Juan Garcia

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

EdX and the United States Department of Justice reached a settlement to make edX’s online courseware more accessible to students with disabilities after the company allegedly violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to a statement from the Department of Justice. 

EdX publishes college-level massive online open courses and was created by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The UT System, an edX charter member, has contributed 12 courses to edX.

EdX did not caption and transcribe certain videos to meet industry standards, according to Coleman Tharpe, the communications coordinator for edX’s Energy 101 course and anthropology and radio-television-film senior. Energy 101 is a course the Cockrell School of Engineering published on edX.

“It hinged on video,” Tharpe said. “They were producing and publishing video that [they] were including in courses essentially without captioning and [transcribing] the videos or separating the transcripts and the captions from the video. [The time lag between the captions and video] was far away, and that’s not a best practice.”

According to Philip Long, associate vice provost for learning sciences, all courses published by UT Austin on edX contain full captions and transcripts.

Juan Garcia, a media production services manager at the engineering school, said edX prioritized the timely publication of content over accessibility concerns.

“If you’re really under the wire and trying to get content to an organization, to an institution [and] to students, it’s much easier to do that as a process,” Garcia said. “In many cases, having these transcripts can take double and triple the amount of time than it actually takes to produce a video.”

Tharpe said he did not receive any complaints about accessibility issues when collecting feedback for the Energy 101 course.

“From what I heard, the student experience was overall very positive,” Tharpe said. “The production was beautiful, but they did take the time to make this course, as it is, the best practice for a university.”

Garcia said UT-Austin can draw upon resources such as the Center for Teaching and Learning and other course support staff to comply with accessibility laws. Other institutions, Garcia said, may struggle to revise their courses to comply with the terms of the settlement.  

“Not everyone has a network or capabilities of putting this into place, and so, now, the institutions are going to be looking to the states and the states are going to be looking back at the institutions,” Garcia said. “The benefits extend well beyond compliance, but the hard part is figuring out who has the time and the money to do this.”

Correction: This story has been amended since its original publication. According to Tharpe, only some EdX videos did not meet industry standards. All courses published by UT contain captions and transcripts, Long said.

The history of energy concepts in movies such as “The Matrix,” “Wall-E,” “The Hunger Games” and “Back to the Future” will be the subject of a new series featuring a UT assistant professor that will soon begin syndication on Public Broadcasting Service stations across the country.   

The series will feature Michael Webber, assistant mechanical engineering professor, and is titled “Energy at the Movies.” The series will trace the history of energy by analyzing how it is portrayed in more than 60 different films. Producer Juan Garcia said he worked with Webber for five to six years designing multimedia presentations for his classes before producing “Energy at the Movies.”

“[Webber’s] goal is really to educate the public and increase energy literacy,” Garcia said. “That is his sole goal and his series does just that.”

The idea for the series began in 2005 when Webber, after being inspired by movie history courses, gave a presentation called “Energy at the Movies” to a group in California. Afterward, Webber turned his presentation into an undergraduate course at UT, which he taught in the spring of 2010 and 2011.

Kelly Sanders, a civil engineering graduate student, said she has worked and researched with Webber since 2008.

“Dr. Webber is an incredible researcher and professor, not only because he identifies the relevant questions to answer, but because he always communicates with his audience in mind,” Sanders said. 

Sanders said that public interest in current energy and environmental challenges will be crucial to help solve them.

“‘Energy at the Movies’ is a vehicle to engage people who might not normally tune in to energy issues to show them that these topics touch all of our lives in one way or another,” Sanders said.   

Filming began March 9, 2011 at the Austin City Limits Studio 6A in UT’s Jesse H. Jones Communication Center — Building B and lasted six months.

“This is something I’ve had my heart set on for a while,” Garcia said. “I think if it’s done right it can be extremely engaging and educational and informative.”

A special episode of “Energy at the Movies” is scheduled to run on KLRU at 9 p.m. on April 18 and will last an hour. 

“[The series] gives a deeper look into energy policy and the ways we shape energy policy,” Garcia said. “Everyone, including students, has a great opportunity to learn.”

