Tuesday, September 01, 2009

"Live" updating of active Desire2Learn course sites

Thanks to a great idea from Alan Levine (aka CogDogBlog), here is a live look at the number of Learn@UW/Desire2Learn course sites activated for this fall semester:

This is a chart published from a Google spreadsheet. I'll be updating the spreadsheet periodically and this chart should dynamically reflect the changes I make. Very cool.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

"If we're disconnected, we can't Twitter. If we can't Twitter we don't exist"

Today's attacks on Twitter and a reported slowdown of Facebook changed the day for many.

Today reminded me of this video I had seen earlier:

It's a good reminder to keep our social connections real and pay attention to how true friendships are formed and maintained.

Oh, and if anyone wants to follow me, I'm @jbohreruw.


Monday, July 27, 2009

The Spinmeisters

You gotta love the quotes in Campus Technology's coverage of the federal appellate court's decision in favor of Desire2Learn.

From Blackboard's Matthew Small:
"...we believe they are infringing multiple patents of ours, and we will continue to pursue what we believe is a fair result in the appropriate venues. This is really just a blip in the overall intellectual property dispute between Blackboard and Desire2Learn. I don't think it changes their prospects as a company one bit."

And from D2L's John Baker:
"It is a definitive win. We are celebrating this victory for Desire2Learn and education as a whole. We are incredibly appreciative of the support we have received from the educational community. We look forward to the day that Blackboard will return the judgment paid."


Great news for Desire2Learn

Desire2Learn just announced:
"We are pleased to announce that the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has ruled on the appeals that resulted from the trial in Texas. The Federal Circuit has ruled in favor of Desire2Learn across the board and confirmed that all 38 patent claims asserted by Blackboard are invalid."

D2L CEO John Baker proclaimed via Twitter:
"We won our federal circuit appeal! Posted on #Desire2Learn patent blog at http://tinyurl.com/kro8vn Thanks to all of you for your support!!"

This could be the first in a series of victories for D2L in their litigation saga with Blackboard that began in 2006.

The findings from the appeals court apparently will be useful to future patent applications in their construction of "means plus functions" claims.

Self-proclaimed as "The Nation's Leading Patent Law Blog" states:
"Defendant Desire2Learn wins a complete victory (after a few million in attorney fees)."

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Update: D2L files complaint against Blackboard

Update: The complaint filed by Desire2Learn on July 6 2009 reveals a lot of interesting information including the fact that Blackboard has just been issued another patent (#7,558,853) -- another extension to its two previous LMS patents ('138 and '396) which are not only controversial, but also currently being contested in the courts.

D2L posted their explanation of filing for this "Declaratory Judgment" against Blackboard. This action is an attempt to prevent Blackboard from further lawsuits against D2L under their latest patent ('853). D2L is formally appealing to the courts for protection due to "the existence of substantive, actual controversy".

From D2L's complaint:
This history of Blackboard’s strategy of litigation and intimidation creates a substantial controversy between D2L and Blackboard of sufficient immediacy and reality to warrant the issuance of a declaratory judgment as to the noninfringement and invalidity of the ’853 patent.

Desire2Learn files lawsuit against Blackboard

It appears that D2L has filed suit against Blackboard in a Maryland District Court on Monday July 6, 2009.

I don't have any details other than what is publicly posted here, so I'm not sure yet if this is related to other filings such as the one with the US International Trade Commission or if this is new litigation.

This is the first time in this saga, I believe, that D2L has filed a lawsuit or complaint against Blackboard.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Blogs? Yes! Just don't forget the value of the CMS

Jeffrey Young at The Chronicle continues his coverage of the course management system landscape by highlighting discussions about using blogs as a substitute for the traditional CMS.

Open course blogs offer lots of interesting possibilities: convenient dialog among students, feeds (why haven't our CMSs incorporated these by now?), serendipitous participation by "outside" experts, simple interfaces, flexibility, etc.

At UW-Madison, I've seen a number of faculty use blogs as the centerpiece for their courses. Greg Downey's courses provide excellent examples of engaging students through course blogs.

