A Streamlined Canvas for Organizing Apps: Using Kits as a Platform for ECE 564

This post is part of a series that profiles Kits users at Duke. In an effort to streamline the setup and sharing of learning apps, Kits (developed by the Kits Team at Duke) gives instructors one place to go to manage all the apps they use in a course. When faculty login to Kits, they see a card or “kit” for every course for which they are an instructor in DukeHub. Each kit is automatically shared with all students in the course roster. When you add apps to your kit (Sakai, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.), the apps are shared with everyone who is a member of the kit. This includes all students currently in your roster, and anyone you add manually to the kit. Learn more about Kits on the DukeKits website.

Professor Richard Telford, an Executive in Residence in the Pratt School of Engineering, was one of the first Duke faculty to use Kits.

Professor Richard Telford is an Executive in Residence in the Pratt School of Engineering. As a member of the Learning Technologies Advisory Council (LearnTAC), Telford has played an integral role in the development and deployment of educational technologies, such as Kits, across the university. Telford began using Kits (formerly Toolkits) when it was first developed, and has enjoyed the space Kits provides for his students to access a variety of learning applications. Telford uses Kits to manage apps for all of his courses, including ECE 564 (Mobile App Development). Whether students need to login to Zoom meetings, access recorded lectures or collaborate on coding assignments, they are able to locate all resources by navigating to the course kit.

Richard Telford’s ECE 564 Kit

This semester, Telford’s kit for ECE 564 contained eight apps: Sakai, Teams, Warpwire, Syllabus, GitLab, Office Hours, Assignments, and Zoom. Instead of linking to various apps from his course Sakai site (a common practice for instructors at Duke), Telford uses Kits as the landing page for his students. From the Kits website, students can access any app simply by clicking on the appropriate tile. I asked Telford why he prefers the tiled layout of Kits compared to the nested structure of a Sakai site. He explained that the Kits layout is more natural and intuitive than Sakai because he doesn’t have to “nest” apps that are not genuinely nested. For example, GitLab and Sakai are two very different apps, and by placing them next to one another in a kit, the natural “peer” relationship between the two apps is explicit. To the contrary, placing a link to GitLab in the course Sakai site would imply a “nested” relationship that is in fact contrived. Telford described how each of the apps in his kit benefits his students:

Richard Telford’s kit for ECE 564 (Mobile App Development). Kits serves as a singular platform where students can access a variety of educational technologies.

A flexible forum

Microsoft Teams serves two main purposes: 1) For Q&A and 2) As an ad hoc meeting place. Since Piazza introduced an ad-based revenue model, Telford has turned to Microsoft Teams to fill the void of a community-based Q&A tool. Students post questions, code and other media in the Teams forum and receive feedback from both their classmates and the instructor. Furthermore, Teams features a convenient grouping functionality that allows Telford to place students into project groups. When he wants to check-in with a particular group, he uses Teams to instantly start a video or text chat with members of that group. Scheduling a meeting in advance or inviting people to join a call is not necessary, as is the case with Zoom.

Recorded lectures

Warpwire is Telford’s solution for delivering recorded class content to asynchronous students. Class meetings, which are hosted on Zoom, are automatically recorded and uploaded to the course Warpwire folder (stored in the cloud). When students click on the Warpwire tab in the course kit, they are brought to the collection of class recordings. Warpwire videos can be analyzed by viewership, which gives Telford the means to determine which students have watched each Warpwire video. He uses this tracking functionality to record attendance. Students are not required to attend synchronous class sessions, but if they don’t, they must watch the recording on Warpwire in order to receive credit.

Collaborative coding

GitLab is a collaborative software development platform, similar to GitHub. Telford’s students navigate to GitLab to download and upload computer code that they use for their class assignments. Duke users benefit from an enterprise subscription to GitLab, making it the more sophisticated git resource. For instance, GitLab offers several tiers of membership to each repository (‘guest’, ‘reporter’, ‘developer’, ‘maintainer’), whereas GitHub simply offers ‘read’ or ‘write’ access.

Class meetings

When students click on the Zoom tile, Telford’s students are brought to duke.zoom.us, where they can access links to class meetings. Many instructors at Duke prefer to add the Zoom tool to their Sakai site because (1) Saki-Zoom integration allows easy access to meeting links and (2) recorded lectures are conveniently archived. However, since Telford stores Zoom recordings in Warpwire, and because his Zoom meetings can be accessed from Kits, there is no reason to utilize the Sakai-Zoom integration.

Want to learn more about Kits?

If you want to learn more about how you can use Kits to streamline your course design, please contact us at learninginnovation@duke.edu or visit us using Zoom during open office hours.