Technology

Distance learning provides alternatives for CCM students

BY KELLY DZIALO
Contributor

County College of Morris offers online and hybrid courses allow students to engage in lectures, tests, quizzes, discussions, readings, and assignments as if they were in a regular classroom without the constraints of that environment.

A professor and other students are active in the class with them, however, the course is conducted entirely online except for possible orientations or testing.

“A lot of students don’t just go to school anymore,” said Sheri Ventura, distance learning coordinator at CCM. “They work as well. [Online classes] allow them to work around schedules; it’s done on their time.”

Many students take advantage of the flexibility online and hybrid courses offer. Felicia Melvin, a liberal arts major at CCM, is one of those students.

“I’m taking six classes, so [online courses] break it up,” Melvin said. “I don’t have to come [to campus] every single day.”

To balance her schedule this semester, Melvin said she chose to enroll in art history, history, and computer technologies as online courses.

“The advantage is that I can do it at my own pace,” Melvin said. “I feel like I can learn by teaching myself, it’s better. There are no disadvantages.”

Ventura agreed, as long as students are prepared to maintain their own assignment schedules.

“Being well-prepared, self-disciplined, staying focused on the syllabus, being organized are just some of the basic tools for success,” she said.

While deadlines are determined by the professor, distance learning courses allow students to allocate time to work on the course that works with their schedule.

“Students need the disciple,” Ventura said. “That’s probably one of the biggest misconceptions, that it’s just going to be easier. There’s a calendar, a syllabus, a timeline that [students] have to follow along with.”

Underestimating the workload may catch students off-guard at first.

“I actually didn’t know [photography] was a hybrid,” said Alaster Winter, a graphic design major at CCM. “It’s a little more difficult for me because I’m more of a visual person.”

Winter said he has a plan to be successful in the course despite his learning preferences.

“I’ll listen more in class and do better in class. The visual things in class will help me when I’m online,” he said.

While doing the work on their own time might sound appealing, online classes carry a workload which might overwhelm some students.

“I encourage students, instead of jumping into an online class, to take a hybrid class first,” Ventura said. “Hybrids are a combination of face-to-face and online and are a good way for students to become familiar with Blackboard, our learning management system. But also have face-to-face contact with a professor, which some students really like or need.”

Students can take a quiz on the distance learning page on CCM’s website to see if they would be a good candidate for an online or hybrid course.

“[The quiz] identifies areas they may need to strengthen, but the success really depends on the student. They have to be an independent learner,” said Ventura.

Students say Apple, iPhone 7 don’t know jack

BY KYLE FILLEBROWN
Contributor

The elimination of features is one of many reasons students at the County College of Morris dislike the Apple  iPhone 7.

CCM students are free to choose from a variety of phones to use. Even when narrowed down to smartphones only, the options are varied. One of these choices is the iPhone 7, a smartphone made by Apple, Inc. The new iteration of the iPhone removed its traditional headphone jack in favor of supporting Bluetooth connectivity.

“I don’t particularly like that it doesn’t have a headphone jack.” said Abby Babizeo, liberal arts major at CCM.

Instead of plugging in their traditional 3.5 mm headphones into their new smartphone, purchasers of the iPhone 7 have to acquire a new headphone, one specifically made by Apple.

“I think it’s stupid,” said Liam Coffey, business administration major at CCM. “I like the [3.5 mm] headphone jack.”

There are several reasons that Apple gave for removing the 3.5 mm jack on the iPhone 7. One of them is that by removing the jack, it made the device more resistant to water. While that might be true, the Samsung Galaxy S7, which has a 3.5 mm headphone jack, has a higher water resistance rating than that of the iPhone 7. The Galaxy S7 has a rating of IP68, which means that it can survive 4.9 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. The iPhone 7 has a rating of IP67, which means that it can survive 3.2 feet of water for up to 30 minutes.

This is one of the reasons some users avoid iPhones entirely.