However, blogs themselves will not overthrow the traditional CMS. There will always be the need to provide online exams, drop boxes, gradebooks, secure feedback, and all the complex integrations with various campus systems.

As the article above noted:
But despite a slew of jokes about Blackboard throughout the day, many attendees admitted that when the course-management system works, it offers easy-to-use features that students and professors have come to rely on. Even those speakers who encouraged professors to use blogs instead of Blackboard said that universities should probably support both.

Blogs have their place. The next generation of course/learning management systems will need to take cues from tools such as these in order to be relevant and provide useful user- (and especially learner-) centric environments.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Waiting for ITC decision to investigate Blackboard's complaint vs. D2L

On April 20, 2009, Blackboard filed a complaint with the US International Trade Commission (Docket #2661) against Desire2Learn regarding its importing of a patent-infringing product. I've been interested in this particular action because it seems that an outcome here could arise more quickly than with the other lawsuits and the patent review process.

According to Bryan Farney's overview of Section 337 Actions in the ITC, we should be expecting a decision now from the ITC on whether they will launch an investigation into the complaint:
Within 30 days after a prospective complainant files its complaint with the ITC, the Commission determines whether or not it will institute an investigation. If the Commission decides that it will do so, it then refers the investigation to an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") who sets the ground rules and discovery schedule for the investigation, as well as a target date for the final determination. The hearing, during which the parties present evidence, cross-examine witnesses and present arguments, takes place approximately three months before the initial determination due date. The ALJ then issues its initial determination, which the Commission may review at its discretion. Finally the Commission issues its final determination by the date set by the ALJ. The Commission's final determination then stands unless the President disapproves it.

According to the docket above, the current status is "Pending Institution" which I believe means "pending the start of an investigation". Obviously, I'm not a legal expert, so I could use some help translating this phrase.

On a related note, D2L announced that the U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation of Blackboard's acquisition of ANGEL two weeks ago.

Finally, some Bb customers are perceiving what looks like an incongruity between Bb staff and the actions of their highest officers.

Update June 4 2009The Washington Post reports that the ITC will indeed launch an investigation into the Section 337 complaint filed by Blackboard against D2L.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Blackboard acquires ANGEL

Thanks to Stephen Downes for alerting us to this major announcement today.

I like this key statement from Bb's press release: "Assuming the merger closes in May 2009..."

I assume that the Department of Justice will have to approve this merger. We will have to watch to see if/how Bb identifies Desire2Learn as a competitor.

So if anyone is keeping score, the CMS/LMS landscape now includes Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Moodle, and Sakai. There are many other homegrown solutions, small open source options like Bodington, and new products such as TimeCruiser's CourseCruiser. But for now, we are left with the Big 4.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

ComETS: A vibrant ed tech community at Wisconsin

With the launch of their new site this week, I wanted to share a very cool thing about UW.

The instructional technology community here at UW-Madison is comprised of staff from both our central IT division and local departments, schools, and colleges -- a large and dispersed group of talented people.

One of the most significant challenges over the years has been to coordinate and collaborate with each other. In the past 5 years, we have made great strides in increasing the amount of interaction and collegiality between central and local instructional technology staff. This has occurred primarily through a grass-roots organization we created called ComETS (Community of Educational Technology Support.

ComETS is made up of instructional technologists, system administrators, IT managers, librarians, and some faculty. We host events such as brown bags, presentations, discussions, and webinars. Special interest groups with specific interests in open source, clickers, sims/games, and media production shops have emerged.

Most of all, I have appreciated how the success of ComETS has laid the groundwork for successful collaborations between central and local instructional technology staff. Together we have been able to jointly tackle challenges such as IT strategic planning and emergency planning for our course management system. We have been able to make more informed decisions with input from diverse pockets of campus.

Our colleagues at Iowa State have recently started their own ComETS organization, and we wish them the best of success.

