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The Allen Institute at the University of Missouri-Columbia
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The Allen Institute for Research on Learning, Information & Technology, named in honor of Dr. Bryce L. Allen, provides a unifying and dynamic umbrella for the research and development activities of faculty, staff, and students in the School of Information Science & Learning Technologies (SISLT). The Allen Institute offers an infrastructure of support and a collaborative space wherein the vital inquiry of SISLT can be enhanced. Bryce Allen represented the best of collaboration and creative research; the goal of The Allen Institute is to continue in this noble tradition.

The Allen Institute houses numerous, on-going R&D projects including the following:

Ancient Texts | New Media | Future Ethics: Case Studies in Digital Text Analysis
Point of Contact: Twyla Gibson
The international collaborative project involves conceptualizing new theoretical constructs and methodologies in the study of media, communication, and information. The interdisciplinary research at the intersection of ancient studies, digital humanities, and contemporary ethics involves developing an application programming interface (API) that will make it possible to pursue “big data” textual research across texts and traditions. The aim is to show the potential for innovative methodologies in digital textuality, intertextuality, and classification to uncover new information concerning foundational source texts of world cultures [Students can pursue programming, interaction design, studies in comparative textual research, philosophy, classics, religious studies, etc.]
Before Babel: The Universal Language and the Origins of Cultures
Point of Contact: Twyla Gibson
The notion that there once existed a language common to all people that was lost in the Fall or the confusion at Babel has engaged philosophers and religious scholars for millennia. This project involves developing digital text analysis techniques to investigate the possibility that this idea is more than a legend [Students can pursue programming, interaction design, studies in comparative textual research, philosophy, classics, religious studies, etc.]
Cyber-physical Learning
Point of Contact: Johannes Strobel
This project investigates the role of 3D printing and robotics on the learning process in STEAM subjects. From the mind to the digital to the creation/control of physical objects. Online professional development of design, engineering and computer science. Research on how to facilitate teacher learning processes over distance and in online settings incorporating hands-on, problem-based learning Empathy and care as essential trademarks and dispositions of STEM particularly Human Centered Design and engineering. Inclusion, Access and Heterogeneity in technical fields: reducing stereotypes, inclusive design
Digital Didactical Designs
Point of Contact: Isa Jahnke
Are you interested in studying the relation of teachers' designs for learning and students outcomes in a tablet 1:1 program? Digital Didactical Design (DDD) is an approach that engages teachers in designing for tablet/technology-mediated learning. The project ask, in what ways teachers use ipads/technology, for what kinds of teaching activities and learning activities, and how are these designs connected to the student learning outcomes. We use the five-layer DDD-model (Jahnke, 2015) for studying the designs and then, we relate the teacher designs to student outcomes such as products created with different apps. The project helps teachers to evaluate and reflect on their designs for learning with the aim to promote student learning progress.
The Digital Humanities Commons @ The Allen Institute (DHC)
Point of Contact: Twyla Gibson
The DHC serves as MU’s nexus of digital scholarship and innovation. Its mission is to promote faculty research projects and catalyze new scholarship in Digital Humanities. The facility offers a dedicated space, technical expertise, and networks for collaboration in a unique laboratory that aims to advance the work of arts and humanities faculty and their senior graduate students [students have a range of opportunities to work on different projects with faculty from various departments at MU in roles such as interaction design, programming, digital research design, communication and public relations, grant sponsored work, etc.]
Digital Libraries
Point of Contact: Heather Moulaison
Digital libraries are ubiquitous, and services and systems to provide access support enterprises ranging from scholarship to commerce. Focus your study and research on theoretical and practical aspects of providing access to curated digital content in information centers. Special attention can be given to metadata, digital preservation, and standards/interoperability for electronic content. Bibliographic Control and Access: In the digital age, libraries more than ever need to meet user needs through organized, curated content. What advances are being made in bibliographic control and how do these support access?
Diversity Issues in Public Libraries
Point of Contact: Denice Adkins
Public libraries are accessible to entire communities, but individual populations have different and sometimes conflicting needs. Explore diversity management and diversity issues specific to public libraries, and how those issues can be communicated with library administrators, staff, and patrons.
The Greek Key Virtual Research Environment (VRE)
Point of Contact: Twyla Gibson This project involves developing a Virtual Research Environment (VRE) — i.e., a suite of tools and resources designed to help manage the increasingly complex range of tasks involved in bringing together scholars across disciplines and from around the globe to collaborate virtually on both small and large scale research on early source texts [Students can pursue programming, interaction design, studies in comparative textual research, philosophy, classics, religious studies, etc.]
Group Informatics
Point of Contact: Sean Goggins