“I’m a huge Android user,” said Nick Strina, biology major at CCM. “I’ve got a [Samsung Galaxy] S6. I feel that the iPhones are kind of overpriced for what they are. They don’t have as much features, and they keep changing them. I don’t like the features that they have now. I don’t like the lack of a headphone jack at all.”

For those students who felt like Apple made a misstep with their headphone jack removal, there are alternatives. And for those committed to their iPhones, just remember to keep your Bluetooth earbuds charged.

New app brings CCM to smartphones

BY MARISA GOGLIA
Copy Editor

As students at County College of Morris gear up for class, smartphones have become as essential as  their books and backpacks.

With email, Blackboard Learn and WebAdvisor all accessible on smartphones, students hardly have to stop at a computer for anything.

On Feb.7, CCM released a new application condensing these features as well as department information all under one place to become accessible to the touch of a student’s fingers.

The original app project began in 2014 as an experiment in Android development by Professor Nancy Binowski for the CCM Department of Information Technologies, according to the credits section of the CCM app.

“The sabbatical project had the intention of exploring how the IT department could incorporate mobile software development into the curriculum,” said Binowski, chair of the Information Technologies Department and faculty project lead for the student-created CCM app.

Binowski said the experiment also caught the attention of the vice president of academic affairs Dr. Dwight Smith, who saw the benefit the app was creating and allowed Binowski to extend the app to all the academic departments at CCM.

“Initially student development teams worked on extending the app to six more academic departments,” Binowski said. “We quickly realized that it was going to be difficult to maintain 19 different apps. So, we designed an all-in-one app…We wanted to easily share department information with students in a format that was comfortable to them, their mobile devices.”

As colleges are remodeling their applications, many universities are relying on student developers to be the impetus behind the apps, to provide feedback on which features should be added, according to University Business Magazine, a magazine for college and university administrators. At the University at Albany a student developer suggested that their app should include a function that sends a text message to notify a student when their laundry is done.

Although CCM doesn’t have laundry notifications yet, some of the CCM app’s features specific to the campus include The Youngtown Edition, Titan Athletics, Career Services, Department Information, the event calendar, public safety and access to CCM’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

“Student app developers were instrumental in deciding what features that students would like to see included,” Binowski said. “Students are the main target audience, so it makes sense that they should determine what is in the app. We also collaborated with various department chairpersons and administrators to make sure that we created a well-rounded app.”

Following a similar replica to the University at Albany, Binowski also enlisted the help of students from her mobile app design class where students learn to design and create Android apps.

Binowski said she wanted to give her students a task to put on their resume once they leave CCM and enter the technology field.

“I needed a team to pull all the code together to unify it and test it,” Binowski said. “I had wanted to give students a real-world project to work on so that they could reference as being a contributor on and be included in their digital portfolio… I was very familiar with the high quality of work that these students created in the class. But, that wasn’t the only quality I was looking for in an app developer. We needed students who had good work ethic, were reliable, and who had good aptitude for learning new things quickly.”

Liam Shamhart, a computer science major at CCM, who was in Binowski’s mobile app design class joined Binowski along with one other student in December to help scale down the application file size.

“So far the major project that I’m working on is optimizing the app because the app is bloated with unused assets right now,” Shamhart said. “If you tried to download the app right now and you’re not connected to a wireless network it will say you can’t download it because it is over 100 megabytes. What I have been doing for the past few weeks is calling through the assets that we haven’t been using and making it smaller. So, that anyone who hears about it can download the app right then and there without waiting to go home.”

Dorothy Scheines, a computer science major said she downloaded the app while sitting in the Cohen Cafeteria and finds it gives her convenient access to WebAdvisor without bringing a laptop.

“Everyone usually has a phone with them at school and some people bring their laptops, and I personally don’t bring a laptop,” Scheines said. “Before when accessing my tuition, I would have to go to the website and go to a drop down bar, which got confusing. So, this app will make it easier because CCM’s website goes down a lot when I am trying to register for classes.”

Shamhart said another component his team is working on is the ability to allow department chairs to send out push notifications to let students know when academic advisement is being held before registering for classes.

“We have an option where you can select what departments you are subscribed to in the app,” Shamhart said. “We’re working on it so that department heads can send a message to all the people subscribed to in that department…We also want to incorporate images in the list view in the department page because a lot of students tend to not recognize their professors by the name, so we want to put a face to the name.”

Jake Sharp, a business administration major at CCM said the Titan Alert should be another asset that is supplemented into the app.

“The Titan Alert should be added or something similar to it,” Sharp said. “That way it can give students notifications when school is closed and if there is any type of delay because I am not opted-in to Titan Alert. So, that is why I rely on my school email to check if there is bad weather. Which is another reason why the app is helpful to check my email and to get those notifications because I don’t have it set up to my phone.”

At the University of Alberta in Canada, they use their app to send out emergency and weather alerts to anyone opted in the system, according to University Business Magazine. The university has 40,000 students and it takes 90 minutes to deliver 18,000 text messages. However, the time is minimized because it takes less than 10 minutes to send 44,000 push notifications.

According to Binowski at CCM, the Titan Alert system is separate from the app.

Shamhart said with certain systems like the Titan Alert it can be encompassed into the app through two formats known as Application Program Interface and Software Development Kits.

“It could totally not work,” Shamhart said. “Sometimes with services like these, they have ways that you could incorporate it either through a web system or an application…. Basically, the developer of the service like Titan Alert gives us specialized tools and functions that allows us to incorporate their service into our app and calls information and retrieves it. It is a possibility for that to happen in the future. I haven’t researched Titan Alert and if they have any API’s right now, but we are definitely always open to suggestions.”

Search for “County College of Morris” on both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store to download the app.

Students sell stuff successfully online

By Amanda Aller
Managing Editor

When overwhelming course loads prevent traditional employment routes for college students, turning to the online market provides a useful way to clear through clutter for a profit, or sell a handmade craft.

E-commerce has become a huge part of the way people consume and sell goods. Amazon is the most valuable retailer in the world, online or not, with a market value of $250 billion according to CNN.

Amazon also allows you to participate in that impressive market, giving it another leg up on traditional retail giants.

The first step to selling successfully on Amazon is finding the right product. An ideal product is light and small, inexpensive to purchase and ship, and not seasonal.

“You may find an item that you think won’t sell but you’ll be surprised,” said Andrea Doucette, a computer science major at the County College of Morris. “I found some great finds in the clearance section of Walmart and made around a 200 percent profit.”

It’s a good idea to sell something that you wouldn’t normally buy, so you won’t be tempted to spend the money you could be making on the product. Another key is making your item as searchable as possible by being specific in its listing title or description. For example, you won’t just be selling a necklace, rather a sterling silver pendant clock necklace.

“The Amazon Seller app will become your best friend,” Doucette said. “Scan all the items you come across and try to stay in the top 1 percent of categories. You’ll make the most money within that margin.”

It helps to find a supplier, which should be contacted through an email address made specifically for that purpose. This will protect your personal email address from ad spam.

Alibaba is the largest online e-commerce company in the world, and is a good place to begin looking for a supplier for your goods. Filter your search by the categories most important to you, then pick from the top 20 to 30 and send a generic message, asking for a price listing of the product you want along with some samples of the product. You want to ensure that what you’re selling is quality.

When selling your product, make sure to ship the item immediately and do not use drop shipping when starting out. Drop shipping is the process where you pass along your customer’s shipping information to the drop shipper, who has all of the products in their storage space and sends them directly to your customer. Although this is very time and cost effective, it can be hard to find good drop shippers because there’s a level of trust that is needed, considering they’re selling the product to the customer, rather than going through a third party seller (in this case, you).

Start out by buying your products in bulk through Alibaba (after you’ve sampled them) and ensure a good relationship with your customers that way. After you’ve done this you can use websites like WholesaleCentral.com to find drop shippers or find them through your existing supplier. After you’re ready to ship your product, don’t forget to add a customized thank you note! A little gratitude goes a long way.

Once you’re ready to brand yourself, you should create a landing page (the website’s home page) through a website like leadpages.com. Conversion rate, the percentage of website visitors who buy something on the site, is the key here. Having a clever tag line can influence your conversion rate greatly.

After you’ve done this you can run an Adword campaign through Google, LinkedIn or Facebook. After you’ve set up conversion tracking you’ll be able to see which keywords grab your customer’s attention and which don’t.

Once you’ve taken all of these steps, you’re already ahead of the game. Remember to do your research by watching other people’s success (and failure) stories on YouTube or reading an in depth blog like startupbros.com. Through extensive research, prepare yourself for the pitfalls of starting a new business.

“Keep track of all tracking numbers and triple check addresses when sending out packages,” said Mihir Kansagra, management information systems major at CCM. “Returns must be accepted or Amazon will suspend the account.”

Keep in mind that once your supplier sends you sample products, it will take about seven to twenty days to ship. So be patient, plan ahead and get ready to kick off your entrepreneurial career!

Homeland Security, NSA honor County College of Morris

BY: AMANDA ALLER
Managing Editor

County College of Morris received recognition from the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security for its cyber security program.

On Thursday, Jan. 26, CCM was designated as a Center for Academic Excellence by the NSA and Department of Homeland Security.

CCM is the only community college in the state of New Jersey and the 41st in the country, to have achieved this designation, according to the National Initiative for Education and Training Program.

Patricia Tamburelli, full time professor in the information technology department, has been building the cyber security curriculum at CCM since the early 2000s, after she and her husband founded an organization for cybersecurity education called Colloquium for Information Systems Security Education, or CISSE.

Tamburelli said she used the knowledge gained there to develop courses that met the federal standard which at the time was called 4011, a training standard which sets a minimum qualification standard for information security professionals in the country.

Being the only two year school in New Jersey that had a cyber security curriculum mapped to the federal standard, CCM became a certifying institution for the NSA in 2003.

“We were required to teach knowledge units which are basically an updated version of the 4011,” Tamburelli said. “These knowledge units are areas of study, within cyber security, that include a whole list of specifics that we have to teach.”

The requirements to become a Center for Academic Excellence were a long time coming.

“We had to prove that we’ve met this criteria in the past, not that we’re just doing it now,” Tamburelli said. “I had to make sure our Information systems department has our systems secure and that we have the right policies and procedures in place to secure our whole school network.”

The specific criteria the cyber security education department had to meet included proving that that the faculty who teach cyber security have some type of certification or recognition in their field, providing numbers on how many students were taught in the past three years, competing in cyber defense competitions and maintaining an official center for cyber security, with a website that correlates and shows what the department is continuously doing.

“The outreach activities that Professor Tamburelli and her students got involved in are things like hosting national cyber security awareness month in October, data privacy day in January, outreach presentations to the county, and they just recently came back from the board of county freeholders and did a presentation there,” said Professor Nancy Binowski, chair of information technologies. “So the idea is to get the citizenry educated on how to remain cyber safe.”

The cyber security department will have to resubmit again and show everything they have done from 2017 to 2022 in order to still be designated.

“Once something like this is achieved, almost every school will re designate, because the initial time is the hard time,” Tamburelli said. “To become a center for academic excellence, means the whole school has to be committed to cyber security education and excellence. It’s a college wide initiative.”

Cybersecurity students at CCM are now eligible to apply for scholarships like the Scholarship for Service which is awarded by the National Science Foundation.

“If they pay for you for two years then you have to commit to two years of service when you graduate from that school, meaning you have to work for a government agency,” Tamburelli said. “Local, out of state, you get to pick where you work and it is a paid position.”

While the opportunities are available right now only to students in the program, Tamburelli discourages students from writing it off due simply to inexperience.

“Even if you have no technology experience I still say come in,” Tamburelli said. “The courses build. From week one to week 16 you’ll certainly be a lot more adept with technology. It doesn’t make a difference what your experience is or what your background is. Cybersecurity is for everybody. And everyone is capable of becoming a cybersecurity specialist.”

Never Alone is a good documentary, bad game

BY SAMUEL GUGLIELMO
Features Editor

Source- Smithsonian FB

PHOTO COURTESY OF FACEBOOK

It’s interesting seeing a game based on the Inupiat, a culture that is almost never represented in most media, let alone games. Never Alone tries to show off a new culture while combining a co-op puzzle platformer for people to enjoy. Yet is it worth braving the cold for this game?

The best part of Never Alone actually has nothing to do with the game itself. Bundled with the game is a documentary about the Inupiat. Unlocked in pieces by finding hidden owls scattered around the game, I highly recommend playing Never Alone with a guide open specifically to find all of these in one go. The documentary is interesting and offers a lot of insight into the Inupiat life. The game’s story is also worth paying attention to. After her village is hit by an endless blizzard, a young girl named Nuna sets off to find the cause. Along the way she meets up with an arctic fox, who seems to have a mysterious connection to the spirits, and the Manhunter, who is destroying villages in search of something. The story is a heartfelt tale that further made me care about an otherwise ignored culture.

The problem is that Never Alone is also a puzzle platformer and this is where it completely falls apart. At all times both Nuna and Fox are on the screen, and you can either play the game co-op with one player controlling each character (which I highly recommend) or can switch between them by pressing a button. Each character has their own skills. Nuna can push objects around, climb ropes, and can later get a bola to throw at objects to break them. On the other hand, Fox can crawl into small areas, jump off of walls, and make spirit platforms visible by standing near them. Both characters share the same basic problem: the platforming is clunky, sluggish, and sometimes feels flat out non-responsive. Nuna’s bola feels extremely difficult to aim with any sort of accuracy, while Fox’s ability to detect platforms is never clearly visualized and trying to figure out if there’s a platform for him to discover, or where he can go before it vanishes, is basically trial-and-error.

I recommended playing the game co-op because the AI is simply not up to snuff. At various points of the game the character I was not playing as would fall off of ledges, miss jumps, run into traps, and find new and unique ways to get killed. Worse, every time they died I had to restart at a checkpoint. Many of the restarts were simply out of my control because my AI buddy decided to run off another cliff. The AI also can’t solve puzzles. I had to switch between the two to make sure anything was getting done. This was more frustrating than it needed to be, with levels often feeling like they took forever to complete

The problems just kept adding up the further in the game I went. Chase scenes seemed to require far more precision platforming than the game could manage. Blizzard wind was a common mechanic, but it often felt unpredictable and I would be caught jumping when a random wind blew through. I don’t want to spoil the end game much, but one character gains a whole new set of skills at the end that are basically unusable thanks to poor controls. It seems like the longer I played Never Alone the greater the temptation to just skip playing the game and just watch that documentary on Youtube or something. Thankfully the game is on the short end, I was finished with Never Alone in about 4 hours.

Never Alone’s story, both of the game and of the documentary, are nice interesting pieces that tell things from a very unique standpoint. Yet I could never recommend actually buying Never Alone as the game suffers from way too many problems. It’s a shame that the game is a disaster, but hopefully in the future we’ll see more “documentary games” on obscure cultures.

Virtual reality immersing some, not all

BY SAMUEL GUGLIELMO
Features Editor

One of the most important aspects of video games is immersion, feeling like you’re actually part of the experience. This can be done with good worldbuilding, graphics, or storytelling. One new method is putting you in the experience: virtual reality. Will this be a huge change to the landscape of gaming, or is this idea dead on arrival?

The first sign of virtual reality came from Stanley G. Weinbaum in his 1935 science-fiction short story “Pygmalion’s Spectacles”. Despite being written in the 1930s, it would provide a surprisingly accurate insight into the future of virtual reality tech. In the 1950s Morton Heilig wrote about how he wanted to make an “experience theatre” where one could use all their senses to experience a movie. By the 1960s Heilig built five Sensoramas, which were big devices that would play a short film while someone sat with their head inside the device. It had stereo sound, stereoscopic 3D, and would expel aromas and blow air at points throughout the films. While an impressive device, Heilig was never able to get funding to build more of them.

