Kent State Students To Launch Data-Driven Website That Features Goings-On In Kent

Students launched a website that features a recent feed of what's happening in Kent.

Students from Kent State’s schools of Journalism and Mass Communication and Digital Sciences have created a data-driven website, that features a recent feed of what’s happening in the Kent area including Kent State campus buildings.

When the OpenCampus Kent website launches April 26, users will be able to get the latest crime updates, news, deals, events and restaurant reviews, all on one site. They can also check out the latest Kent photos and videos uploaded to Flickr and YouTube.

“This resource will have a community-building effect, helping students and locals look more at what they have in common, be more knowledgeable about what’s going on around them, and make better decisions about what to do with their time,” says School of Journalism and Mass Communication Assistant Professor Jacqueline Marino.

OpenCampus Kent is a product of the course Web Programming for Multimedia Journalism, which is co-taught by the schools of Journalism and Mass Communication and Digital Sciences. Last fall, the project was awarded one of 10 Bridge Grants funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation through the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC).

Bridge Grant recipients were tasked with developing new academic applications of projects already funded by the Knight News Challenge. According to AEJMC, “The goal is to implement these projects in ways that enhance the education of future journalists for the new media landscape.”

OpenCampus Kent uses the open-source software OpenBlock, which was developed through funding by the Knight Foundation. OpenBlock utilizes Django, Python, PostGIS and OpenLayers, all open-source technologies. Kent State students are among the first to apply OpenBlock to a college campus and its surrounding city. Customizations of OpenCampus Kent include the following: 

  • With OpenBlock, users can search events, news and other information by neighborhood, zip code or street. In OpenCampus Kent, the campus is also searchable by building.
  • OpenBlock Kent will be taken over by Kent State student media. Once the class ends, student media will continue to improve the site.
  • OpenCampus Kent integrates video. Users can check out Kent-area videos uploaded to YouTube.

The students who participated in the creation of the course, as well as their primary areas of contribution, are as follows:Kevin Donovan, programming; George Fronimopoulos, design; Matt Gates, Web development and programming; Rachel Kilroy, reporting; Freddie Smith, social media; Derek Thiry, programming; Amy Beitzel, social media; Joseph Bell, design;Rebecca Reis, reporting; Justin Rice, social media; Julie Sickel, reporting; Brad Tansey, reporting; Raytevia Evans, reporting; Josh Talbott, programming. Computer science senior Adam Davis instructed and helped manage the programmers.

The course was co-taught by Liz Yokum, an instructor in the School of Digital Sciences; and Sue Zake, a School of Journalism and Mass Communication professor and adviser to, a collaboration of independent student media at Kent State University.

“I really think it's great to collaborate with programmers and designers,” says Brad Tansey, graduating news journalism major. “In the real world, it'll help us all improve and get jobs.”

The course also appealed to students who are not studying journalism, but are interested in developing digital start-ups.

Matt Gates, junior computer information systems major, says the course was “a stupendous site experience if I've ever had one. I love this stuff.”

POSTED: Monday, April 23, 2012 04:43 AM
Updated: Thursday, December 8, 2022 08:36 AM
School of Journalism and Mass Communication