UMW Blogs (Fall 2014 Update)

UMW Blogs has undergone many infrastructural changes to help the system scale going forward. At this time there are over 8,912 sites on the system with 11,436 users (of which roughly 1500 are active). DTLT began experimenting with Amazon Web Services as a way to utilize cloud infrastructure to support a system like UMW Blogs this summer and migrated to a virtual server before the start of the semester. As part of this process we moved from a single dedicated server that was tasked with all functions of hosting UMW Blogs to separate smaller virtualized servers on Amazon that manage single processes. Several weeks ago we introduced load balancing into the system, which allows a single server to act as the entry point and distribute traffic to multiple servers based on the load. All files are also stored in the cloud with redundant backups. Not only should the UMW community immediately notice a performance boost, but we’ve also been able to dramatically reduce the cost of maintaining the … [Read more...]

Course Domains

You can blame Brian Lamb for this post, he encouraged me to go for the trifecta. My last two posts were about 1) the possibilities public university publishing platforms offer institutions of higher ed to align their mission with the web, and 2) (if you can look beyond the nudie bombs and GIFs long enough ) how communities like Tumblr can be amazing open educational resources. So, for the third and final installment of this unplanned and rather haphazard series, I want to talk about an emerging trend at UMW that has me pretty excited: course domains. Although, to be honest, this post has in many ways already been written by Ryan Brazell. In “Mapping the Taiping Civil War” he lays out the amazing work he is doing alongside History professor Sue Fernsebner (speaking of educational Tumblrs!) and her students for the re-imagined research methods course she’s teaching this semester focusing on the Taiping Rebellion. In short, they have gotten a domain for the course … [Read more...]

Open, Public Educational Publishing Platforms #4life

On Monday I checked in on the traffic stats for UMW Blogs, something I do from time-to-time when the semester starts to slow (the fact this didn’t happen until week 14 is telling). I was pleasantly surprised to see that UMW Blogs hit a new high for visits in a single day with 14,099 on Thursday, November 14. This is about 5,000 more visits than our daily average of 9,000. So, alongside Tim Owens and Martha Burtis, I started to dig into the details of the traffic for November 14th to see if there was any one post that was driving up the traffic. And, lo and behold, this post about The Matrix and the allegory of the cave by a student named Rebecca in Zach Whalen‘s Spring 2012 Adaptation course got 715 up votes on Reddit, and the rest is UMW Blogs traffic history. In just one day that post got 4,356 hits, and 8,193 hits over the course of the month. Crazy. This list of traffic by landing pages not only illustrates the reddit effect for the Matrix post, but also pointed us to … [Read more...]

Tracking Over Four Years of Traffic on UMW Blogs

I’m working on presentation about assessment on another front, and as an excuse for a break I decided to post some recent UMW Blogs traffic statistics from the last four years. I know analytics and data is all the rage currently, and these numbers should somehow enable me to better articulate UMW Blogs’ usefulness. Nonetheless, they always seem at once massive and paltry. Massive in that various work produced on UMW Blogs by thousands of students have been viewed 13+ million times over the last four years by milliosn of people. Paltry in that 13 million views is a middling viral YouTube video at best. Probably like most people in the era of “big data,” I often feel lost in a malaise of statisitcal aggregates—data that ultimately means less than nothing without a context. The only hope I garner from this is that people are finding our work, but not at the aggregate. Seems to me it’s at the ground level—thousands of sites with tens and hundreds … [Read more...]

Paris is Burning through Syndication

Have I ever mentioned how awesome #UMW‘s Study Abroad blog aggregator is? More than 200 posts since June. #4Life — Jim Groom (@jimgroom) July 20, 2013 When I tweeted out how awesome UMW’s Study Abroad aggregator blog is a few folks asked me how we’re doing the syndication. Aggregation is something I’ve written about so often on the bava blog that I’m afraid I take for granted. That said, I really don’t want to because I truly believe it is the best way to foster distributed communities, enable ownership of one’s own work, and keep a centralized archive all at once. Aggregation by way of RSS-enabled syndication is still the simplest way at this stuff, and I’m gonna try and prove that once again So with the aforementioned Study Abroad blog aggregator we have almost 90 feeds that have been added (self-service style) over the last two and half years that have syndicated more than 2300 posts. We do this using the plugin called … [Read more...]

DTLT’s Innovative Work featured in The Blue Review

Leslie Madsen-Brooks featured the long history of innovative work coming out of UMW’s Division of Teaching and Learning Technology in her article “Beyond Disruption” for The Blue Review. Below is a somewhat extensive quote from the article: Those who have been paying attention only to partnerships among Silicon Valley companies and the Ivies may be surprised that the beating heart of a tremendous amount of academic technology innovation is a small state university in Fredericksburg, Virginia. At theUniversity of Mary Washington, the Division of Teaching and Learning Technology has launched at least four amazing initiatives that should be replicated widely because it’s clear to even casual observers that they advance teaching and learning in myriad ways. For one, evidence of student learning appears on the open web, and I encourage you to check out the current blogs developed for courses. Faculty, too—and I know this from first-hand experience—benefit from knowing what … [Read more...]

UMW Blogs: It Won’t Stop Growing!

File this under arbitrary stats about UMW Blogs. The traffic on UMW Blogs has been really high out of the gate this semester, so I wanted to see what the first two weeks of traffic for the Spring semester looks like compared to the first two weeks of the Fall Semester. The increase is nontrivial. So I submit this for your consideration. During the first two weeks of the Fall 2012 semester UMW Blogs had 82,416 visits (61,745 unique) and 189,618 pageviews. During the first two weeks of the Spring 2013 semester UMW Blogs had 124,823 visits (98,079 unique) and 258,509 pageviews.   One day I hope to  actually have an understanding of what any of this means, but right now I will interpret it as part of my general awesomeness. … [Read more...]

Rosie the Riveter dot umw dot edu

So, it’s been over a year since UMW has had it’s main .edu website running on WordPress. DTLT has been experimenting with the possibilities of aggregating posts from UMW Blogs into (in fact, this post will aggregate into DTLT’s site on But the cooler part is to start experimenting with bringing the work students and faculty are doing in the classroom to the university’s website, and to that end Jess Rigelhaupt’s Oral History class last semester has done some really cool things. Every semester I come and talk to this particular class about the possibilities for creating an open, online space to share the documentary histories they create over the course of the semester. We look at a ton of sites, and imagine what’s possible for them. The final project/product for the entire class is to build a site and populate it with all the documentary media on the assigned topic they create, collect, and curate for the world to … [Read more...]

500 Open Courses on UMW Blogs

At the beginning of every semester I get a hankering to post something about UMW Blogs. I don’t know why, it has arrived to the point that it’s more like air than technology around campus at this point. We regularly have more than 50 faculty using this platform any given semester as a space to share their teaching out in the open, and after five and a half years of UMW Blogs we now have more than 500 courses on the system (and this doesn’t include courses from the 2007/2008 academic year—we didn’t start tracking them until Fall 08). What’s more, since we started tracking traffic on UMW Blogs in Fall 2009 we have had more than five million unique visitors and almost twelve million page views—two million of those page views came last semester alone. Five hundred open educational experiences laid bare to the world at large, each one a love letter to the ideal of thinking, sharing, and creating on the open web as part of a public institution. To be … [Read more...]

Scholarly Publishing: the Formal, the Informal, and the Ugly

Yesterday on Twitter Ted Curran asked me if UMW Blogs supports scholarly publishing, as opposed to just “informal” publishing. Hey @jimgroom- does UMW use @umwblogs to support scholarly publication or just “informal” publishing? Could/should it be able to do both? — Ted Curran (@tedcurran) January 10, 2013 It’s a good question, and it helped me realize that I’m increasingly blurring the distinction between scholarly and informal publishing. An occupational hazard, I guess. That said, and in fairness to Ted, there are a number of very clear indicators for scholarly publications: peer-reviewed, usually within a journal, and the author usually has three letters after their name. For all the amazing stuff we have going on in UMW Blogs, we don’t actually publish a formal scholarly journal. That said, we do have more than 40 student-created literary journals, 100s of student created research sites (here are just a few), the student newspaper, the UMW … [Read more...]