with art history. It was a general art appreciation GE course. It was about 40 students. The method was: do the reading, and then take an online quiz. Then they did a discussion board, activity, or we all got online at the same time and did small group chats. It worked. Everyone got to the same place at the end and they learned just as much as in the classroom. A lot of them felt better about it because they did a lot more one-on-one talking with me. The textbook was useful because students had to go through the textbook to do the online work. There are always things you can refine. And then there are always some technical difficulties gradually over time, but these things worked out. I became very interested in making things very clear and very simple to follow for the student, and that way I got a lot less questions over time.

Tell us about the ideal online course. What’s in it for students? for faculty?

There is not really an ideal because every subject matter has to use different methods and there are a lot of different methods out there. You can do a class that is entirely synchronous-video conferencing that has much the same teaching methods as a live class. Or you can re-conceptualize your lectures as discussion boards, where an interactive discussion board becomes the lecture. Other choices include videos, followed by quizzes. There are many different teaching methods out there. The goal is to be very supportive of the subject and what the faculty member thinks would be the best method. Maybe the ideal is what captures peoples’ attention and imagination and projects that are exciting to do. Real-life projects are usually what engage people; that’s always the ideal I think we’re aiming at.

What is your mandate here at SJSU? What’s the first thing you would like to change?

My mandate here is to initiate a number of different technological implementations. We have a new learning management system called Canvas. We have a new video conferencing system through Cisco called WebEx and a new lecture-capture system called Show and Share, also through WebEx. We are also updating a lot of the hardware in the classrooms to support the new and different technologies. One of the things I want to do is reorganize our web pages to show faculty everything that is available to them. Right now, it is not as clear. We have a lot to offer on campus. I would like to have a unified front for everything that is available so that any faculty member that is new on campus can chose from all of these different possibilities.

SJSU Launches Major Tech Initiative

Media contacts:
Pat Lopes Harris, SJSU Media Relations, 408-656-6999
Andrea Cousens, Cisco Communications, 310-270-8903
Meredith Ehrenberg, Nexus Communications, 949-265-6088

SAN JOSE, CA – As the only large public university in Silicon Valley and as the major source of workforce power for the region’s tech industry, San Jose State University has launched a five-year, $28 million initiative to partner with Cisco and Nexus IS Inc. to upgrade the campus’ information technology infrastructure.

Moreover, San Jose State is supporting faculty in using and applying next generation technologies to better support students’ learning by partnering with corporate neighbors and with other cutting edge educational efforts such as Harvard-MIT-UC Berkeley’s edX and Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning Initiative.

SJSU President Mohammad Qayoumi outlines the long-term potential for this tech initiative in his white paper, “Reinventing Public Higher Education: A Call to Action.”

“The university sits in a position of real opportunity given the double incentive of recent technological advances coupled with the decline in state support for public education,” President Qayoumi said. “Never before in the history of higher education has technology provided such important challenges and opportunities. We must reinvent teaching, learning and educational delivery systems.”

The Next Generation Technology Project reflects “SJSU’s Strategic Plan: Vision 2017,” developed after President Qayoumi’s 49 town hall meetings with students, faculty and staff who collectively identified five distinct campus priority goals including supporting “Unbounded Learning,” “21st Century Learning Spaces” and “Agility Through Technology.”

Students work together in class

These SJSU electrical engineering students are working on problem sets in class after viewing edX lecture videos at home, a concept known as a “flipped class” (Christina Olivas photo).

An Integrated Plan

San Jose State selected Cisco and Nexus to upgrade the campus’ infrastructure in accordance with a fully integrated and comprehensive plan designed to improve the learning experience for students. Plans for the first 18-24 months include the following:

  • SJSU will develop a total of 51 next-generation learning spaces with all the equipment needed to enable high-definition recording, indexing and transcription of lectures and classroom experiences within the next 18 months. Eleven next-generation learning spaces will be completed this fall, with the remaining 40 to be completed by the start of fall 2013.
  • SJSU will make Cisco Show and Share® and TelePresence® available at no cost to all students, faculty and staff within the next 18 months. These services will be fully integrated with audio and video recording equipment in the 51 next-generation learning spaces, providing students with access to classroom experiences, lectures and meetings anytime and anywhere.
  • SJSU has brought Cisco WebEx® web conferencing to the campus community.  WebEx provides access to live lectures inside the 51 next-generation classrooms and beyond, anytime and anywhere faculty members and students connect using cameras on their own computers.
  • SJSU will consolidate phone service from five separate systems into a single Cisco Unified IP Phone system for the entire campus within the next 18 months.
  • SJSU will expand its free, secure wireless Internet service, utilizing Cisco wireless solutions to serve all students, faculty, staff and guests campuswide.

Mindful of the dramatic budget cuts that continue to loom for the state and public higher education, the first year of the project will be funded by proceeds from the sale of San Jose State’s Educational Broadband Service spectrum, facilitated by the Federal Communications Commission to increase educational programming accessible via the Internet. Other funding sources include the ongoing SJSU Information Technology Services office budget, SJSU’s new Student Success, Excellence and Technology Fee, and SJSU’s continuing education program.

Dr. Mohammad Qayoumi

Dr. Mohammad Qayoumi

Supporting Student Learning

The goal is not to replace conventional teaching methods, but build on what we do now in order to enhance student learning and preparation for the workplace. Numerous studies have shown outcomes improve when instructors and students combine traditional and new teaching methods using the latest technology.

For example, “lecture-capture” software and equipment will allow students to review as many times as needed all aspects of a classroom presentation, including slides and whiteboard notes. This could benefit all students on all topics, but will be especially helpful for challenging classes heavy with complex material or for students who speak English as a second language.

“This is a top priority for San Jose State, which seeks to provide access to higher education and professional opportunities for many first-generation Americans in the heart of Silicon Valley, where science, technology, engineering and mathematics are at the core of the industries driving the regional economy,” Qayoumi said.

New Teaching Methodologies

In addition to the IT infrastructure upgrade, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ellen Junn, along with Associate Vice President for Academic Technology Catheryn Cheal, are leading efforts to strategically employ and assess new teaching methodologies with faculty and other key industry leaders such as Adobe to deepen San Jose students’ skills with new technology products and services.

“San Jose State University is uniquely positioned to be pioneers in the use of academic technology because we are the only large, public university located in the heart of Silicon Valley. It has been incredibly gratifying to reach out to the industry leaders in our backyard, and receive such a positive response in terms of partnering with our faculty to develop and use technology to enrich and deepen our students’ learning and skills in the digital world,” Provost Junn said.

Dr. Ellen Junn

Dr. Ellen Junn

“Our graduates go on to become top hires for many of the tech industries here in Silicon Valley,” Junn said. “So, it’s no surprise that San Jose State and our technology partners want to invest more in our students by working closely with our faculty to become cutting edge adopters and forerunners in the use of academic technology to enhance student learning.”

Some of the new programs that will be launched this fall for faculty include the following:

  • Enhancing students’ use of Adobe® Creative Suite® software and digital media.
  • Innovating learning with Apple products such as iPads, iBooks, iTunesU and iMovie.
  • Designing more effective learning experiences for students by creating online, hybrid and flipped (viewing recorded lectures at home so instructors can work with students in class) courses.
  • Implementing lecture capture and video conferencing.
  • Introducing the use of online student writing support tools such as ETS Criterion.
  • Joining with Harvard-MIT-UC Berkeley’s edX initiative and with Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning Initiative.
  • Tracking and measuring student learning with learning analytics and learning dashboards.
  • Utilizing assessment tools such as ETS Major Field Tests and ETS Proficiency Profile to measure student learning outcomes and support institutional reporting.
  • Leveraging game-based resources for student learning.
  • Making educational materials from the KQED and PBS LearningMedia archive available to faculty and students in partnership with the University Library.

“At SJSU, we seek to become recognized leaders in developing innovative and effective curricula, reinventing and supporting faculty work, deepening student engagement with academic and professional learning and expanding our international and global connections by utilizing effective new technologies to meet academic goals,” Provost Junn said. “It’s a very exciting time to be at San Jose State—we are a community of faculty, students and staff who are on the move!”

San Jose State — Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 30,500 students and 3,850 employees — is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.

Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) is the worldwide leader in networking that transforms how people connect, communicate and collaborate. Information about Cisco can be found at For ongoing news, please go to

EdX is a not-for-profit enterprise of its founding partners Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that features learning designed specifically for interactive study via the web. Based on a long history of collaboration and their shared educational missions, the founders are creating a new online-learning experience with online courses that reflect their disciplinary breadth. Along with offering online courses, the institutions will use edX to research how students learn and how technology can transform learning-both on-campus and worldwide. Anant Agarwal, former Director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, serves as the first president of edX. EdX’s goals combine the desire to reach out to students of all ages, means, and nations, and to deliver these teachings from a faculty who reflect the diversity of its audience. EdX is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and is governed by MIT and Harvard.

 # # #

Cisco and the Cisco logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Cisco and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and other countries. A listing of Cisco’s trademarks can be found at Third-party trademarks mentioned are the property of their respective owners. The use of the word partner does not imply a partnership relationship between Cisco and any other company.

Adobe and Creative Suite are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Adobe Systems Incorporated in the United States and/or other countries.


Cube Satellite Launches to International Space Station

By Sarah Kyo, Web Communications Specialist

TechEdSat, a NASA-sponsored cube satellite that SJSU aerospace engineering students have worked on, launched from Japan to the International Space Station.

NASA TV began its live-stream coverage on Friday, July 20, 6:15 p.m. PDT. Then 7:06 p.m. was the official launch of the Japanese transfer vehicle, which contains TechEdSat and four other cube satellites from international universities and organizations.

“Cubesats have been around, but this is the first ever deployed from the space station, thus it has to meet all the ISS requirements,” said Professor Periklis Papadopoulos, who also works at NASA Ames Research Center and served as a technical advisor on the project. “This has not been done before. Some of those requirements we had to help them define since there was no precedence.”

Normally, projects that are sent to the International Space Station take four and a half years to complete, said graduate student and system engineer Ali Guarneros Luna, but TechEdSat was completed in about nine months. The student team was responsible for designing and integrating the cube satellite’s system, as well as performing various tests and making sure it passed the standards of both the International Space Station and NASA.

In a NASA news release, Andres Martinez, program manager for Small Spacecraft Payloads and Technologies at Ames, said TechEdSat “will allow a group of very talented aerospace engineering students from San Jose State University to experience a spaceflight project from formulation through decommission of a small spacecraft.”

If this mission is successful, then it may lead to future cube satellites with a similar communication system.

Students Re-Invent the Wheel

By Sarah Kyo, Public Affairs Assistant
4 young men hold up metal parts of motorcycle frame.

Spherical Drive System team members Eamonn Clerkin, Henry Li, Max Ratner and Andrew Parmar (left to right) hold up parts of the frame for their motorcycle (Sarah Kyo photo).

Will Smith’s character drives a sleek car with spherical wheels in the sci-fi movie “I, Robot.” While this futuristic film is a fantasy, a team of Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering students is making a very similar vehicle a reality.

From conception to fruition, this group has spent more than a year on this ambitious senior project called Spherical Drive System: a self-balancing, electric motorcycle that uses spheres as wheels.

The team includes team manager Max Ratner, financial officer/mechanical designer Henry Li, and lead mechanical designer Andrew Parmar.

While brainstorming project ideas, the team came across a YouTube video of a robot that balances on a ball. Parmar said they combined other inspirations, such as the Segway Personal Transporter and the “I, Robot” car, for their final concept.

Sphere’s benefits

Riding a motorcycle involves balance and some level of instability. They said a sphere has benefits over a typical wheel.

“It has an inherent safety factor,” Li said. “It’s able to help you balance on the bike.”

Computer rendering of silver, black and green futuristic motorcycle with spherical wheels. (Courtesy of Spherical Drive System)

This computer rendering showcases the final design for Spherical Drive System (Image courtesy of Spherical Drive System).

Ball transfer units, which are small ball bearings, keep the spheres moving. Spheres allow omnidirectional movement, meaning that this motorcycle could move in any direction, including backwards and sideways.

Li said they decided to build a motorcycle because “it captures people’s imagination.”  The team can imagine similar, spherical technology used in other areas, including wheelchairs, forklifts and amusement park rides.

Professor Winncy Du, who is Spherical Drive System’s faculty adviser, said she has never seen a senior project like this one.

“It’s very different,” Du said. “They’re going to change the world of the bicycle.”

The team has assertively gained sponsorships, including monetary donations and parts for their vehicle. They have even attended job fairs, not for finding a job but to gain support for their project. Li said at the moment, they could use help in manufacturing molds for the spheres, which are a composite of carbon fibers, fiberglass and synthetic rubber.

Team building

Ratner said their senior project has been a lesson in communication and team building, in addition to gaining technical experience. He encourages students to take initiative with their project ideas.

Parmar added, “We hope students do more unique projects.”

Last March, Ratner and Parmar represented Spherical Drive System in the American Society of Mechanical Engineering’s regional district student competition. Parmar earned first place in the oral competition, and Ratner earned second place in the poster presentation. Parmar will advance to the national competition in Houston this November.

The team devotes hours to this project. Ratner, Li and Parmar estimate they each put in 20 to 30 hours per week on top of school, work and other commitments. Their project deadline is May 16, but they plan to continue working on the motorcycle this summer to get it ready for test riding.

Follow along with Spherical Drive System’s updates at its Facebook page. For more information, visit the project’s website.

“Affordable Learning $olutions” Lowers Textbook Costs

poster for event

Affordable Learning $olutions flier (University Library image)

The Affordable Learning $olutions Fair at 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. April 9 in King Library will kick off the university’s initiative to work as a community to help lower the costs of textbooks for SJSU students.  The SJSU bookstore estimates that on average students pay up to $1,700 per year on textbooks.  This is an enormous financial burden for students who must balance the higher cost of student fees, textbooks, groceries, and other living expenses.  This daylong event will identify ways that the faculty can help keep the cost of course materials affordable for students.  Attend and learn about ways to utilize technology to create interactive learning resources or to adopt ebooks that may be available freely to students via the library.  The program for the day is below.  All faculty members and students are invited to attend for part of the day or for the entire day if you are available.

Lunch will be provided by the Spartan Bookstore and two iPads and several iTunes gift cards will be raffled during the course of the day. A special thank you to the Spartan Bookstore for its generosity.

Please RSVP by Friday, April 6 to (408) 808-2419 or


Affordable Learning $olutions Fair
April 9, 2012
10 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
King Library:  Room 225/229


10 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.
President Qayoumi
“Opening Remarks”

10:15 a.m. – 10:25 a.m.
Provost Junn

10:25 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Ryland Metzinger, Manager, Spartan Bookstore
“Textbooks in Spartan Bookstore”

11 a.m. – noon
Gerry Hanley, Senior Director of Academic Technology, CSU Chancellor’s Office
“Affordable Learning $olutions – What the CSU is Doing”

Noon – 1 p.m.
Student and Faculty Panels during lunch
Lunch provided courtesy of Spartan Bookstore from Spartan Shops

1 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.
Jay Matheson, Education Development Executive, Apple
“Ibooks, IPads, ITunes U”

1:45 p.m. – 1:55 p.m.
Break/Raffle iPad

1:55 p.m. – 2:40 p.m.
Jennifer Redd introduces Jeff Shelstad, CEO, Flatworld
“Flatworld Demonstration”

2:40 p.m. – 3:25 p.m.
Emily Puckett Rogers, Open Education Coordinator, University of Michigan

3:25 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Gerry Hanley
“Closing remarks”
Raffle iPad

Green Ninja Wins Grand Prize

March 30, 2012 — Macquarie University, The University of Melbourne and Monash Sustainability Institute have announced that the short animated film “Green NinjaTM: Footprint Renovation,” has won the Grand Prize of $5,000 at the Green Screen Climate Fix Flicks festival in Sydney, Australia.

The film is one of a series that has been produced by students in the film and animation departments at San Jose State University as part of The Green Ninja Project, led by Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science Eugene Cordero. With funding from the National Science Foundation, NASA, and PG&E, Professor Cordero has led a collaboration of students, scientists, and media artists to create the Green Ninja, a climate action superhero who forms the center of an education and behavior change program targeted at reducing our collective carbon footprint.

“Our goal with the Green Ninjafilm series is to communicate important topics of climate science in a way that is accessible and fun for everyone,” said Cordero.  “I am delighted that we are reaching a global audience with this work.”

Cordero in a Vimeo video box, click on the photo to connect to the video

Cordero explains The Green Ninja Project (TEDxSanJoseCA video).

“Footprint Renovation” was also screened in March at the San Francisco Green Film Festival, and won high marks from a panel of Hollywood TV and film directors, assembled at the American Geophysical Union earlier this year, for its excellence in conveying scientific ideas in a way that is easily understood by the general public. The next screening of “Footprint Renovation” will happen in Korea as part of the Green Film Festival in Seoul.

“I am really proud of the animation team and the SJSU students who have made the Green Ninja come to life,” said Assistant Professor of Animation and Illustration David Chai, who led the team of students who created the film.

Professor Cordero will be speaking at the TEDxSanJoseCA conference on April 14, 2012 in San Jose.

For more information, visit the Green Ninja website or contact Eugene Cordero.

Physics Prof Uses Smartphones to Engage Students

Peter Beyersdorf

Peter Beyersdorf

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

Cell phones are usually discouraged in the classroom. But you won’t find Department of Physics and Astronomy Associate Professor Peter Beyersdorf asking his students to put their phones away.

“Students have always liked being engaged in interactive classes,” Beyersdorf said. “Anytime you can make class fun, it has benefits to learning,”

At the end of every class, Beyersdorf asks his Physics 51 students to turn on their smartphones to take a quiz.

“The students can either go to a URL or take a picture of a QR code to get to the webpage,” Beyersdorf said.

According to Beyersdorf, hardware devices that allow students to electronically answer multiple-choice questions, known as multiple-choice clickers, have been around for sometime.

However, questions about who buys them, who brings them to class, and what to do with the students who forget theirs or have a dead battery remained.

Once services that allowed interactive learning became available on cell phones a few years back, Beyersdorf started to implement cell phones as learning devices. This has paid off for sophomore aerospace engineering student Chao Lao.

“After seven years, watching professors lecturing and writing on the black board gets kind of boring, but when technology is put into use, it makes it a bit more enjoyable,” he said.

According to Beyersdorf, the results of the quizzes give him an overall assessment of the class and keep him interested in developing new material.

“For the most part, technology isn’t changing the way people teach and learn, it’s giving them more avenues and opportunity to tap into learning in less traditional environments,” Beyersdorf said.

In addition to using cell phones, Beyersdorf records all of his lectures and publishes them as podcasts on iTunes U.

Beyersdorf serves as a faculty-in-residence for technology innovations for the Center for Faculty Development. Once a month, Beyersdorf teaches faculty about new technology being adopted at SJSU.

“Most of the faculty that come to these workshops are quite interested in engaging their students, but often times are not comfortable using these new technologies,” Beyersdorf said. “I try to encourage them to use technology to deliver the material they are already using and to try new things out.”

Professor Creates Engaging Online Learning Environment

Dr. Michael Stephens at his desk, with three monitors behind him.

Dr. Michael Stephens (SLIS image)

By Dr. Michael Stephens, Assistant Professor, School of Library and Information Science

(Editor’s note: The sage on the stage in giant lecture halls is giving way to a collaborative, hyperconnected world. SJSU’s School of Library and Information Science is at the forefront of online learning. We asked an instructor to share his experiences. You can also read more from a student’s perspective.)

I’ve been teaching online and hybrid courses for a few years, but joining SJSU’s School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) last summer led to full time, fully online teaching. Some dismiss online classes as ineffective, text-based “correspondence” style endeavors. I believe it all depends on the caliber of the online experience. Are the classes just ported over from face-to-face syllabi and entirely text-based? Or do they transform learning and inspire students?

I was drawn to online instruction because of the potential for using interactive technologies and social tools to extend my “classroom” beyond four walls and immerse my students in the environments they’ll encounter in future jobs.  I teach courses that explore new service models in libraries, as well as transformative learning, where I encourage my students to design instructional programs using emerging technologies.

Over the past few years, I’ve worked on creating a learning environment that fosters rich interaction between students and me, and gets students interacting with each other. I prefer not to keep our work and interactions inside the “walled garden” of a closed learning management system (LMS), but out on the open Web. Our students will surely be called upon to communicate online to some degree with the people they serve. Having an understanding of interaction outside the safe confines of an LMS is important.

Utilizing the open source content management system WordPress and a suite of plug ins called Buddypress, I create a “social network” for learning that features blogs for all students, a course activity feed, forums, work groups, and integration of other social tools. My class size is usually 25 or so students. Each student gets an account and blog within the site and can customize their environment with widgets, themes and add ons. Small images represent each student – some use a photo, others choose to use avatars.



Stephens Panopto screen

Transforming learning while inspiring students

SLIS provides access to some cutting edge tools to deliver class content. I use Panopto to record lectures. Panopto combines slides, text and video into a rich, media-based Web experience. (See screenshot to see it in action.) Feedback from students has been positive. I advocate for the use of video in online teaching as a means to share beyond just text. Teaching summer sessions at my previous position, I often recorded short video “shout outs” to my class from the hiking trail or beside a lake in northern Michigan. Letting them see a bit of my world, of my experience, reinforces the connection I believe is so important to establish. Last fall, I recorded a series of lectures with my trusty Labrador Cooper sleeping nearby within the frame. Other videos I record with my iPhone or Flip for upload to YouTube. These can be easily embedded into the course site and shared.

Other tools allow us to create a sense of connection and community. This is important to me as an online educator. We utilize Blackboard Collaborate to have weekly live video conference sessions. I’ve dubbed them the Commons, a place where each participant adds value to the experience.  One week we might have an open discussion or office hours style meet up, and other sessions might include a guest speaker. Recordings of these interactions are posted to my course sites as soon as we wrap up, for those who cannot attend the live session. It’s not out of the ordinary for a student to stop into the online room just to say hello and make a quick comment.


As a companion to the online meeting space, we use Blackboard Instant Messaging (IM), an application that allows faculty, staff and students to log in and interact in similar fashion to other chat programs. While working each day, I log in and set my status to available. Students and my colleagues at SLIS can send a brief question or comment via IM and I can do the same. The application seamlessly integrates with Collaborate and allows groups to break out into rooms for further collaboration. Each semester, the application automatically populates with my class lists. For students, it’s comforting to know that a professor is just a few keyboard taps away in the online environment.

I also use the micro-blogging site Twitter for sharing with my students and promoting conversation. We utilize Twitter hashtags to associate and share our tweets, and library practitioners can share and participate as well. Students use devices other than a personal computer to interact via Twitter, and on the course site. On the go and from anywhere, my students can share or participate via their smartphone or tablet. Posting a picture, a link or just a brief thought about class content can happen anywhere.



screenshot from a course

Interactive learning environments encourage experimentation

The world is changing faster than ever, and the skillsets needed by SJSU students in the School of Library and Information Science are rapidly evolving.  Students need to learn how to incorporate emerging technology into their future roles in libraries and information centers.  As I teach courses in the School’s fully online graduate program, I’m well aware of the need to create an engaging, interactive learning environment for my students that prepares them for tomorrow challenges.

I believe a focus on play and experimentation is needed for 21st century learning success. These newer forms of learning – play and experimentation – can prepare students for the world they will work in after they graduate, and for years to come.

I emphasize this focus on experimentation via the assignments in my online courses. In my class called The Hyperlinked Library and Emerging Technologies, students create media-based reports on recent books related to society and culture. Any media platform or 2.0 tool that can be shared across the web is fair game for play and experimenting for this assignment.

In Transformative Learning and New Literacies, my students create web-based, self-directed learning programs for library staff, replicating a similar environment to our course community. Experience with content management systems and various tools for creating online learning modules put them in the thick of what it will be like to do the same in their future work. Later, they each design an online component to their own personal learning networks and articulate the steps they took to build it, as well as what potential problems or issues it may help them solve as new information professionals.

Communication is key in online teaching

I have a plaque in my home office that quotes Michaelangelo, “I am still learning.” I keep that in mind as I reflect on my own teaching and use of technology. It’s an ongoing process to continue to improve. I learn from my students, my colleagues and from the networks I participate in online. It’s fine to say “I don’t know” about the next new thing and explore it with previous learning in mind. I want this for my students as well. Skills they develop now – exploring a new tool, creating new knowledge, making connections with others – will serve them well in their careers.

I’ve also learned not to get hung up on perfection. A mistake or two in a lecture or stumbling over words in a video does not negate the experience for students. In fact, it helps counteract the “culture of perfect” that sometimes permeates libraries and other environments. “Everything is beta” is a popular way to describe this approach.

Communication is key to successful online teaching as well. Being present on the course site and answering questions directed to me are a given, but I also work at consistent updating. If I’m traveling to speak at a library or conference, I let my students know. If I’m at a conference, I’ll share links and insights. My students have done the same, using Twitter or their class blogs to share their own opinions and takeaways from attending professional conferences. The sharing and communication can be informal, and it strengthens the feeling of community.

The best teachers understand that technology use in coursework is not just for the sake of technology but to extend and enhance the learning process. Recently, Michael Wesch from the University of Kansas responded to an article about his advocacy for participatory technologies in coursework. His eloquent statement resonates with me: “My main point is that participatory teaching methods simply will not work if they do not begin with a deep bond between teacher and student.  Importantly, this bond must be built through mutual respect, care, and an ongoing effort to know and understand one another.”

The sage on the stage in giant lecture halls is giving way to a collaborative, hyperconnected world of newer methods and channels of learning, but the human connection can and should remain. Bring yourself to your online teaching – share, be authentic and connect with students via the heart and the keyboard.