News and Updates: Summer 2010

A Major Overhaul of the Site: We're in the midst of making significant changes to the overall Writing@CSU site. Some of these changes reflect the need to slim down the site once again -- we've grown quite a bit and there is a fair amount of dead wood to cut out. Others reflect a desire for new customization tools (for example, you can now add a custom background to your personal page and we've increased the number of filetypes that you can add to your folders on the site). Still others reflect an interest in simplifying your work on the site (such as the ability to add images in our editor once again, which will involve upgrading our WYSIWYG editor, and allowing you to decide whether to receive notifications when comments are made on your blogs and ePortfolios). And a few more reflect our interest in tightening security on the site: we're working to reduce the inadvertent uploading of scripts to the site via our editor and we're now requiring you to enter a password when you want to update your main account settings (email address, name, and password). Most of these changes have already been made, but you'll see additional changes (or not, if they're behind the scenes) over the next few months.

We're also in midst of deciding how to simplify and streamline our commenting tools. Over the past decade, those tools have developed in strikingly different directions. It's likely that we'll leave things as they are for instructor comments and comments on ePortfolios and Wikis. However, we'll almost certainly drop the existing commenting tools on the Writing Activities and Writing Tools and replace them with a system similar to what we use for ePortfolios and Wikis. You would have access to these tools if you were working on a shared folder. The result will be a less cluttered set of pages. We expect that this will affect a small number of account holders (fewer than .2 percent of our visitors actually view or make comments on our tools and activities -- instead, the majority of comments are made in the context of a course). If you have any thoughts on this, please contact Mike Palmquist at Mike.Palmquist@ColoState.edu.

Another major change, primarily for instructors, is the manner in which we'll create new class pages. We'll be setting up a new process that will allow you to enter basic information, choose what to display on your pages, and choose appearance options. We'll also make it possible for instructors at Colorado State University to add students to the class roster automatically. Once a class is created, instructors will be able to update their rosters automatically or manually, depending on their preferences.

You'll also notice a new set of help pages. The videos are on hiatus for the moment, but you'll find help pages with and without screen captures that provide step-by-step guidance on using the tools on this site. Thanks to Jill Salahub for editing and updating these new pages.

Finally, there's a great deal going on behind the scenes in preparation for a version of the Studio that other schools can install on their own servers. We hope to get to the point where we can share our code with others in the next year or two. Please contact Mike Palmquist if you have questions about this.

Staffing and Funding Changes: We received some bad news this spring. The chair of the Department of English eliminated funding for our editor/programmer as part of a (somewhat) larger set of cuts to the Department budget (translation: as was the case last year, when the department cut funding to the WAC program, the composition program supplied much or most of the cuts to the department budget). That funding had been in place for 18 years (initially provided by grants and, since the late 1990s, by a base-funding transfer from the Provost) and the people in that position -- most recently Jill Salahub -- made a significant contribution to developing the site. Jill will be missed, and we wish her well. She'll continue to work in the English department, which is welcome news, but her hard work and good ideas will benefit other projects.

With the elimination of funding from the English department, support for the Writing@CSU project is now being provided by the Institute for Learning and Teaching (TILT, located at http://tilt.colostate.edu), which is housed in the Provost's Office. We are seeking funding from other sources, primarily to support our new open-access textbooks project and the development of an open-access version of the Studio. If you have ideas about funding, or would like to contribute a few hundred thousand dollars, please contact Mike Palmquist.