The first true VR came in 1968 with a device that was named “The Sword of Damocles” due to its rather frightening appearance. Created by scientists Ivan Sutherland and Bob Sproull, this head mounted device provided a simple wire-frame room with a cube in it for a user to explore, though it was restricted in use as the device was so heavy it had to be mounted to the ceiling. While an interesting proof of concept, it was challenging to do much with it.

During the 1980s and 1990s the first video game companies started to get involved.  Atari started a section of their company specifically for VR, but they had to close it down shortly after due to the North American video game crash. Both Sega and Nintendo attempted their own versions of VR. Sega’s version, called Sega VR, never left Japanese arcades. Nintendo released their Virtual Boy console, advertised as a handheld portable VR device. The Virtual Boy was Nintendo’s biggest failure, aborted due to its large clunky size, high price, lack of good games, and the fact that it could only display one color: red.

Nintendo’s total failure scared people away from VR for a while, though the past few years have seen a reemergence in development. In 2010 Palmer Luckey’s company, Oculus VR, developed the first Oculus Rift, an attempt to bring back VR and make it a mainstream concept. It led to the current VR race: the aforementioned Oculus Rift, Valve and HTC’s collaborative attempt called the HTC Vive, and Sony’s PlayStation VR. Each company has their own strategies to make their project succeed and stand out from the crowd.

Oculus, which ran a successful Kickstarter campaign that landed them almost $2.5 million, was acquired by Facebook in 2014. Their strategy seems to be giving financial assistance to developers in return for platform exclusivity. Oculus helps fund the game, then the game only works with the Oculus Rift and only appears in their store. This is giving smaller developers the money they need to make a VR compatible game, but some people feel like this approach is going to split the userbase of VR unnecessarily. There is also some controversy about the price: after Luckey insisted that the Oculus Rift should cost between $350 and $450, a lot of people were blindsided when they announced it would actually be $599. The price is made less extreme when considering the pre-orders will come with an Xbox One Controller and two games: “Lucky’s Tale” and “EVE: Valkyrie”.

With Valve and HTC’s endeavor, the HTC Vive will track someone’s movements, allowing them to walk inside of a small boxed area. This provides a new angle to VR that the other two can’t offer, and the games that work with it will likely find interesting ways to make this work. This requires users to have a much bigger area available to use than the other two and will likely limit use of this feature to enthusiasts. The HTC Vive will also cost $799, much more than the Oculus Rift, but it comes with the games “Job Simulator”, “Fantastic Contraptions” and “Tilt Brush” along with a pair of controllers to make up for that cost.

Finally is Sony, who has one big advantage with the PlayStation VR. Unlike the other two it works with a PlayStation 4, which allows a more casual audience to access VR. The worry is that PlayStation VR will not be able to achieve the levels of graphic fidelity that the other two will, as a PlayStation 4 is just simply not as powerful as a high end PC. On the other hand, Sony has many development studios that can develop games around this, and they have games like “RIGS”, “Gran Turismo Sport”, and “The Modern Zombie Taxi Co.” in the works already. PlayStation VR is also the cheapest of the three, at $399. You do also need a PlayStation Camera to use it, which runs for about $40 on Amazon, but $440 is still $160 cheaper than the next option. There’s also a version that costs $499 and comes bundled with the camera, two PlayStation Move controllers, and the game “PlayStation VR Worlds,” a collection of five smaller games.

But will this be the next big sweeping change in video games? Most likely not, at least at first. While all three headsets have the potential to be big, at the current time the cost is a bit too high for a casual consumer. It’ll likely take years for the VR Headsets to drop enough in price for someone to impulse buy them, and also for the casual user’s computes to be powerful enough to use them (Oculus put out a recommended minimum build that could cost almost $1,000). Yet in a few years, as long as there are enough sales to keep them around long enough, VR should have a healthy niche group and plenty of games supporting it.