Muhlenberg College

Mobile Applications and Adaptations
of Open Source Collaboration Tools

2004 Hewlett Packard Technology for Teaching Grant

Project Abstract In 2004, Muhlenberg College received an HP Technology for Teaching grant to encourage the transformation of learning and teaching. This project systematically extends open source collaboration tools, including groupware and content management systems to assess the effectiveness of “always available” wireless access and mass customization in introductory science courses. In each phase, tools and technologies are deployed to successively broader audiences, and we compare student and instructor satisfaction relative to traditional course delivery methods.
Rationale This project leverages existing expertise in innovative learning environments, mobile technology, support for disabilities, open source software, and product development to serve as a test bed for broader use of mobile technology at Muhlenberg and similar institutions.

Distinguishing features:
  • Coordination and deployment across a heterogeneous mobile environment by OIT staff and faculty who are proven innovators in technology;
  • Student projects and interdisciplinary teams developing and extending mobility-based assistive technologies;
  • Communication and collaborative learning in “virtual places”; transforming the internet into a place to interact with others.
Pedagogy This project has changed teaching in a variety of ways, which can be grouped into several themes. Most significantly, there is less lecture, and a broader spectrum of discussion, interaction, and hands-on activities. At one extreme are unstructured activities such as note taking and use of Internet resources. In the middle are less structured group activities involving writing and problem solving. At the other extreme are more structured workshops and tutorials. There is also more use of collaborative tools and processes, including collaborative design, task tracking, version control, and reviews. In some cases such tools need to be scaled down or otherwise adapted for academic settings.
Technology This project has used technologies at three levels. First, in discipline-independent course management and collaboration, using the Moodle course management system, wiki platforms, and other tools. Second, in discipline-specific collaboration on team software projects, including tools such as SubVersion and Trac. Third, in individual student work related to the overall project, including applications of and extensions to open source projects.
on Learning Courses using course management and collaboration tools were rated equally effective, more organized, and less difficult. Of students surveyed, 100% rated wikis positively for storing and sharing information, and 70% rated them positively for communicating with other students. Introducing students to commonly used tools and best practices earlier in the curriculum better prepares them for the future, and helps them appreciate and understand the social and organizational aspects of software development. In individual student work related to the overall project, students gained experience in areas such as Linux configuration, programming languages, user interface design, MVC architectures, and the dynamics of open source development. We are still working to extend the project to larger courses, other disciplines, and to a wider range of disabilities.
on Teaching The changes described above have had several significant outcomes. We continue to present conference workshops and tutorials on using wikis to support teams, and on GUI prototyping techniques (see below). We continue to document group activities involving writing and problem solving, for use by others. Appropriate courses contain more emphasis on user needs analysis, graphical user interface (GUI) design, and usability testing.
These changes would have been difficult or impossible without the HP grant, since the wireless laptops make it possible to integrate activities when they are most appropriate, rather than when rooms or other facilities are available.
One current challenge is matching activity types to student experience levels and to course content. For example, activities typically need to be more structured in introductory courses than in advanced courses.
Other This project has revitalized Muhlenberg’s CS program, and catalyzed other developments. We now have a larger CS teaching classroom with wireless access, a video projector, and 10 Linux workstations. We revised the CS curriculum to include a new project-based software engineering course and a capstone seminar, and existing courses use more interactive and hands-on activities. We are proposing a new informatics major, which should appeal to a wider variety of students. Despite declining enrollments, more students do summer research and other independent work. These changes make the CS program more visible and appealing, particularly to prospective students.
We are excited by the connections to broader issues of reading, writing, critical thinking, and communication, which are particularly valued in the liberal arts. Identifying and developing such practices helps students and faculty to see common themes and how technical and non-technical disciplines relate to each other. This prepares students to work on interdisciplinary teams, which are increasingly common.
Finally, we are encouraged by the College’s increasing shift toward more effective uses of technology. This project and others are stimulating conversations and experiments across disciplines and even between institutions. For example, the science division is collaborating on a proposal to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to use modeling and other quantitative techniques in introductory science courses. We were able to loan 4 HP laptops to the library for an experimental loan program which has been very successful.
Quick Facts

10 developing or modifying open source collaboration tools
150 in CS course
550 in other courses
40 in smaller projects or one-time activities


Three faculty are developing or extending tools & supporting materials for others to use, often with student assistance. Five faculty are using project resources in teaching & research and providing feedback. In addition, other faculty have indicated an interest in evaluating and using tools and materials as they are developed.

Computer Science: CS I; CS II; Software Engineering; Data Structures & Algorithms; Programming Languages
First Year Seminars: Dark & Stormy Knights; Mysterious East & West; New Product Design & Development
History: Arab-Israeli Conflict; Modern Middle East History; The Mongol Legacy
Religion Studies: Islamic Traditions; Male, Female, & Religion; Monotheism: Creating God; Mystical Encounters
Contact Information Clif Kussmaul, Associate Professor of Computer Science
Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St, Allentown, PA 18104
Project Page on HP Community Wiki site
Open Source
Project (& local link) Function Project Home
Drupal content management system
Jabber instant messaging
KnowledgeTree document management
Mailman mailing lists
Moodle course management
Serendipity blog
SlashCode web collaboration
SubVersion version control
TextPattern blog
Trac project management
WebCAT automated homework testing
Wiki Project (& local link) Function Project Home
Kwiki web collaboration
MediaWiki web collaboration
web collaboration
PmWiki web collaboration
TWiki web collaboration
Library Project (& local link) Function Project Home
Koha library catalog and integrated library system
VuFind library catalog
DSpace digital repository
Greenstone Digital Library System digital repository
LibData library site authoring environment
SubjectsPlus library site authoring environment
Publications and Presentations
  1. Lobdell, Moulton, and Kussmaul.
    Free/open source software tools for a library website: A comparative analysis.

    EDUCAUSE Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference, 2009. (submitted)
  2. Albert and Kussmaul.
    Why wikis are wonderful for writing.

    Using Technology in the Writing Classroom, Maria Clayton and Terry Carter, editors. Fountainhead Press, 2008. (in press)
  3. Kussmaul.
    Open source software to support student teams: Challenges, lessons, and opportunities.

    ASEE Annual Conference, 2008.
  4. Kussmaul.
    Enhancing student collaboration & coordination with wikis & related tools.

    Teaching Communication Skills in the Software Engineering Curriculum: A Forum for Professionals and Educators, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, 2008.
  5. Kussmaul.
    Supporting teams with open source software tools.

    National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) 12th Annual Meeting, 2008.
  6. Kussmaul and Albert.
    Reading and writing with wikis: Progress and plans.

    6th Creativity and Cognition Conference, ACM SIGCHI, 2007.
  7. Kussmaul and Albert.
    Tutorial: Reading, writing, and revising with wiki technology.

    CCSC Northeastern Conference, 2007.
    The Journal of Computing Sciences in Colleges 22(6):138-139.
  8. Kussmaul and Jack.
    A workshop on user interface prototyping: Tips & techniques.
    NCIIA 11th Annual Meeting, pp 169-174, 2007.
  9. Kussmaul, Howe, and Priest.
    Using wikis to foster team communication, cohesion, & collaboration
    . American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Annual Conference, 2006.
  10. Kussmaul and Jack.
    User interface prototyping: Tips & techniques.
    CSCC Northeastern Conference 2006.
    The Journal of Computing Sciences in Colleges 21(6):188-190, 2006.
  11. Kussmaul, Howe, and Priest.
    Using wikis to foster team communication, cohesion, & collaboration.
    CSCC Northeastern Conference 2006.
    The Journal of Computing Sciences in Colleges 21(6):66-68, 2006.
  12. Howe and Kussmaul.
    Fostering collaboration in heterogeneous teams
    Proceedings of the NCIIA 10th Annual Meeting, 2006.
Recommended References
  1. Angeles. Using a wiki for documentation and collaborative authoring.
  2. Barkley, Cross, and Major. Collaboration Learning Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty. Jossey-Bass, 2005.
  3. Duarte and Snyder. Mastering Virtual Teams. Jossey-Bass, 2001.
  4. Fountain. Wiki pedagogy
  5. Holmes, Tangney, FitzGibbon, Savage, and Mehan. Communal constructivism: Students constructing learning for as well as with others. Trinity College Dublin Computer Science Tech Report 2001-04
  6. Lambert. Digital Storytelling. Center for Digital Storytelling, 2006.
  7. Laurillard. Rethinking University Teaching: A Framework for the Effective Use of Educational Technology. RoutledgeFalmer, 2001.
  8. Leaf and Cunningham. The Wiki Way: Quick Collaboration on the Web. Addison Wesley, 2001.
  9. Mader. WikiPatterns. Wiley, 2008.
  10. Richardson. Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Corwin Press, 2006.
  11. Schwartz, Clark, Cossarin, and Rudolph. Educational wikis: Features and selection criteria. Online software evaluation report, Centre for Distance Education, Athabasca University, 2003.
(see PUIeship TeamReferences for more on teams)

2006 Fall - 2009 Spring use & extend tools in Software Engineering course
use tools in courses, identify further directions for future work,
present at conferences
2006 Summer prototyped multimedia wiki (Tim Mullin '07)
developed supporting wiki materials (Chris Morse '07)
2005 Fall - 2006 Spring used & extended tools in Software Engineering course
used tools in courses, identified directions for future work,
presented workshops at NCIIA 2006, CCSCNE 2006
2005 Summer extended web survey tools & course management system to support WML (Mike Yingling '07)
2004 Fall - 2005 Spring attended HP Tech For Teaching Conference in Monterey,CA
installed & configured server for open source projects
evaluated open source projects & identified potential applications
installed & configured open source projects (Ryan Kavalsky '05 & Wally Chesla '05)
2004 Summer received, unpacked, & configured grant equipment
2004 Spring submitted grant proposal to HP, received award announcement