A cool launch

Students in caps and jackets move across a snowy campus lawn

Photo by Blake Lanser.

Winter arrived in central Iowa just in time to welcome students and faculty back to campus for the first day of spring semester. (Pictured) Students head to Parks Library from Marston Hall Monday morning. We'll know the size of our student body after Jan. 28, the 10th day of class when the official enrollment count is recorded.

Canvas gets high marks in first year

A year after its campuswide launch, Canvas is being used by an estimated 75 percent of Iowa State instructors.

The learning management system (LMS) replaced Blackboard and largely has been embraced by faculty and students. Access to Blackboard ended in January 2018. The contract expired a year earlier and drove the need to either renew or find a new LMS.

"[Implementing Canvas] was a really thoughtful process that we went through to try to help the faculty, staff and students," said Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) director Sara Marcketti. "Throughout the process, the CELT team had instructional designers, faculty, students come in and use things and give their feedback."

The desire is to get as many instructors using Canvas as possible, but some may not have the need if they teach classes like independent studies or graduate courses.

"The entire goal of moving to Canvas was to have instructors build a course and students spend more time on the content of the course, not trying to figure out how to use the tool," said learning technologies coordinator Amy Ward.

Starting early

Marcketti believes early adopters to Canvas helped drive its success in the first year. Although Canvas did not become the lone LMS on campus until the 2018 spring semester, instructors began working with it in the fall of 2017.

"Canvas recommends having 10 to 15 people as early adopters, and we had 300 faculty early adopters," Marcketti said. "They were critical in finding any issues. When you are teaching an actual LMS course you realize things you otherwise don't."

Student early adopters also gave Canvas a strong endorsement.

"We did a survey, and one of the most important things we learned was that student satisfaction was so high," said Marcketti, who noted the mid-fall 2017 survey reported 90 percent satisfaction. "They found the navigability so much easier than Blackboard, the look was so much cleaner, and the mobile features allowed them to take quizzes or look at their syllabus online."

Student comfort was higher because some had previous experience with the LMS at their high school or middle school.

"All of the big schools in Iowa -- Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City -- are on Canvas," said Ward.

Putting it to use

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences associate dean Arne Hallam teaches three courses -- two on campus and one online. Announcements in Canvas are one of the biggest ways he communicates with his students. Announcements allow him to post readings for the entire semester while remaining flexible.

"The readings are posted, the blogs are posted for the online class, we post the lectures either before the lecture or after depending on what is appropriate," he said. "It allows the students to log in and see the slides, and they like doing that."

The move to Canvas provided an impetus for some departments to use the same LMS as others on campus.

"Most of the English classes at Iowa State were not on Blackboard, they were using Moodle, … and they were able to move all the freshman and sophomore English to Canvas," Hallam said. "It has gone extremely smoothly, and the people that moved are happy."

Hallam said the move to Canvas was smooth when it came to posting readings and slides. Issues arose more often when instructors tried to transfer quizzes or tests from one LMS to the other.

Always able to improve

To respond to issues, CELT created a teaching technology advisory committee. The committee of about 20 people from across campus meets monthly.

"Anything that has been in the Canvas environment that we need to make a decision on -- or even other technologies that impact teaching -- we use this advisory committee to help us build a better system," Ward said.

With the addition of Canvas came 24/7 technical support (294-4000) through representatives based in Utah.

"They are absolutely amazing," Hallam said. "If they don’t know, they are willing to work with you and you figure it out together."

Communication was the top priority of CELT and information technology services, which offer classes on a wide range of topics within Canvas. In open labs, instructors could try a task and ask questions if they encountered issues.

Marcketti said that between classes and open labs, CELT staff dedicated approximately 400 hours to helping instructors learn the system in the past year.

Giving instructors and students more

The ability to add more apps securely to Canvas comes through learning tools interoperability. Here are some being used:

  • Top Hat is an in-class feedback system that lets the instructor administer quizzes and see student results in real time.
  • RedShelf offers digital delivery of course materials. When students gain access to the course, the book already is there for them. Ward said a $250 textbook might cost closer to $60 for the digital option, with physical books still available if students prefer them.
  • Canvas allows instructors to ensure a similar student experience in a multisection course through Blueprint. Once a course is created, multiple instructors are able to teach different sections.
  • Arc is an online platform that allows instructors and students to interact and collaborate through video and audio media.

Continuing to learn

Introductory courses will continue to be offered by CELT staff, all of whom now are located at 3024 Morrill Hall. Track 2 workshops offer instruction on more advanced options.

The Course Design Institute, launched last year, is a four-day program that features classes in the morning and afternoons dedicated to helping instructors build courses. It is set to be offered in May, with applications available in March.

Governor's budget funds operating increase

Gov. Kim Reynolds' state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 would fully fund the regent universities' request for $18 million in new operating revenue designated for resident undergraduate financial aid. Iowa State's portion of that is $7 million. Reynolds released her proposed FY20 budget Jan. 15 during her State of the State address before the Iowa Legislature.

Other new funding in Reynolds' budget is $2 million -- half the amount requested last fall -- to coordinate initiatives in four bioscience platforms that would spur growth in the state's economy: biobased chemicals, precision and digital agriculture, vaccines and immunotherapeutics, and medical devices. Iowa State and the University of Iowa would share that funding, with three of the platforms landing at ISU. The platforms come from a 2016-17 study and report by TEConomy Partners commissioned by the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

"We are very pleased with Gov. Reynolds’ FY20 budget proposal, which includes fully funding our $7 million request for student financial aid and providing $2 million for key biosciences initiatives," said President Wendy Wintersteen. "This is a positive first step in the legislative process, and we will continue to work closely with the governor and the Legislature to demonstrate ISU’s excellent value for our students and for Iowa."

Building requests

Reynolds' budget includes capital appropriations for the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab and Student Innovation Center committed in previous legislative sessions. The 2018 Legislature approved a total of $63.5 million in state funds over six years for the VDL, including $12.5 million in FY20. Last spring, legislators again tweaked the timing of $40 million in state support for the Student Innovation Center. In both FY20 and FY21, Iowa State is scheduled to receive $10 million, with the final $7 million coming in FY22.

Not in Reynolds' FY20 budget is $10 million for a proposed $28 million student learning hub in Parks Library. Iowa State's request included $16 million in state support in the 2021 fiscal year. The learning hub would renovate about 44,000 square feet on the second and third floor of the library from book stacks to technology-equipped group collaboration spaces.

Neither does the Reynolds budget fund regent requests for:

  • $1.4 million to replace aged transmitter equipment for Iowa Public Radio, including $830,000 for WOI-FM.
  • $20 million to be shared among all regent institutions for deferred maintenance, fire safety and energy conservation needs. Systemwide, deferred maintenance has reached an estimated $940 million.
  • A 10 percent increase ($410,000) in operating support for the VDL.

It's a hub once more

People line up for gelato samples at the Hub open house

Open house guests wait for gelato samples at the Roasterie coffee café Jan. 10 in the Hub. Photos by Blake Lanser.

Curious employees and students jumped at the chance to return to the Hub last week after a nine-month ISU Dining renovation shuttered the popular eatery. Hundreds stopped by for coffee, gelato and dessert samples during a Jan. 10 open house. The Hub's two venues, Roasterie coffee café and Heaping Plato Mediterranean food, began service the next day.

In addition to the new names and themes, the obvious change is a brighter, open layout and counter lines that no longer converge on each other.

"We wanted to create two distinct venues in this space," said ISU Dining director Mohamed Ali. He said the location serves one of the most diverse dining crowds on campus, including students, administrators, faculty, staff and, particularly during the summer, prospective students.

The primary entree at Heaping Plato features meat or falafel options served in a pita, on a bed of rice or in a bowl of mixed greens (potatoes during breakfast service). Also on the menu are cold sandwiches, soups and Greek sides and desserts.