Do others have examples of such communities on their campus?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Blackboard files lawsuit against D2L in Canada

Blackboard followed through on its statement to The Chronicle and filed a patent infringement lawsuit on April 24 against Desire2Learn through the Ottawa office of Canada's Federal Court (see court records T-655-09).

To summarize, here are the active proceedings in this complicated story listed in chronological order:

- Blackboard vs. Desire2Learn (US Federal Court)
- US Patent Office review of Blackboard's "'138" patent
- Blackboard vs. US Patent Office (US Federal Court)
- Blackboard complaint aginst Desire2Learn to US International Trade Commission
- Blackboard vs. Desire2Learn (Canada Federal Court)

Keep up if you can.

As in the U.S., Blackboard has been awarded a number of educational technology-related patents in Canada. The above lawsuit is based on Canadian patent 2378200. Here's the entire list.

I wonder if Blackboard will now be applying for patents in whatever country is producing learning technology products.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Blackboard to take war against D2L to Canada

The Chronicle's Jeffrey Young reports:
Blackboard’s general counsel, Matthew Small, said that the company also plans to file a patent-infringement lawsuit against Desire2Learn in a Canadian court today or tomorrow.

Seriously. I cannot imagine how Bb can fund so many simultaneous lawsuits, complaints, and appeals...not to mention host their annual "Bb World" that has brought in keynote speakers such as Cal Ripken, Robert Reich, and Steve Wozniak (before he was a true star on Dancing with Stars).

I would love to be a fly on the wall at Blackboard's annual meeting with shareholders in June.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Blackboard files complaint with ITC against D2L

While many were celebrating Earth Day, a new front has emerged in the Blackboard vs. Desire2Learn saga.

Just when we thought it could not get any more complex, Blackboard pulls out another dagger. According to Eric Schweibenz's article on the "ITC 337 Blog", Blackboard has filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission against D2L stating that D2L has imported an infringing product (based on the original '138 patent which has recently been invalidated by the USPTO).

Bryan Farney provides an excellent introduction to the world of Section 337 violations:
Section 337(a)(1)(B) of the Tariff Act of 1930 declares unlawful "importation into the Untied States, the sale for importation, or the sale within the United States after importation by the owner, importer, or consignee, of articles that - (i) infringe a valid and enforceable United States patent . . . or (ii) are made, produced, processed, or mined under, or by means of, a process covered by the claims of a valid and enforceable United States patent."
Farney goes on to explain:
The key distinctions between an infringement action in the ITC and in federal district court are that the ITC may not award damages, and the time frame for ITC proceedings is more expeditious than in many district courts. Furthermore, ITC complainants may in some situations secure temporary and permanent exclusion orders that can be different, and better, in scope than comparable district court preliminary or permanent injunctions.

Another difference between an ITC proceeding and a federal court proceeding is that the filing of a complaint with the ITC does not guarantee that an investigation will occur. The ITC has discretion to determine whether an investigation should take place, and, if it does so, the ITC itself conducts the investigation, with its staff attorneys acting as an independent party in the proceeding.

It appears that this complaint might or might not amount to anything. At worse, it could mean that a quick action by the ITC could lead to a comparatively quick and potentially significant consequence.

Hang on. Here we go yet again.

Want details on the Blackboard v. Desire2Learn drama?

Michael Feldstein, IT-consultant-turned-investigative-reporter, has unpacked the latest events of the Blackboard vs. D2L edupatent saga.

The bottom line is that this drama has two plots: A) The Bb vs. D2L federal lawsuit that is now based on a patent that has been invalidated (non-final, of course), and B) Bb vs. the U.S. Patent Office patent invalidation process and lawsuit. (Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!)

...and all this will take a very long time - and a lot of money - to resolve.

As I commented on Michael's post above, I have a few lingering questions in all of this:

1) How long can Bb attempt to put D2L out of business, especially considering D2L’s viability as a competitor was used to support Bb’s case when acquiring WebCT? At what point does the Dept. of Justice enter the picture?

2) How can the USPTO issue a second patent to Blackboard that is very very similar to the original one that the USPTO has now invalidated?

3) For how long will Blackboard customers accept Bb’s litigious nature? When will their customers see the effects of the costs associated with Bb’s lawsuits?

Thanks to stuartpilbrow for the apropos image.

Friday, April 17, 2009

US Patent Office rejects entire Blackboard patent

Thanks to Steve Krogull for pointing out that Desire2Learn posted information that shows the US Patent Office has rejected all claims in Blackboard's first eLearning patent. We've seen this before ("non-final" is the key term), and now there is another very similar Blackboard patent on the books, but this is more promising news for the educational technology community.

Meanwhile, I am wondering what Blackboard customers think about the estimated $25 million Blackboard has spent on their patents and litigation.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Million$Mission: Desire2Learn challenges Blackboard to drop lawsuits

Wow. I don't have much time to comment, but this is refreshing to see:

Desire2Learn Million$Mission - a letter to Blackboard's President and CEO

Also, on D2L's Patent Info blog:
Today, in a letter from John Baker to Blackboard President and CEO, Michael Chasen, we invited Blackboard to join us in putting education first and to drop needless litigation. During the last 3 years, we learned that the only winners in litigation are law firms. Education suffers.

Briefly, here is our proposal:

* Blackboard drop its recently-filed suit in a timely manner.
* In return, Desire2Learn will donate $1,000,000 to non-profit schools and educational organizations.
* Blackboard is invited to join us with its own donation.
* Up to 50% of the Desire2Learn donation will be directed toward schools in need in and around Washington, D.C., the home of Blackboard.
full post...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Great example: Student research, their blog, and inviting community

Now THIS gets me excited!

I stumbled upon this news article from our UW Communications group:

Researcher uses GPS to find asthma causes
March 24, 2009

The juxtaposition of "GPS" and "asthma" first caught my attention, but the following statement led me to a wonderful gem:
"Current students enrolled in BME 201 are working on a low-cost spirometer, a device that measures lung function and is used in diagnosing asthma and other lung diseases...The project is set up as an “open source” endeavor on the Internet, allowing anyone access to their designs."
Turns out that David Van Sickle, a post-doc fellow, is working with the undergrad students in their applied design course -- bringing them into his research work. Van Sickle created a WordPress site OpenSpirometry.org for the project.

Students in lab-credit Univ. of Wisconsin
I assume that Van Sickle is the author of the project's "About" page. On it, he (presumably) describes how open and collaborative this course and research project will be.
"We hope you will help us develop a tool that could dramatically improve global respiratory health. We intend to grow an online community for the project, and, hopefully, to interact with other interested designers, engineers, respiratory physicians, and scientists around the world.

Please participate however you can or donate to help us defray the costs of the project.

We will post updates and all of our materials on the blog, wiki and forum."

Note the phrases he used:
  • help us
  • grow an online community
  • interact with other interested [people] around the world
  • please participate
  • we will post...
THIS is how we learn. By doing. By connecting with others. By engaging in dialog. By sharing.

Kudos to Mr. Van Sickle for modeling how to teach and learn using today's tools of technology and collaboration.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Blackboard suing Desire2Learn again?

SouthEastTexasRecord.com, an online news site focused on legal news, is reporting that Blackboard filed another patent infringement lawsuit against D2L in Lufkin, TX. According to the news site:

Lufkin Division

March 16

Blackboard Inc. vs. Desire2Learn Inc.

Plaintiff Blackboard claims it owns the rights to U.S. Patent No. 7,493,396 issued Feb. 17 for an Internet-Based Education Support System and Method.

The complaint states that the '396 Patent is a continuation of U.S. Patent No. 6,988,138, of which "Desire2Learn is an adjudicated infringer."

Blackboard alleges Desire2Learn infringes the '396 Patent through products and services including the Desire2Learn eLearning Enterprise Suite, Desire2Learn Learning Environment, Learning Environment, ePortfolio, LiveRoom, Essentials, the Holding Tank and all services supporting the products.

The plaintiff also alleges that the infringements have been willful and deliberate, and will continue unless enjoined by the court.

