News Release

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Miami University
Oxford, Ohio 45056
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A Miami Moment with David Scoville


Dave Scoville
He didn't expect to become "Mr. Niihka," but David "Dave" Scoville fits nicely into his Miami University role that seemed to be tailor-made for him. Scoville, who is coordinator for Miami's learning portal, works with faculty on how best to utilize the numerous tools available in Niihka.

Q: How did you become Mr. Niihka?

A: At first, I didn’t know IT services planned to create this position. I’ve worked for Miami since the summer of 2000, initially as an educational consultant for SOITA (Southwestern Ohio Instructional Technology Association), bringing e-learning to school districts in southwestern Ohio and across the state. I also did my master’s thesis on learning management systems. In 2007, I came on board at Miami as an adjunct, and I actually served on the Miami University committee that helped select the Sakai CLE in 2010. It just seemed to fit together. Sakai was built by higher ed. for higher ed. Over the years, I’ve worked with numerous K-12 teachers and professors training them with these online tools.

Q: Niihka will be upgraded this summer. What changes will users see?

A: In keeping with our Niihka roadmap, we are planning to upgrade Niihka from Sakai CLE 2.8 to CLE 2.9 over the weekend of Aug. 17. CLE 2.9 is mostly an evolutionary upgrade, but has a number of very nice interface improvements as well. All of the core tools have been updated as well as Assignments 2 and Gradebook 2 (the grade book we use in Niihka). I’ve been testing the upgrades, and I find Gradebook 2 is still better organized than the core Gradebook tool. We’ll also have new ways to incorporate spreadsheets for feedback and evaluation in 2.9. The upgrades to Tests & Quizzes incudes new question types as well as more intuitive organization of assessments. I also like a new Dashboard tool which can be added to “My Workspace” which will allow students and instructors to see in general all of the items coming up in their classes, from assignments to tests.

Q: Sakai is changing to Apereo? What does that mean?

A: The Sakai and Jasig foundations merged a year ago. Jasig is the open source project that Miami uses for its authentication systems. When they merged, they formed a new open source foundation called Apereo. This newly formed collaborative built a new system platform that will be used to launch a new upgrade sometime next year – formally known as Sakai 3, but now renamed as the Open Academic Environment or “OAE.” I’m really excited about the new Basic LTI-2 platform that allows for two-way communication within learning tools.

Q: Collaboration seems to be a key term. How has Niihka fostered collaboration on campus?

A: I see it bringing instructors together to create useful and interactive online learning experiences for students. I am working with the Farmer School Summer Business Institute this term, helping to support a program with 17 instructors listed for one course site. Things can get confusing. We’ve developed ways of streamlining workflow for assignments and quizzes. I’ve created a Google Group where we share our findings after brainstorming an issue. It’s created a wonderful discussion forum where we learn from each other.

Q: What are your most common questions regarding Niihka?

A: Grade book questions are most common. Some instructors use their own forms of grading scales that cause issues. Many times it’s because they forget to add a number somewhere, and it will create problems. To help out with some of the most common questions, I also write about the latest Niihka news and provide tips in a bi-monthly e-newsletter I send to all instructors.


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