In addition to brewed coffee, coffee-based drinks, teas and Italian sodas, the Roasterie serves cold-brewed and nitrogen-infused --"nitro" -- coffee, both on tap. Its bakery case features breads and pastries from the ISU Dining bakery and eight flavors of gelato daily, prepared in ISU Dining's new Friley Hall creamery.

Kiosk ordering and payment is available along the west wall. Ali said he'll revisit table and counter seating after a few months of operation to see if and where seats should be added.

Kiosks and counter seating inside the Hub

Kiosk ordering and counter seating are new features in the renovated Hub.

Two tables with chairs in the Hub

Seating in the renovated Hub features large community tables, as well as smaller tables and counter seating.

The Roasterie counter inside the Hub

The Roasterie café in the Hub is part of ISU Dining's plan to expand its use of the brand across campus.


One-fourth of winter tumbles occur in parking lots

Be ready

Walk safe this winter
Walk safe (video)

During the last three calendar years (2016-18), university employees reported 80 campus falls on snow or ice -- 79 of which resulted in an injury, from bruising to broken bones to concussions. Heather Simmons, an occupational safety specialist who oversees accident investigations for environmental health and safety (EHS), knows the actual number of winter falls is much higher, especially if student and visitor falls were included. Through data analysis that inspires education campaigns, she's determined to reduce that number.

For example, Simmons knows that:

  • Each of those years, between 25 and 32 percent of reported winter falls occurred in campus parking lots, typically within a few feet of an employee's vehicle. No other locale -- sidewalks, building steps, crosswalks, loading docks, raised sidewalk pads that alert a visually-impaired person to a street intersection, for example -- is as risky, statistically.
  • Peak times for winter falls are 7-9 a.m. (31 percent of reported falls) and the 11 a.m.-noon window (24 percent).

The parking lot percentage is significant, she noted, when you consider that most employees' walk to their building involves a proportionately short distance in their parking lot.

Simmons hopes sharing these trends will help the campus community address them. Ultimately, she said, it's about people, not data.

"We care about our employees; we don't want our faculty, staff or students to get hurt," she said.

In fair weather, Simmons or other EHS staff walks with campus services leaders to identify problem areas -- sunken or cracked sidewalks, for example -- and correct them before temperatures drop for the season. She developed challenges for ISU WellBeing's Adventure 2 website that draw attention to safe winter walking winter storm parking, each worth 25 points.

Help yourself

Poster on walking safely in winter

Environmental Health & Safety created a poster series to provide tips to employees, students and visitors for walking safely during winter.

When winter precipitation arrives:

  • If a campus plow is in your lot when you arrive, choose a stall in the cleared portion of the lot, even if it's not your usual parking stall, said campus services manager Les Lawson. This allows the plow driver to clear the lot completely. This year, plow drivers are adding extra sand to parking lots. They also will clear lots a second time in the early morning hours after a snowstorm ends.
  • Allow extra time to park your vehicle and walk to your building. Don't expect your commute to be normal and don't hurry to make up time. During your walk, avoid distractions such as a cellphone.
  • Choose footwear that helps you stay upright (for example, rubber soles, no heels).
  • Campus services provides a salt/sand mix in a shaker bottle labeled "for your use" at the main door of most buildings. Take the "your" personally, Lawson said. Employees may use the mix on trouble spots outside their buildings.
  • Report larger problems with snow or ice -- for example, a sidewalk depression where ice inevitably forms -- to FPM's service center, 294-5100 or online.

Snow business

Simmons praised campus services' all-in efforts to move snow.

Fifty-nine employees work on snow removal on those white mornings. That typically includes 15 truck plow/sanding drivers clearing parking lots and streets, 22 tractor plow or broom operators working on sidewalks, and 22 staff with shovels and blowers clearing steps, entries and short stretches of sidewalk. Each route takes about six hours to complete before the team member starts over, as weather demands.

Lawson said the goal is to have campus plowed by 7:30 a.m., based on 8 a.m. employee start times. Lots that receive the earliest attention are 29-30 (north of Molecular Biology and Genetics Lab), 41 (north of General Services) and 50 (west of Forker), the Iowa State Center southwest lots, and those "we know are heavily used by custodians and cooks who start at 4 a.m." On snowy mornings, any parking permits are valid in those lots.

From the Veterinary Medicine college to Schilletter/University Village, the campus includes 23 miles of streets, 34 miles of sidewalks and 162 acres of parking lots.

In redesigned space, Iowa State Center's biggest auditorium will host its smallest shows


A listening room for Iowa songwriters, the Goldfinch Room, will debut Jan. 26, a venue nestled in the renovated Celebrity Cafe space on Stephen Auditorium's ground floor. Photo by Blake Lanser.

The Iowa State Center is premiering a new venue later this month, a club-like setting for small acoustic shows tucked inside Stephens Auditorium.

The Goldfinch Room, named for the state's official bird, will be a listening room for singer-songwriter performances, especially Iowa artists, said Tammy Koolbeck, Iowa State Center executive director. It debuts Jan. 26 with two shows by a trio of musicians that includes two Iowans: Chad Elliott of Lamoni and Patresa Hartman of Des Moines, along with Tommy Lewis of Texas.

The 100-person venue is in Stephens' Celebrity Cafe, the ground-floor multipurpose room that often hosts pre-show talks and meet-and-greets with performers. For Goldfinch Room shows -- and other talks in the cafe, potentially -- a new donor-funded curtain system will cordon the space off from nearby stairs to create a more intimate feel and improve sound quality, Koolbeck said.

"There's a lot of live music going on in Ames, but there's not anything that's specifically a listening room," Koolbeck said.

Creating a venue ideal for performing songwriters wasn't on Koolbeck's mind when the space was renovated a little more than a year ago -- a $75,000 project that included restroom updates and a new stage, carpet, wall treatments, lights and furniture. But the idea clicked after she watched Elliott play the Prairie Moon Winery north of Ames and, at a conference, saw a presentation about Nashville's iconic listening room, the Bluebird Cafe.

"We just took this as an opportunity to look at that space in a new way," she said. "We're bringing the Bluebird Cafe to Iowa."


Goldfinch Room logo

Patterning the venue off the Bluebird, Koolbeck said they decided on the bird-based name without realizing the goldfinch is black and gold, a color combination often avoided on campus. The solution was incorporating Cyclone colors into the venue's logo, which was designed by Elliott, she said.

To avoid stepping on any toes, Koolbeck ran the idea past Jim Brockphaler, who oversees Maintenance Shop entertainment in the Memorial Union. He was supportive and agreed there would be little conflict with M-Shop bookings aimed at drawing a student crowd. Koolbeck said while Goldfinch Room performances are open to the public, she anticipates they'll draw an audience of faculty, staff and community members. 

Based on the inaugural night's ticket sales, filling seats won't be a problem. Without any promotion beyond a press release distributed last week, the initial show sold out within days. Since then, Koolbeck said, they've added a second performance. After the sold-out show from 6-8 p.m., the late show will begin at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 for a table for four and $20 for a table of two. Standing-room-only tickets for $10 may be sold the night of the show. Wait service will be available, with options that include cheese platters, hummus, popcorn, cookies and candy, along with wine, beer and soda.

Purchase tickets online or by calling the Iowa State Center ticket office at 294-2479 on weekdays from noon to 6 p.m.

Koolbeck said the Ames Community Arts Council is sponsoring a yearlong series of monthly or bimonthly Iowa songwriter showcases at the Goldfinch, including the Jan. 26 performances. No dates are set for the next event, but Koolbeck anticipates a show in March and another in April or May.  

Cyclone Cinema resumes tonight

"Crazy Rich Asians," which has grossed more than $200 million worldwide since its August release, will kick off the Student Union Board’s spring film series Jan. 17.