Blackboard is seeking compensatory damages, treble damages, attorneys' fees, interest, costs and other relief as the court deems just and proper.

J. Thad Heartfield of the Heartfield Law Firm in Beaumont and attorneys from McDermott Will & Emery LLP offices in Houston, Irvine, Calif., and Washington, D.C., are representing the plaintiff.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Ron Clark.

Case No. 9:09-cv-040-RC
I'm sure court documents will be available soon. Then we'll know what issues are at the core of this one.

Blackboard awarded another new patent

I learned that Blackboard was granted a new patent (#7,493,396) on February 17, 2009. According to the patent, this is a continuation of their controversial "Internet-based education support system and methods" patent (#6,988,138) upon which their much-publicized lawsuit against Desire2Learn was based.

Can anyone explain the differences in these two patents?

Choose a new LMS using integrated multi-criteria decision making approach

Imagine you're tasked with selecting a new course/learning management system for your institution. Obviously you will want to involve the various stakeholders (a group that is growing in diversity each year, by the way) and identify a laundry list of criteria. But how do you develop an objective method for evaluating various systems?

I just came across the following paper that describes "an integrated multiple criteria decision making approach, which combines the analytic hierarchy process (AHP) and quality function deployment (QFD), to evaluate and select the best system. The evaluating criteria are derived from the requirements of those who use the system."

Measuring performance of virtual learning environment system in higher education
William Ho, Helen E. Higson, Prasanta K. Dey, Xiaowei Xu, Rami Bahsoon
Quality Assurance in Education, Vol. 17 No. 1, 2009 pp. 6-29

Article URL for subscribers:

I admit that I had no idea what AHP meant. (According to the QFD Institute: The Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) is a mathematically rigorous, proven process for prioritization and decision-making. By reducing complex decisions to a series of pair-wise comparisons, then synthesizing the results, decision-makers arrive at the best decision with a clear rationale for that decision.) OK...that sounds useful and relevant to the process of selecting a C/LMS in my mind.

Oh, "QFD is a comprehensive quality system that systematically links the needs of the customer with various business functions and organizational processes", according to the QFD Institute.

The article elaborates on this analytical process. Skimming to the conclusion, I find that the authors explain the value in this approach for institutions with existing VLEs:
"...the proposed approach can support the decision makers of universities in reviewing their existing VLE systems and determining whether it is necessary to replace the existing systems by a better one...[T]he proposed approach can [also] support the VLE system developers in analyzing their strengths and weaknesses, and also identifying the opportunities and threats against the competing systems."
Unfortunately, I don't have time now to dive deeper into this topic or mentally apply it to my own institution's environment. (It does make me wonder what analytical process was used 6+ years ago when UW switched from WebCT to Desire2Learn.)

I will, however, be saving this article for future reference.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wiki-based Text: Handbook of Emerging Technologies for Learning

George Siemens and Peter Tittenberger have led the effort to create a great online text at the University of Manitoba titled "Handbook of Emerging Technologies for Learning".

The handbook is delivered through UM's MediaWiki platform. Not only is it an excellent and evolving resource for practitioners in our field, but it is a fine example of how a modern text resource can be constructed and used for a course or series of courses.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Google, Moodle, Lurking Instructors, and other Tidbits

There have been a number of interesting news items appearing recently.

Moodlerooms announced that it is offering single sign-on integration with Google Applications Education Edition.

No doubt that students, faculty, and staff need modern collaborative productivity tools and all universities should be currently working to find an adequate solution to this pressing need. However, announcing a single sign-on integration is not quite as groundbreaking as press releases lead readers to believe. I would expect any new collaborative app that a university acquires to provide single sign-on through the campus's primary authentication system.

It will be interesting to track the growth of Moodlerooms. Universities can now completely outsource both their learning management and collaborative productivity systems...assuming they can reach agreements with the vendors over intellectual property issues.

