Fusion 2014 – Day Three Recap

After a long night and an early morning it was surprising that I was as functional as I was. At this point in the conference, I realize I’m just human, can’t do the million things I want to do in a city and at a conference, and just relax. Instead I had a great conversation/rant about ePortfolio with some of the guys who actually develop the product. I told them about the long-term vision I’d have for the product (including learning goals that students can assess themselves on, with rubrics they design, with outcomes that they determine and assess) and some seemingly short term improvements (like taking the improvements they made in 10.0 to the creation of homepages in courses, and grafting it on the ePortfolio presentation tool – which seems like such a no-brainer). We’ll see if my enthusiasm for getting the presentation building piece of ePortfolio fixed is any help. I also intended to attend an 8:00 AM session, but felt that a run-through of our presentation might be time better spent.

I’d like to hear about the Executive Platform Panel if anyone got up at 8:00 to share their story of what they heard.

Implementing Learning Outcomes and Collecting Insightful Data in Higher Education

My co-worker Lavinia and I co-presented this one, and again it went well. This time it was a more traditional presentation, which I’ve embedded below:

We got some really interesting questions, and got into the nitty gritty stuff about Competencies in D2L. I still have a huge issue with the language of “competency” (does not achieving a competency mean that you are incompetent?) and I guess that can be addressed with language packs if I were clever enough to think of what the structure should be called.

Expanding Widget Functionality Using Desire2Learn Interoperability Tools

Lone Star College uses JQuery UI (which works with LE 10.1, but not 10.3) and Javascript with inline CSS to alter widget functionality. You can use D2L replace strings ({OrgUnitId}, {RoleId}) to change content in a widget depending on who is viewing the widget. They found that the most taxing thing was combing through the Inspect element panel of Chrome or Firefox to determine what the name of the item was. Valence documentation will be releasing this information if it’s needed, so that will be really helpful and speed up development time.

Lone Star College used the custom variables in the External Learning Tools to pass custom variables to the project – basically the content of the replace strings.They use it to embed request forms that are typically hosted external to the system – our ticketing system would be a local example. D2L CSS Classes will also be made available for developers, so that you can make custom developments look more like D2L solutions.

Continuous Delivery Model

So like everyone else who’s a D2L admin, it strikes me as Continuous Delivery might be the best thing, or the worst thing ever. I guess we’ll find out next August. Monthly releases will occur the first Tuesday of the month – then there are five application dates – the first two waves are application to test, the last three are application to production. So if you are scheduled for wave 2 and wave 3, you’ll have a week with the update on your test. As an admin you are locked into the waves except for the odd circumstances. Honestly, I don’t particularly like that idea, but it’s what’s happening. I guess I’ll have to see how other schools are feeling the upgrade paths.

The language around what D2L are doing with Continuous Delivery Model is changing as well an Upgrade is your last Upgrade, the one to LSOne/10.4. Updates are what happens in Continuous Delivery Model. Similarly, Release Updates are more of a roadmap – what’s coming and when they’re expected to impact you. Release Notes are what’s changing that particular month, and will be released 3 weeks prior to the application date.

I wasn’t any more scared of this than I was before. As we’re going through it, I spend two months pouring over documentation, distilling it down to four or five pages, rewrite it for our user group then push it out, apply it and train people on it. While major changes will be seen for up to 12 months in advance, and are up to the admins to enable, it strikes me as it changes training and local documentation significantly for us – because we’ve customized our instance, particularly around language use, pretty heavily. I’m not asking D2L to do our documentation work – even though they’ve offered all clients their own videos, but I suspect I’m going to get a whole lot more busy with a Continuous Delivery Model. We’ll see.

Closing Keynote – LeVar Burton

I am not a trekkie, don’t really care about celebrities, but I enjoyed LeVar’s talk, although I struggle to make a connection between Reading Rainbow’s move from public resource to private enterprise and D2L – talk about a missed opportunity, to have John Baker come out at the end and say, “all D2L clients have access to Reading Rainbow’s library of video assets starting now.” I wasn’t let down, per se, but it was a pillow soft ending to a good conference. When the gold-standard of this sort of thing is Apple announcing all upgrades are free for the OS – that’s an oomph.

