Commons Blogs – Fall 2015

This fall, the Commons team has been busier than ever, setting up nearly 600 new course websites, blogs, and ePortfolios. WordPress continues to impress with its latest upgrade, allowing students and faculty to create great online spaces for their discussions, assignments, and research.

One of our newest Commons users is Graham Pitts and his course History 352: “Inquiries into the History of Sectarianism in the Middle East.” Pitts’s history students are using the blog to write collaborative essays throughout the semester. Their work is private at the moment, but will be made public at the end of the semester. For now, here’s a screenshot of Professor Pitts’s guidelines:
Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 4.20.40 PM

This is just one example of what a class can do with a Commons blog. If you are interested in integrating these tools and exercises into your syllabus, please email We’re happy to help!

Happy blogging,

The Commons Team


A Commons Team Update for Spring 2015

Welcome to 2015!

The Commons team has been quite busy setting things up for Spring. Since the first week of the new semester, we have set up over 285 individual sites for professors and students.

Over the past 7 years, more and more Georgetown classes are using blogs and ePortfolios for collaboration, discussion, and projects. We are always excited to see the end results of these efforts. Here’s one example from the fall: Professor Leticia Bode’s “Food Politics” class created sites to share their research of the claims made in popular food documentaries. Each student’s work is linked from the hub site:

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 3.18.36 PM


What are you hoping to accomplish with your Commons site this semester? Once you’re finished, share it with us, and we may feature it here in a few months. As always, please send questions and feedback to

Have a great day!

-The Commons Team

WordPress Upgrade – 4.0.1

The Georgetown Commons system is now running WordPress 4.0.1. Along with more blue in the dashboard color scheme, you will notice the new media library, easier video embedding, and a text edit window that automatically adjusts as you write.

The improved media library provides a more pleasant user experience when adding images to your blog posts: infinite scroll, the choice to view items in a list or grid, and the ability to search for items by name. The pop-up Edit Media window now has arrow keys to allow for quick scrolling between items to edit. This means you no longer have to save and click between images to adjust their size or caption.

Embedding videos from YouTube, Vimeo and other sites should now work in the visual editor and no longer requires an embed code. Just paste the URL of the video into the visual editor, and the video should appear!

If you tend to write long posts, you’ll benefit from the new text editing window. The scroll bar is gone, the window automatically enlarges as more text is added. and the menu bar (including the “Publish” and “Add Media” buttons) are now sticky, staying at the top the page as you scroll down.

Finally, customizing your site and all its features continues to be easier (and easier to undo). Widgets now have their own customization panel in the Customize Theme menu, so you can try out new layouts and menu locations without making any permanent changes to your site.

In the next few weeks, we will be adding brand new blog themes to choose from. Once they are available, another update will be posted detailing these themes and which options may be best for your class blog or portfolio. As always, if you have any questions, please email commons(at)georgetown(dot)edu.

Happy blogging,

The Commons Team


Interlude: A new innovative partnership

We are proud to announce that CNDLS and Gelardin New Media Center have partnered with Interlude, an interactive video platform, to develop and produce fully customized, video-based assessments and simulations. The first CNDLS project, using Interlude, will be a case study simulation featured in the GeorgetownX Terrorism and Counterterrorism MOOC, launching October 1st. In this simulation students play the role of an intelligence analyst and are asked to gather information, solve puzzles and make certain decisions in order to conduct a threat assessment. The second interactive project to be designed using the Interlude platform will be in the second phase of the ITEL Project: Using Technology to Enhance Teaching in Physician-Patient Communication to prepare students for the OSCE, a clinical examination that all medical students must take.

This partnership is not only new to Georgetown, but also Interlude, which typically markets its interactive products for commercial use, such as advertising and music videos. We expect this new partnership will not only enhance and enrich the student learning experience, but also open up new data-based research horizons for the CNDLS analytics team.

For more information on this partnership and its opportunities, please contact Susan Pennestri.

Teletandem – Student Powered, Internet Enabled Language and Cultural Exchange

Last Friday, October 10, CNDLS, in partnership with the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, hosted a lecture to discuss innovative approaches to cross cultural Internet enabled collaboration in language learning titled “Teletandem: Aspects of Curriculum Implementation and Research Perspectives.” Teletandem is a practice of collaborative language learning between pairs of speakers of different languages, facilitated by Voice over IP (VoIP) technologies.

IMG_7150Students in ICC 227 engaging in Teletandem sessions – Photo by Peter Janssens, CNDLS

Presented by João Telles, Associate Professor of UNESP visiting from São Paulo State University, and Michael Ferreira, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Georgetown, the lecture covered the core aspects of Teletandem and prospects for the future. With the help of CNDLS, Ferreira and Telles have been working to implement Teletandem practices in Portuguese classes at Georgetown since 2008. Earlier this year Ferreira received a one-year grant from CNDLS on the Initiative on Technology-Enhanced Learning (ITEL) to expand the scope outward from Portuguese to other languages including Spanish, Arabic, French, Japanese, Russian, and Turkish.

“Tandem learning is very humanistic –very personal in a way.” – João Telles, Associate Professor of UNESP

As Telles describes, Teletandem has three core principles: reciprocity, autonomy and a focus on one language at a time. Students share their cultures and languages with each other reciprocally growing comprehension and understanding in a resonant and deeply personal way. Telles emphasized that Teletandem partners are more than mere “pawns” in academic life; they take an active role and shoulder responsibility for their own work and the direction of the lessons. Focusing on single languages at a time in an organic setting leads to deeper comprehension. Students report enhanced cultural information about the partner’s country, improved comprehension of the target language and more confidence to speak the foreign language.

The cultural dimensions of Teletandem are equally important as the language component. In the lecture, Telles described the interactions as “online intercultural contact” not just between different languages but different cultures and even different socioeconomic class levels. Comparing and contrasting the daily lives in each partners’ countries leads to new understanding and fosters a rich dialogue.

This method raises interesting questions and conceptions for expanding intercultural contact and interpersonal interaction, and subsequently making the process of language learning much more dynamic and complex.

Ferreira and Telles, along with the others working in the area of Teletandem, are just beginning to explore the possibilities, and already finding the methods to provide rich avenues not just for learning language but also for collecting data to enable new forms of research in the area of language learning.

CNDLS looks forward to further facilitating the evolution of this innovative program, and exploring the future of enhanced language learning and cultural exchange in a complex networked world.

What’s New in WordPress 3.9.1

As of June 27th, Georgetown Commons blogs and ePortfolios run on the latest version of WordPress. This video outlines the major changes:

New WordPress 3.9 Smith from I for Ideas on Vimeo.

Aside from the usual bug fixes, WordPress 3.9 “Smith” features a few significant improvements in the incorporation of multimedia in blog posts. Photo galleries in the text editor now appear as a what-you-see-is-what-you-get preview, rather than a placeholder. Users can now include audio or video playlists in posts, and upload photos by dragging and dropping directly into the text editor. However, this feature requires uploading content to WordPress. We remind users that the Georgetown Commons system has limited storage capacity, so please continue to create playlists on services such as YouTube or SoundCloud, and embed them in your posts or pages.

When searching for a new theme, users can now edit the theme preview with custom headers and widgets without making any hard-to-reverse changes to their existing site. As with the added features in the post editor, these changes have moved WordPress toward more intuitive content management.

The Georgetown Commons team plans to add new themes and plugins in the coming weeks, so check back soon for those details.

As always, if you have questions about any of the Commons tools, see the Knowledge Base wiki, or email the commons team at


Online-Only CCT Course Launches Fall 2014

Professor Martin Irvine’s online-only CCT course, “Key Concepts in Technology and How to Use Them,” is slated for a fall 2014 launch. CNDLS is providing instructional design and other project development support.

Funded by the second round of the Provost’s ITEL grants, Professor Irvine’s course is the first online-only, for-credit course in the CCT program. In the spirit of the ITEL initiative, this online course extends Georgetown’s resources beyond its current community and into the public. In addition to CCT and other Georgetown students, any qualified student or working professional can enroll in this course and use the course credits for a degree program elsewhere or for professional development. The main goal of this project is to provide a high quality, virtual learning experience to more students and prospective leaders than a course taking place on Georgetown’s physical campus could serve.

To learn more about the course, you can access the promotional video produced at CCT. For more information about the development of this course, please read the Faculty Voice article on Professor Irvine from the most recent issue of The Prospect, CNDLS’ publication on teaching and learning.