Add Embanet to the growing assortment of open source ePortfolio systems available. Abilene Christian University, who does not shy away from launching innovative learning technology initiatives (or press releases), outsources their distance education delivery management to Embanet. ACU's vision of "mLearning" and the future of their campus is a very interesting read.

Students at the University of South Dakota, my alma mater, are discussing the issue of instructors tracking their activity within Desire2Learn.

This is 2009 -- don't they realize that they should assume all their web activity is likely to be tracked in some way or another? My hope is that instructors realize that a student's LMS usage data is only one small window into understanding the extent to which the student is learning.

I am very excited to be working with the faculty and staff who are delivering "American Foreign Policy: A History of U.S. Grand Strategy from 1901 to the Present" to both local UW students as well as a contingent of deployed military officers.

Instructors are planning to leverage a combination of Desire2Learn, iTunes U, and possibly our homegrown open-source media/presentation aggregator eTEACH to deliver the course.

And they're all integrated with single sign-on authentication.

Here is a great tutorial on setting up all sorts of privacy features in Facebook.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Struggling with centrally-offered tools

Hitting the target, but missing the bullseye?

I have to admit that lately I've been having a hard time feeling enthused about the suite of IT tools that are available from and supported by our central IT unit on campus...particularly when these tools are examined through the lens of teaching and learning. (Disclaimer here: I am gratefully and happily employed by the same central IT division so my goal here is not to rail on anyone or any group. Rather, I hope to articulate something I have felt but not coherently realized till rather recently.)

Earlier this week, a colleague and I were invited by an instructor to come to his graduate class and "give a demo of the collaborative tools that are available at UW". I thought this should not be that hard of a request to fulfill.

As my colleague and I prepped for the demo, we put together a list of likely tools to demo:
- Xythos, our campus file storage and web space system
- Desire2Learn Learning Environment, our primary learning management system
- WiscChat, our Jabber-based instant messaging system
- WiscCal, our Oracle-based shared calendar system
- Adobe Connect, our live meeting system

I felt a dilemma when I considered the nature of the course. The course happens to be a GIS/urban planning course on mapping mashups. The two instructors and their students are already participating fully in today's online world...or they will be very soon. The instructor had a Wordpress blog created for the course. He was discussing the merits of open source GIS software. In class, he was extolling Google Earth, Google Maps, and KML. I realized that these folks are not cutting-edge techno-pioneers...they are typical professionals (or professionals-to-be) wanting to stay current in their field.

The centrally-available tools above do have their strengths and have been enlisted to meet certain needs of the past.

For collaboration, Xythos provides a secure and robust file and web storage space. D2L gives students a group space for sharing files and a traditional discussion board for asynchronous communication. WiscChat and WiscCal, like the other tools, are available to all students and staff through a single campus ID.

However, as soon as I began thinking about what the students really need, I became rather disheartened. For their group projects in this course, students need to be able create mashups and share them with others. Students need to be able to share resources they discovered with others. Students need to be able to show their finished product to each other and to future or current employers not associated with UW.

The aforementioned campus tools seemed to fall short of what the students really needed.

One tool was different. Adobe Connect raised our enthusiasm levels...but why? It meets their need to connect with each other while the instructor is out of state a few times during the course. Additionally, it's a very cool tool: multiple live video feeds, ability to share presentations or even desktops, and it's available at no cost to the instructor or students.

We also briefly mentioned that they might consider using Google Docs to collaboratively create documents and presentations. We also mentioned that they might find pbwiki easy to use.

When these topics were raised, a number of people nodded their heads in agreement. Many of the students have already used these modern web apps and know how well they work.

Unlike when I gave virtually the same demo to a similar course 2+ years earlier, students' expectations have been affected by the proliferation of Web 2.0 tools. Our campus tools feel clunky and outdated by comparison.

In the end, I'm optimistic that the students will find tools to meet their group work needs. I just won't wager that those tools will be found in the current UW tool set.

"bulls eye" photo credit: http://flickr.com/photos/loungerie/36796446/

Monday, February 02, 2009

Desire2Learn usage at UW-Madison

Now that the fall semester has ended (yikes, January and the Super Bowl have passed too!), I checked in on the data regarding D2L (Learn@UW) use here at UW. My hunch is that the trends we are seeing here reflect trends in other North American universities.

Active Course Sites
This is the stat most commonly referenced on campus, probably because it is the easiest to understand...at first. This is the number of course sites that were activated by instructors over the course of a semester. This data includes "non-timetable" courses such as used for non-credit outreach courses and internal administration. The trend shows a general increase but not at as dramatic a pace as in previous years. Obviously, there is a natural limit that will be reached for official timetable courses. The last time I compared this data with total number of courses offered, we were at approximately 30%.

Unique Users in Activated Course Sites
How many different people are we serving through our central course management system? Again, this measure is trending upward towards a logical upper limit. I am amazed that we are serving over 30,000 different people each semester. At UW, there are approximately 42,000 students and 2,000 faculty (not including the plethora of TA's and lecturers who are big users of the CMS).

Total Enrollments in Active Course Sites
This is where, I think, things get interesting. This is one stat that seems to still show linear upward growth. "Total Enrollments" is the sum of every course's total number of members, instructors + students. This data shows that the typical user has more courses in Learn@UW now than in the past. I wonder when we will hit the point where courses that do not have an online component are in the minority.

Help Desk Cases
Although not yet updated with Fall 2008 data, this too is quite interesting and satisfying. Although we are seeing a general increase in use of Learn@UW, use of the Help Desk for Learn@UW is not increasing proportionally. In fact, there's evidence that it might be decreasing.

This data does not show the total amount of support provided for Learn@UW across campus, just those official cases coming through the campus Help Desk. Hopefully, this data shows that more people are using Learn@UW without the need for support. Fewer bugs exist in the software than ever before. Performance and up-time have been outstanding for the past 6 months, at least. And indeed, there is something to be said for users' familiarity with a complex system.

Obviously, numbers are only part of the story. The real story lies within each course and in the value derived by the instructors and students. That's why I still love to be involved with faculty at workshops, brown bags, and 1-1 consultations. I enjoy hearing directly from them what is working, what needs improving, and ideas on how we can help.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Piloting D2L's ePortfolio system

We are in the very early stages of piloting Desire2Learn's new ePortfolio system. The University of Wisconsin System will be running the pilot in 2009 (and possibly 2010) with many UW campuses including UW-Madison participating.

I saw a very early demo of this system in 2006 or 2007 and came away with the impression that D2L had done its homework regarding the need for ePortfolios to be flexible, support reflection and feedback, and support the publishing of modern-looking public versions of individual online portfolios.

Thankfully, there is a lot of diverse and expert knowledge on campus regarding portfolios in learning and career development. I'm not sure what we'll find in the end, but I'm looking forward to this new journey.

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education

Temple University's Media Education Lab posted this informative and easy-to-read brochure/article (PDF), Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education. It is titled a bit towards those using popular media for media literacy education, but after a quick scan, I think it would be helpful for consumption by faculty and instructional staff.

The publication interestingly explains the difference between media in education and media literacy education:

Teachers have always used texts, now including audiovisual and digital material, to convey facts and information. From time to time, the school is also a venue for entertainment, as when a film is screened to reward the class. These activities, however, are not media literacy education. Rather than transforming the media material in question, they use that content for essentially the same purposes for which it originally was intended— to instruct or to entertain. In many or even
most cases, of course, these uses of media will not have significant copyright implications, either because the content in question has been licensed or because it is covered by one of the specific exemptions for teachers in Sections 110(1) and (2) of the Copyright Act (for “face-to-face” in the classroom and equivalent distance practices in distance education).

Teachers involved in media literacy education may, of course, sometimes make use of
licensed materials or take advantage of the provisions of Section 110. But this guide
addresses another set of issues: the transformative uses of copyright materials in media literacy education that can flourish only with a robust understanding of fair use.

Perhaps this resource is a bit lengthier than I would like, but really, is there anyone who can break down the fair use doctrine of copyright law in less than a few pages?