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Kent State Students Launch Data-Driven Website Featuring Kent News, Events and Videos

Posted Apr. 26, 2012

Students from Kent State University’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.

Kent State students and an instructor work on the OpenCampus Kent websiteStarting today, visitors to the OpenCampus Kent website will be able to get the latest crime updates, news, event listings, information on discount deals and restaurant reviews. Users 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 local residents look 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,” said Jacqueline Marino, assistant professor in Kent State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

OpenCampus Kent is a product of the Kent State 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 the 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 Web Programming for Multimedia Journalism class ends. Student media will continue to improve the site.
•    OpenCampus Kent integrates video. Users can view Kent area videos uploaded to YouTube.

Kent State students work on OpenCampus Kent websiteThe 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; and 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 is a collaboration of independent student media at Kent State.

“I think it’s great to collaborate with programmers and designers,” said 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, said the course was a great experience. “I love this stuff,” Gates said.


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Photo Caption 1:
Liz Yokum, an instructor in Kent State University’s School of Digital Sciences, works on the development of OpenCampus Kent with Josh Talbott (left), a graduate student in the College of Technology, and Kevin Donovan, a senior computer science major.

Photo Caption 2:
In Kent State University's Web Programming for Multimedia Journalism course, majors in journalism, computer science and computer information systems work together on one data-driven multimedia project, OpenCampus Kent.

Media Contacts:

Jacqueline Marino,, 330-672-8285
Bob Burford,, 330-672-8516