The film is one of 14 that will be shown during the spring Cyclone Cinema, which also includes Golden Globe winner for best musical or comedy "Green Book." Each week — with the exception of spring break and a shorter run the week before — brings a new film. Showings run Thursday through Sunday in Carver Hall auditorium at 7 and 10 p.m. Admission is free and the public is welcome. Pop and water are available for $1, while candy and popcorn are $2.

Sunday showings are open caption. All other screenings are available with that option if the request is made to staff prior to the start of the film.

Cyclone Cinema 2019 spring series

  • Jan. 17-20, "Crazy Rich Asians," rated PG-13, starring Constance Wu, Henry Golding and Michelle Yeoh
  • Jan. 24-27, "First Man," PG-13, Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy and Jason Clarke
  • Jan. 31-Feb. 3, "Green Book," PG-13, Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali and Linda Cardellini
  • Feb. 7-10, "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald," PG-13, Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston and Dan Fogler
  • Feb. 14-17, "Creed II," PG-13, Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson
  • Feb. 21-24, "A Star is Born," R, Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliott
  • Feb. 28-March 3, "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" (animated), PG, voices of Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld
  • March 7-10, "Aquaman," PG-13, Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe
  • March 14-15, "Mary Poppins Returns," PG, Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw
  • March 28-31, "On the Basis of Sex," PG-13, Felicity Jones, Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux
  • April 4-7, "Holmes and Watson," PG-13, Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Ralph Fiennes
  • April 11-14, "Vice," R, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell
  • April 18-21, "The Upside," PG-13, Nicole Kidman, Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston
  • April 25-28, "Glass," PG-13, Sarah Paulson, Anya Taylor-Joy, James McAvoy

King legacy celebration includes an undercover black Klansman

Campus activities surrounding the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday include the man whose extraordinary story of being a black detective who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s inspired the 2018 film, "BlacKkKlansman."

There are no classes, and university offices are closed on the national holiday, Monday, Jan. 21, but Ames' annual MLK Jr. community birthday celebration takes place that evening. Head to Ames Middle School at 6 p.m. Monday for this tradition, which includes cake and music during the first half hour, followed by an hourlong program.

A black Klansman

Spike Lee's film "BlacKkKlansman" will be screened at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23, in 101 Carver. Ron Stallworth, the subject of the film, will give the MLK Jr. Legacy convocation the next evening, Jan. 24 (7 p.m., Memorial Union Sun Room).

Stallworth was the first black detective in the history of the Colorado Springs police department, overcoming fierce racist hostility to achieve a distinguished career in law enforcement. In 1978, he responded to a KKK recruitment ad using his real name while posing as a white man. With the help of a fellow detective who stood in as the "white" Stallworth, he was able to sabotage cross burnings and expose members of the white supremacist group.

During his talk, Stallworth will discuss his months-long investigation and subsequent memoir, "Black Klansman," which he wrote to share his experiences of a divided United States.

The university's Advancing One Community Awards will be awarded prior to Stallworth's lecture.

Civil rights activist

A final event in the MLK Jr. Legacy series, the keynote by Brittany Packnett, will be held Monday, Jan. 28 (7 p.m., MU Great Hall). Packnett is vice president of national community alliances for Teach for America, where she leads partnerships and civil rights work with communities of color. Her talk is titled "The Power of Knowing Your Purpose."

Packnett is a former teacher, nonprofit executive director and fellow at Harvard University's Institute of Politics. She was among Time Magazine's "12 New Faces of Black Leadership" in 2015 and honored at the 2018 BET Awards as "one of the fiercest activists of our time."

Packnett co-founded Campaign Zero, a policy platform to end police violence. She served as an appointed member of the 2014-15 Ferguson (Missouri) Commission and on former President Barack Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

The annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration included a carillon concert Jan. 16 by ISU carillonneur Tin-Shi Tam.