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 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?, 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.