Electrical engineering senior Brandon Crosbie said a TV series is a smart way to raise awareness about energy issues. 

“It needs not only people knowing about it, but knowing the importance of it,” Crosbie said. “The first step is getting people to know what we need to do.”

Printed on Tuesday, March 26, 2013 as: UT professor presents PBS series on energy 

Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Navy Juan Garcia said the Navy’s large presence in Japan for relief, the American and European attacks on Libya and the continued burden of the Iraq War are proof of the branch’s continued relevance and necessity. About 100 people at the Texas Union came to hear Garcia speak as part of Navy Week when, in cities nationwide, members of the Navy work to show taxpayers the return on their investment, he said. The sailors will build homes for Habitat for Humanity, work in soup kitchens and visit hospitals and schools. “It couldn’t be a more timely week to come and tell the Navy story,” he said. “As we sit in this room on this beautiful campus, there are 22 Navy ships and a nuclear aircraft carrier off the coast of Japan doing disaster relief.” At the same time, he said, five Navy ships and two nuclear submarines are off the coast of Libya leading the international coalition to prevent the slaughter of civilians. The Navy also conducts research on global warming in the Arctic Ocean and provides medical care in poor countries. They send doctors to offer medical care, such as cleft surgeries and eyeglasses. He said this is in the interest of national security as well as humanitarian efforts because those shown the sympathy of the nation are more easily convinced that we are there to help. The International Speakers Association, who center around bringing people of international significance to UT to help students connect with the world, sponsored the event, said coordinator Sorit Ganguly. Ganguly said a large portion of the turnout were junior and senior members of the ROTC. Plan II senior Dane Miller said he attended in light of recent events in Libya that involve the Navy. “I view the navy as an important engine for economic growth,” he said. “I don’t think we should be making cuts.” French senior Peter Antosh said he was interested to see exactly what the Navy was doing. “I always want to see what America is up to,” he said. “I want to see how my future earnings will be spent.”

Two new media experts presented a world of transmedia storytelling — a multiplatform way of storytelling with each individual media telling a different part of the story but creating a cohesive narrative when combined.

Documentary photographer Daniel Lorenzetti and new media producer Juan Garcia spoke at the Austin Forum, a monthly speaker series aimed at educating the community in science, technology and society. They previously spoke about the subject at the 2010 South By Southwest Interactive.

“Transmedia really incorporates and defines the process of multilevel storytelling,” Garcia said. “The world is reaching the level of engagement in interactivity that we’ve never seen before, thanks to mobile technology, smart TVs, things of that nature.”

Both explained how different platforms create or expand on the story, either in fiction or nonfiction.

“Now that people can actually engage with the story, they’re no longer engaging with themselves,” Garcia said. “They can actually dive into and be part of the story world.”

Garcia said everyone is a born storyteller because we speak and interact with each other. Through Facebook and Twitter, people bring transmedia to reality, he said.

“We are all engaging with each other and sort of peering into other people’s lives,” Garcia said. “We are able to comment and examine and further the story through this social media platform.”

Lorezentti explained how transmedia works in fiction such as video games, publishing, films and on television using Discovery Channel’s Shark Week 2009 campaign as an example. The campaign allowed viewers to realize the horror of being attacked by creating their own shark attacks scenarios through interactive features online.

Lorenzetti said he was in Los Angeles talking to 70 entertainment attorneys concerned with intellectual property issues within transmedia. Issues about whether the storyteller or the person who created the character actually owns the character are on the minds of agents, writers and producers in the transmedia world.

“Once you let the fan base in and let them play in your story sandbox and they create stuff, who owns that stuff?” Lorenzetti said. “You have to maintain some creative control.”

He said writers, producers and directors are scared because they are losing control of their pieces. Lorezentti said it has the opposite effect on him and is excited about his fans’ involvement. He said he hopes to create an ending together.

Patricia Guy, who formerly worked with the Austin Parks and Recreation Department, saw community problem solving in action after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. She said the Austin community came together through media by using their cell phones and laptop.

“I’m wondering, ‘Why not take all these technologies and apply it to the real world,’” Guy said. “I think it’s more than a marketing tool. I think it’s a great problem solving tool.”