Actually that wasn’t my end to the conference, it was with a beer with my favourite D2L’er Barry Dahl. Of course, losing my passport was another story…

Fusion 2014 – Day Two Recap

So anyone who has gone to a conference before will recognize, it’s a bit more like a marathon than a sprint – you really have to try to pace yourself to get everything in and pay attention to the things you want to. I will say, that for the second year in a row, the food at the Fusion conferences were really good. Ended up talking with Paul Janzen of D2L about our impending PeopleSoft integration and the summer of integrations (Blackboard Collaborate, Pearson, maybe McGraw Hill, iClicker and Top Hat) we’re doing at McMaster. Ken Chapman also joined us at breakfast and asked a little bit about what we’d like to see out of e-mail. Frankly, I hadn’t thought about e-mail in years, because we’ve been mired in hell with IT and us trying to get the Google Mail integration working (not that it doesn’t functionally work, but IT has stalled us for admin level access since we asked a year and a half ago). I said that I’d personally prefer the system to not do e-mail at all, but that would be a difficult task considering we have people who segment their academic teaching e-mail on the LMS rather than their institutional e-mail. The problem for us is that we’re currently not configured to allow external e-mail.  It will be interesting to see if IMAP/POP3 support comes to Brightside sometime in the future – which makes a lot more sense.

Insights Focus Group

I wasn’t sure if I was going to be of any help in this but I  thought that seeing as we’ve run some reports with the Insights tool maybe I could glean better ways to deal with it. Basically, people had concerns with the large data not being able to run org-level reports (which is one of ours as well), the interface needs some improvement, and the time it takes to create ad hoc reports is too long. So those issues were at least noted. Let’s see how they get addressed going forward.

Blended Learning, Learning Portfolios and Portfolio Evaluation

Wendy Lawson and I co-presented this – however it was mostly a Wendy show. She lived it, so she should have the floor. Basically this presentation outlines what we collaborated on for Wendy in her Med Rad Sci 1F03 course – which is a professional development course for first semester, first year science students going into the Medical Radiation Sciences (X Ray, Sonography, etc).

We used the ePortfolio tool as a presentation mechanism – which I think worked well, I’m not sure if we had a good flow of what we were going to show on each page, but other than that, it was a risk that we felt was not big enough to impede our presentation.

We talked about how this redesigned course could use the Learning Portfolio to deliver the course in a blended manner (using ePortfolio/Learning Portfolio activities as the one-hour blended component) and how the students did with it. After working with Wendy on this presentation, the stuff her students did were miles above what we saw on average and I think next year, the weaknesses she acknowledged in the course will be addressed.

Vendor Sessions

I honestly skipped these because, well, I’m not interested in getting more spam in my work e-mail. Plus, my wife was having surgery (everything’s good!) at this time so I wanted to call and make sure we connected before surgery began.

Connecting Learning Tools to the Desire2Learn Platform: Models and Approaches

Attending this session was particularly self-serving – I wanted to say hi to the presenter, George Kroner, who I’ve followed on twitter for what seems like a million years, and the Valence stuff is stuff I feel I should know. I have a decent enough programming background – I can hack together things. So why am I not actually building this stuff?

George walked through UMUC’s process for integrating a new learning tool which can be broken down into three steps:

  1. Evaluate tool fit
  2. Determine level of effort to integrate
  3. Do it/Don’t do it

It seems so simple when I re-write out my notes, but it’s a really interesting set of steps – for instance, in the determine the level of effort to integrate – you also have to think of post-integration support, who supports what when you integrate? Is it the vendor? Or your support desk? What’s the protocol for resolving issues – do people put in a ticket with you, then you chase the vendor? Is the tool a one-time configuration and does it import/export nicely, or does it need to be configured every time it’s deployed in a course?

We did a Valence exercise next, and I want to merely link two tools that when I circle back to doing some Valence work (soon, I swear!) I’ll need:

https://apitesttool.desire2learnvalence.com/ and http://www.jsoneditoronline.org/. The API test tool is a no brainer really, and I knew about it before but never knew where it was – incredibly helpful for debugging your calls and what you might get back. JSON editor online is new to me, and something that I really, really needed. I’m a JSON idiot – for some reason, Javascript never resonated with me. I’ve always preferred Python or PHP as web scripts, despite the power of Javascript. Guess I’ll have to put on my big boy pants and learn it all over again. Maybe Dr. Chuck will do a JSON course like he’s done with Python?

Social Event at the Country Music Hall of Fame

The evening social event was great – the Hatch Show print is actually something I might just hang in my office. There was some shop talk, some fun stuff, a drone… Oh yeah, this happened: