Beaversource At Oregon State University
Over the last decade, higher education has undergone important changes with the increasing use of technological hardware in the classroom. With the deployment of document cameras, video recorded and projected lectures, wireless internet access and even integration of handheld learning devices, technology is paving the way for more efficient learning. The benefits of this hardware are easily understood—projectors streamline communication in large learning environments, video recorded lectures provide information to students who have missed class or need to review class material, wireless communication allows the immediate presentation of results from in-class polls and quizzes and handheld devices like the Oregon State Wireless Active Learning Device (OSWALD) enables students to program hardware to interact with computer environments on campus.
In recent years, software has also joined the ranks of educational tools by providing new innovative and expansive means of sharing information in and outside the classroom. On a rudimentary level, software used at a university consists of four main components: management of student grades, access to course materials, storage of digital content and organized areas for class discussion. These software platforms tend to present information in a very routine but intelligible way, assuming that students interact with each other, course material is explained thoroughly and collaboration and idea-swapping takes place in the classroom. In this case, this software acts simply as a tool to access information. Beaversource administers two missing elements: online interactive collaboration through social networking and project hosting.
Students at a university have a wide range of learning styles. Software like Beaversource is approaching this issue in an interdisciplinary way by providing a platform which fuses both social networking and project-hosting to empower students, researchers and teachers with ability to connect, collaborate and maintain projects and interest-based communities at Oregon State University.
Unlike other social networks, Beaversource operates on a local level, connecting OSU students by making it easier to pool resources and spread ideas on and off campus.The entirety of the OSU campus can be logged into Beaversource. Users can create communities based on their interests, from women studies, philosophy and economics to computational physics and environmental science. Beaversource unites user-interests and skills through the use of a tag cloud where information is gathered from user profiles, communities and projects to help users find people with similar interests, backgrounds or classes.
Beaversource works on two levels: personal profiles and communities. Personal user-profiles give Beaversource users a location to share their information. These profiles are designed to be accessible with highlighted links to signify interests and skills that other members of Beaversource share. Each profile lists the user’s friends, the projects and communities they’re involved with and messages that other members have posted on their page. For personal security, almost every element of a profile has privacy settings. Profiles in Beaversource also allow the use of widgets—similar to Facebook applications or Google gadgets—like RSS feeds, calendars, videos, etc. Many people on campus have similar interests and backgrounds, communities in Beaversource help identify and organize communication between these people to aid in the exchange of ideas and organization of events. Communities also give users the ability to showcase and communicate the goals and activities of their community to others at OSU. A Community profile is customizable in the same way as a user-profile, except it also includes a forum where members can post blogs and discuss community topics. Beaversource users can post comments on other users’ profiles and on community pages, which provide an alternative environment for networking and communication outside of the classroom.
Beaversource also supports collaborative work with a suite of services that provide shared file storage and archiving, including change tracking, easy to edit web pages (Wiki) and offers extensive planning features to help manage projects, assignments, and goals. By taking the complexity and headache out of setting up a shared wiki, enabling file sharing, managing a projects tracking tools, mailing lists, etc, so that focus can be spent simply on doing work. Project access is also secured by ONID username. Only users who are given access to files can view, modify or comment. Projects in Beaversource also incorporate a roadmap—a list of milestones that represent the main goals of the project. These milestones are composed of tickets that describe the specific objective connected to each milestone. As students advance through a project, the ratio between active and resolved tickets display as a progress bar. Teachers then have the ability to see a visual representation of their students’ progress as well as access to a timeline of work that has been modified. For this reason, Beaversource can be used across a variety of disciplines. By hosting student projects in one central place, Beaversource allows outsiders to get a better idea of what goes on at OSU.
As a campus social network, the communication cultivated through the Beaversource software has obvious benefits, but Beaversource’s project-hosting has countless uses for both students, instructors and faculty.
Beaversource gives students the opportunity to forge new connections at Oregon State University. Through the fusion of social networking and project management, Beaversource connects every social environment on campus.
|Benefit: Beaversource provides a medium for more efficient communications between students, student organizations and OSU associations.|
- A simple way for groups (both formal and informal) and students to set-up, manage, and advertise pages available to the public and/or students at OSU.
- A simple and centralized place for students and community members to search for the web-pages of campus groups and people.
- Student hobbyists can connect with other students with shared interests.
- Students can be notified of events on campus and groups can notify students
- Student government (ASOSU, ISOSU) can associate with campus organizations and student-operated groups (Society of Women Engineers, OSU Fashion Organization, campus recycling, craft center, English Student Society, Linux User Group, etc)
- Campus clubs have greater access to students (Intramural sports, bass team, chess club, philosophy club, OSU Robotics club).
- The Resident's Hall Association (RHA) can have greater access to other student-influenced organizations on campus, bridging the gap between campus and campus living, two unique social climates.
Beaversource can help manage student projects and coursework.
|Benefit: Beaversource offers tools to store, organize and share work with your classmates or within a group project.|
- Manage term papers, essays and technical documents with Beaversource's error tracking. Keep the components of a document organized through the use of the roadmap. Milestones and tickets can be created to manage progress, record sources and shape development.
- Working on group projects has never been easier. Members of groups and projects receive e-mail notifications when another member makes a change—adds a comment to a ticket, modifies the source file in a programming project, adds a comment to the project’s wall or posts a blog in the project forum. Beaversource will always keep project members updated.
Conducting both small and large scale research can be difficult to manage.
|Benefits: With Beaversource's suite of project management tools (file storage, archiving, change tracking, extensive planning features), keeping track of your research developement is easy.|
- Be it science, liberal arts, engineering, business or agriculture, Beaversource can help organize your research projects by offering tools to help organize topics sources, evaluate progress and track comments and changes made by all members of the project.
- Manage funds, costs and spending.
- In programming-specific projects, develop code using Beaversources SVN repository.
|Benefit: Build interactive activities into lecture, attain broader participation and more input from students, achieve specific goals, and enforce policies. Beaversource’s software platform overcomes many logistic barriers while promoting social interaction and increased collaboration in an outside of class.|
- After creating a course website in Beaversource—either as a project or a community—a file is easily attachable to any web page. Beaversource also implements a wiki that allows considerable text formatting, web page linking, and image placement.
- Beaversource uses a tool called 'Stratistics’ to accurately record changes made in a project or wiki. This information is displayed in a line graph categorized by week. If an assignment is written in a wiki, then the number of changes will be recorded on a wiki-activity graph. If the changes are made in a repository, then changes will be recorded on a repository-activity graph. These changes can be seen in detail on a separate history page. This is a good tool for evaluating student participation.
- A class project can often be difficult to manage. Through Beaversource, delegation is made easy. Creating different tickets in a project's roadmap, makes it easy to delegate which students do what work.
- Students can submit work online. Assignments can be submitted online to the class community or project page since every attachment or change made to a web page has a recorded timestamp and author.