Group Informatics is a methodological approach and ontology for understanding the social connections that are created between members of technologically-mediated groups. A substantive literature on small groups exists, but focused understanding of how different types of online groups diverge from traditional groups is limited, and is often focused on the study of a single online group as opposed to taking a comparative approach. Our methodological approach supports focused thinking about how online groups differ from each other, and diverge from their face-to-face counterparts. Group Informatics is grounded in five years of empirical studies of technologically-mediated groups in online learning, software engineering, online political discourse, crisis informatics and other domains. To discuss our methodological approach and the associated methods of group analysis, we first introduce two new constructs: the small, naturally asynchronous group (SNAG) and the socio-technical interaction place (STIP). These new constructs are more precise in their scope than prior constructs, and thus help to bound discourse related to the new kinds of technologically-mediated social relations that are characteristic of online group participation. We describe the Group Informatics Model and the related, two-phase methodological approach in detail. Phase one of the methodological approach centers on a set of guiding research questions aimed at directing the application of Group Informatics to new corpora of integrated electronic trace data and qualitative research data. Phase two of the methodological approach is a systematic set of steps for transforming electronic trace data into weighted social networks. We suggest that the Group Informatics methodological approach begins an important discussion in information science, aimed at advancing empirically and theoretically informed analysis of electronic trace data focused on small groups. Group Informatics can also be used as a foundation to address other phenomena where understanding of how people are connected with each other through technology is a central concern.
Information Experience Laboratory
Point of Contact: Neeley Current
Laboratory and enterprise for for research, teaching and service in technology usability.
Point of Contact: Isa Jahnke
iPad-Didactics and tablets in K-12 schools explores how teachers in schools designs for learning using innovative forms of pedagogies. We are looking at the sociotechnical-pedagogical processes.
Latinos, Libraries, and Information Use
Point of Contact: Denice Adkins
As Latino populations grow in the Midwest, and library use is one way of integrating those populations into the community. The information needs of Latino communities may be different from the information needs of non-Latino communities. Explore ways of making libraries and information provision more appropriate to diverse populations.
Libraries and Geographic Information Systems
Point of Contact: Denice Adkins
As place-bound institutions, libraries provide services to populations that are located in and around those buildings. Explore GIS technologies and how they can be integrated into library data planning.
Point of Contact: Twyla Gibson
A peer-reviewed interdisciplinary journal for research on media and mediation [students can work as editors, proofreaders, commissioning articles etc. ]
Mission Hydro Science: Gaming Analytics
Point of Contact: Sean Goggins Mission HydroSci terrain simulator provides students with a set of tools to investigate water in socio-ecological systems. Students can manipulate topography by increasing and decreasing terrain elevation. They can also collect data to make sense of the changes they enact by placing sensors in the environment to monitor variables such as water flow, volume and quality. By manipulating the terrain, students discover how water cycles through the environment. A time-machine function allows students to predict and then observe long-term implications of hydrologic cycles.
Objects: Stories of Immigration and Material Culture
Point of Contact: Jenny Bossaller
This project documents the items brought by German immigrants to Missouri, or made by German immigrants in Missouri. The end product will be an e-edition with rich metadata built on the Scalar platform combining multimedia (photographs, 3-D images, sound recordings) and GIS. It is a joint collaboration with the Missouri Humanities Council, historic societies, and scholars across the state.
Open Collaboration Data Factories
Point of Contact: Sean Goggins
Open online communities (OOC) are significant drivers of innovation, create economic activity, and are linked to improved social well-being. Scholars and practitioners from diverse disciplines research OOCs to allow citizens to manage and grow OOCs. Methods that these researchers use include investigating how tools may be designed to support different modes of collaboration, developing theories of collaboration from rich qualitative methods, or using electronic trace data. While research contexts are identical, differences in data and methods leads to diffuse discourse across disciplines, publications, and communication. Issues of coherence within different communities studying the same data makes discussion about a particular OOC difficult. A second challenge is the participation of individuals in multiple communities and the associated limitations of scholarship focused on single communities.
Opportunistic Discovery of Information (ODI)
Point of Contact: Sanda Erdelez
Focuses on understanding the role of serendipity and human information behavior and user experiences in information rich digital environments. Current project involve: ODI in medical and legal information contexts, online news reading and ODI, and ODI in scientific/scholarly research and communication.
Problem based learning environments – particularly in STEM disciplines
Point of Contact: Rose Marra
Dr. Marra just received an NSF grant to study metacognition development in engineering students at the PBL Iron Range Engineering Program. Dr. Marra is actively seeking to hire a GA to help with data collection and analysis for this project. Design, implementation and research of tools used to support meaningful collaboration in online settings. Dr. Marra was PI of the NSF funded SCEE (Supporting Collaboration in Engineering Education) where she created and researched tools to support online and asynchronous collaboration for engineering problem solving. Dr. Marra is currently working with colleagues to extend and refine this idea for supporting “kitchen” science labs in online K-12 science learning in the context of the MIZZOU K-12 Online High School.
Project Whistlestop
Point of Contact: Tom Kochtanek
The digital library for the Truman Presidential Library.
Reader Advisory and Reading Appeal
Point of Contact: Denice Adkins
What makes a book a "good book"? Elements of appeal have been proposed, but have those elements of appeal been tested? Do they hold true for different generations? Different cultures? Different ages? Different reading formats like comics? Explore reading and reading research to help answer these questions.
Reflexive Dynamics in Patient Self Care Online Communities
Point of Contact: Sean Goggins
Online support communities are complex, dynamic systems subject to numerous internal and external factors. This project investigates how internal factors (e.g. interactions between individuals in conversation-driven online health groups) interact with external factors (e.g. technology design, demographics), leading to different performance levels (e.g. support matching, information quality). We apply complex adaptive systems (CAS) theory to pursue this research. CAS is a subfield of complexity science, and describes systems in terms of stable patterns of local interactions that generate coherent aggregate behaviors. It has been applied successfully to various human social systems and offers a potentially unifying framework for divergent social technology research efforts.
School Libraries and Reading Performance
Point of Contact: Denice Adkins
A child's first exposure to libraries is typically through their school library. Large data sets often allow us to connect school library use and academic performance through quantitative methods. Explore school performance and other data to make arguments based on policy and strategy.
Secure Data Science for Education Research
Point of Contact: Sean Goggins
Education research is limited because sharing data across study sites is fraught with concerns about student privacy and protecting minors. This project addresses those gaps head on, and is actively developing a systematic sociotechnical mechanism for ensuring secure education research.
Sociotechnical Design
Point of Contact: Isa Jahnke
The Information Experience Lab adopts a SocioTechnical Design approach to integrate user experience in technical designs, for example, usability testing. Newest trends illustrate a need for usability testing for small devices and applications for wearables. The IELab is striving towards new usability methods for such new flexible devices. In addition, there is a need to rethink existing usability methods for new groups of users such as smart city applications, preschoolers and English language learners.
STD Engineering (Sociotechnical Design and Engineering) in Health Care
Point of Contact: Sean Goggins
Health care is a complex ecosystem of providers, insurers, financial teams, administration and patients. Each team uses process and technology in distinct ways, often unique to each location where care is provided. There have been many studies of health care, but to date the development of a theory of sociotechnical design and engineering in this context has not been articulated. The aim of this project is active participation in the development of theories salient for advancing health care outcomes deliberately, through the codesign of technologies and social structures.
Structural Fluidity & Performance in Virtual Organizations
Point of Contact: Sean Goggins
A major advantage of Virtual Organizations (VOs) is flexible membership and participation. VO members are able to join and leave VOs at will, and can change whom they collaborate with at any point in time. Such flexibility may make VOs more efficient in the completion of collaborative work than traditional organizations. However, efficiency is only one of several measures of organizational performance; and flexibility in a virtual organization includes both how VO structures may be more fluid and adaptive, and how VO leadership emerges and evolves throughout the VO lifecycle. The aim of this proposal is to: (1) define and quantitatively assess the actual flexibility of participation in VOs, through a social network index that we call structural fluidity; and (2) measure the relationship between fluidity and performance in the work carried out within the VO. These are essential insights for the development of theories to guide the formation, development and dissolution of VOs, and teams that emerge around VO work. To accomplish the proposal’s aims, we will apply a methodological approach and ontology for the study of VOs that we have used in over a dozen published studies, and refer to as Group Informatics. Our approach enables a comprehensive, interdisciplinary inquiry into the relationship between structural fluidity and performance in diverse VOs. Specifically, we will examine VOs in software engineering, disaster relief, online learning and public discourse communities that emerge through social media.
Supporting Collaboration in Engineering Education (SCEE)
Point of Contact: Rose Marra
SCEE will develop an online, customizable environment — the Engineering Education Collaboration Environment — in which students will manage and implement collaborative activities associated with engineering design projects. The project will include dissemination, testing and research in several engineering classrooms at multiple institutions.
Towards Cross-action Spaces
Point of Contact: Isa Jahnke There is no thing called 'distance learning.' We learn when we are present. It is distance teaching. Also, the term of blended learning is crucial. What do we really blend? Thus, what happens when online and offline worlds are merging? Human behavior turns from inter-action to cross-action. Which kinds of designs for learning are needed under those new conditions? That is what we study. We argue we need reflective cross-actions in learning expeditions.
Point of Contact: Isa Jahnke
Do you want to work with newest technologies such as smart glasses and wearables, and want to know how to 'design for sociotechnical learning'? Then, join our SISLT team and our LexMizzou project where we create collaborative learning expeditions for new students on Mizzou Campus.

The Allen Institute also provides professional support for SISLT PhD students and also has close working relationships with other University of Missouri R&D enterprises.

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An equal opportunity/access/affirmative action/pro-disabled and veteran employer.
Published by the School of Information Science & Learning Technologies, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211

Last Update: August 2011