Viewing by month: April 2011

Apr 26 2011

New Web Events Ready for Viewing

Three new special events recorded at the School of Public Health are ready for viewing:

  • Cluster-Randomized Trials for Controlling Infectious Diseases: Where Have We Come From Bethel? presented by Dr. Richard J. Hayes, Professor, Epidemiology and International Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

  • Regulatory Toxicology Version 2.0: A Sneak-preview of the Beta-Release presented by Dr. Thomas Hartung, Professor; Dorenkamp-Zbinden Chair for Evidence-based Toxicology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

  • Sustainable Chemistry and Human Health in the 21st Century presented by Dr. Rolf Halden Associate Professor of Engineering; Assistant Director, Center for Environmental Biotechnology, Arizona State University

All of these presentations can be seen on the Web events site.

Posted by Kathy Gresh at 3:28 PM - Categories: Web Events

Apr 21 2011

Small Change in the CoursePlus Quiz Generator

On Wednesday, the Center posted a small update to CoursePlus to address a problem that some students taking online quizzes were experiencing. For essay questions in online quizzes using the Quiz Generator in CoursePlus, answers are entered in a window that appears when students click on an "Enter Answer" link. The code that powered this window was pretty old, and began to cause problems with the latest versions of Internet Explorer 8, Internet Explorer 9, and Google Chrome. As a result, students would sometimes click on the "Enter Answer" link and the window that should have the rich text editor for entering essay answers would be blank or simply not appear at all. This did not happen all the time, and did not happen in a way that was repeatable in hundreds of tests in different Web browsers, and on different operating systems. It did, however, happen.

The update posted on Wednesday replaces the old essay window code with newer code that should mitigate the problem. This update does not guarantee that students will never have problems of any kind while entering essay question answers. This newer code is currently used in the online courses, and we've had a handful of reports of students having problems entering essay question answers in that environment. However, these problems were not reproducible, even in the over 1,000 tests that we have run in different Web browsers, and on different operating systems. In most cases, students who reported problems also reported having multiple websites open in multiple tabs at the same time in the same browser window, usually running Facebook and Hotmail. While we certainly try to prevent as many problems as possible from occurring, we can't prevent problems on other websites in other open tabs from causing problems with taking online quizzes/exams.

If students have problems while taking online quizzes using the Quiz Generator in CoursePlus, they should contact the Help Support Center right away, as they can work with the student to gather important additional information on why the problem may have occurred in the first place.

Posted by Brian Klaas at 11:38 AM - Categories: CoursePlus

Apr 18 2011

Speeding Up or Slowing Down Online Lecture Playback

Students sometimes ask the team at DEHelp if there is a way to speed up or slow down the playback of lectures in online courses. This lets them either get through the lecture material more quickly, or slow down the lecture audio when they feel that the speaker is going too fast. Currently, we know of only one product which enables this functionality: Enounce's MySpeed.

This is a commercial (not free) product. It does, however, let you speed up or slow down the playback of lectures in online courses. There are a few more points to keep in mind:

  • You have to buy this product. The School does not offer free licenses to students.
  • It distorts the voice of the speaker when you speed up or slow down playback. The faster/slower you go, the more distorted the voice gets.
  • It does not speed or slow the playback of videos used in online courses. There's an explanation on the MySpeed site as to why this is the case.
  • Neither DEHelp nor the School offers technical support for this product. You have to get help from the people who make it.
If you listen to MP3s of course lectures, you can use Windows Media Player (on Windows) or an application called VLC (free, cross-platform) to speed up or slow down the playback of MP3 audio. While it's easy to use either of these applications, if you need technical support with either of them, you'll have to turn to the appropriate vendor. 


Posted by Brian Klaas at 11:13 AM - Categories: Online Courses

Apr 7 2011

Ending Support for Internet Explorer 7 at the End of the Current Academic Year

After much analysis of customer data and discussion within the Center, we plan on ending support for the use of Internet Explorer 7 in online courses at the end of the current academic year.

In the first academic term, 16% of all people accessing online courses used Internet Explorer 7.  In the second academic term, 15% of all people accessing online courses used Internet Explorer 7. In the third term, that number dropped to 12%. We’ve seen an overall downward trend of people using Internet Explorer and more usage of Firefox and, in particular, Chrome.

Our primary driver for this change is that Internet Explorer 7 does not support the level of technology (JavaScript, Cascading Style Sheets, HTML5) that we require in order to add new and highly requested features to online courses. While it is possible that we could spend hundreds upon hundreds of person hours adding in support for Internet Explorer 7 to new course technologies, this is a very expensive proposition on our end and one that pays diminishing returns as Internet Explorer 7 is used by fewer and fewer people and is an increasingly dated technology. Internet Explorer 7 was released on October 18, 2006. Twitter didn’t exist at the time and Facebook opened itself up to anyone (not just those with .edu email addresses) only a few weeks before.

We understand that asking you to upgrade or change your Web browser may be disruptive. However, it's important that you use a Web browser that is modern, security- and standards-compliant, and works within the online course system from JHSPH.

You have a number of options for upgrading or changing your Web browser if you are currently using Internet Explorer 7. These are:

If you upgrade to Internet Explorer 8 or 9, all of your current Web browser settings, including bookmarks, will be carried over. Firefox and Chrome will also import all of your current settings from Internet Explorer 7. If you are worried about updating Internet Explorer and what that might do to your operating system, you can download and use Firefox or Chrome instead as they will not update your operating system in the same way that Internet Explorer 8 or 9 does.

If you are using a laptop given to you by your employer, you should start a conversation with them now about upgrading to Internet Explorer 8 or 9, or installing Firefox or Chrome. Most employers will allow these upgrades if you ask.

If you have any questions about this change (which, again, does not go into effect until the end of the current academic year in May, 2011), please feel free to contact DEHelp.

Posted by Brian Klaas at 8:22 AM - Categories: Online Courses

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