Fostering Partnerships for Innovation

CNDLS has recently partnered with Remark to pilot video annotation in several technology-enhanced learning projects taking place at Georgetown. One such project is the use of video annotation in GeorgetownX courses and in particular in Globalization: Winners and Losers. Globalization: Winners and Losers will next be offered as a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on in October 2014.

Another annotation tool that CNDLS has been working with is Scrible. Scrible is a collaborative, online text annotation tool.

For more information on these emerging partnerships, please contact Yianna Vovides.

Stephen ITEL Project Develops Rubrics for Multimedia Projects

In early February, Professor Betsi Stephen, Associate Professor of Demography in the School of Foreign Service and chair of the CNDLS Faculty Advisory Board, presented at the Workshop on Intercultural Skills Enhancement (WISE) and Conference in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Stephen and colleague Karen Wardzala, who is the Assistant Director of Overseas Living & Learning Communities through the Office of International Programs (OIP), shared “DIVE: A Four-Step Framework for Creating Meaningful Short-Term Experiences Abroad.”

In this workshop, Stephen and Wardzala used case studies as well as guided group and individualized exercises, to help an audience of faculty and study abroad professionals enhance learning experiences in short-term programs by developing learning goals, incorporating culture into the curriculum, viewing the host/home culture through reflection, and exploring student learning through assessment.

The workshop included rubrics for evaluating multimedia projects—based on the VALUE rubrics—that Stephen and Lisa Donatelli (OIP) developed last year as part of Stephen’s ITEL project, “Mind the Gap.” This project seeks to document the transformational aspect of study abroad programs by bridging students’ study abroad experiences with their on-campus academic careers in Washington, D.C. Specifically, the project was interested in measuring the following as expressed online: what students were learning abroad; how they were connecting with local populations and organizations; how they were connecting their study abroad experiences with their previous and future studies at Georgetown; and what lessons students were learning about their roles as global citizens.

To integrate students’ experiences abroad with their Georgetown studies, Stephen collaborated with Rob Pongsajapan and Yong Lee at CNDLS to implement blog assignments, Omeka museum projects, and ePortfolios into her courses. Alongside these technologies, Stephen developed three specific rubrics; her goal in creating assignments tied to rubrics was to improve student learning through reflection, integration, and visibility. Blogs allow students to reflect on and think critically about their experiences as they live them; the Omeka museum becomes a growing collection of past and present cohorts’ exhibits; and the ePortfolio serves as a platform for students to publicly integrate their abroad experiences with their field of study and on-campus learning.

Watch a video introduction to the Mind the Gap ITEL project:

Download the rubrics used in this project:
Rubric of Criteria for Blogs (126 KB PDF)
Rubric of Criteria for ePortfolios (120 KB PDF)
Rubric of Criteria for Virtual Museum (126 KB PDF)

New Site on Tools and Services for Teaching and Learning Now Available

Earlier this month, CNDLS launched a new mini-site under the Teaching & Technology section of its website. This site provides an overview of all tools and services available at Georgetown University that support teaching, learning, and collaboration.

The creation of this site stemmed from a shared desire among several departments to have information about Georgetown’s teaching and learning resources housed in one place. In the past, faculty members have been overwhelmed by the challenges of finding, selecting, and getting support for tools and services in the classroom.

The Unified Classroom Services Working Group (UCSWG) was formed, in part, to address the lack of standardization and procedures surrounding access to, use of, and support for Georgetown’s abundant offering of tools and services. UCSWG worked with Brian Boston and Rob Pongsajapan to update an existing CNDLS tools page based on the group’s vision for a shared university resource.

The new site provides an overview of the tools (e.g., Blackboard and WordPress) and the services (e.g., course evaluations and multimedia services) available to the Georgetown community. Visitors can quickly scan a list of tools and services on the front page of the site and then see a more detailed description, models of use/faculty stories, and setup/contact information on each individual tool/service page. Supporting departments are listed on the sidebar of the site.

The site was announced on January 6 of this year and has quickly become one of the most-visited parts of the CNDLS site. There has been a lot of positive feedback on this standardization of university tools and services, and CNDLS has received more interest and inquiries related to the resources.

To view this updated page, please visit: