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September 23, 2010 / dlitgroup

Weekly Updates – September 24

The following updates are from the week ending September 24th:

  • Faculty Support Tickets – DLIT responded to more than 80 requests for support with Blackboard this week. These requests ranged from issues and error messages to “how to” and basic questions. Blackboard specific issues have been reported to and 2 were reported this week. One is related to sporadic “access denied” messages being displayed for students taking assessments and the other is related to group discussion forums and the ability for students to edit the instructor’s forum description. [Linked to Extending Bb Learn Platform and DL CAP]
  • Faculty Support Tickets for External Systems – Noteworthy this week were several reports of issues with textbook course cartridges, publisher test banks, and external software such as ALEKS. A policy may have to be drafted or a process more effectively communicated to faculty who choose to use pre-packaged course materials from publishers. These OFF CAMPUS resources are not operated within GRCC and therefore password resets or issues with test bank software require the faculty member to receive support from the publisher or vendor for the software. GRCC and DLIT are unable to reset course cartridge passwords, provide technical support for off campus hosted software such as ALEKS, or assist with errors with test banks from textbook publishers. For all these types of requests, the instructor will need to consult with the provider. These issues have negative implications for the student learning as well. [Linked to Extending Bb Learn Platform and DL CAP]
  • DL CAP Preparation – A significant amount of time was spent preparing a report for DEANs and AQIP on the Distance Learning College Action Project. Due to the levels of faculty support required for Blackboard and other technologies, the time for DL CAP preparation has been a challenge. As the report is finalized, more information will be included into future weekly reports. [DL CAP]
  • Xythos Pilot Begins – We have received the software for the Xythos Drive Pilot this week. This software will provide a much easier and effective way to connect to the Blackboard Content System. In the upcoming weeks, DLIT will need to spend time for project management and coordination to ensure the pilot is rolled out and reported accurately. [Linked to Extending the Bb Learn Platform DAP]
  • Starfish Early Alert Issue – To ensure privacy and security (even though students do not see instructor profiles), home phone numbers were removed from the Starfish system. There was concern expressed by faculty of releasing home phone numbers to students. Szymon Machajewski provided a solution that removed the home phone numbers for faculty and staff on Blackboard. [Linked to Extending Bb Learn Platform DAP and DL CAP]
  • BbStats Update – Szymon Machajewski released an update to the Blackboard statistics dashboard that he has created and released to the Blackboard open source community. This update provides collective reporting of login information for students and faculty. The latest data from the dashboard shows that 88% (799) of faculty have logged into the system since the semester start and 107 have not. While, 93% (16596) of students have logged into the system and 1194 have not.
    These reporting metrics are outstanding and Szymon has been a tremendous help in establishing this dashboard system.
    Noteworthy here is that this data could be of value to the AGC “Commitment to the Use of Blackboard” statement that was proposed by the Curriculum Leadership Team and approved by the Provost on June 2010. [Linked to Extending Bb Learn Platform DAP]
  • IT and DLIT Update Meeting – A meeting with Kevin O’Halla, Ric Underhile, Peggy Gorno, and Eric Kunnen was held to review the Blackboard 9.1 upgrade work over the summer, the semester start, and to look forward to the upcoming year. Overall the upgrade work was started over 1 year ago was very successful. The Bb pilot server and model is a very effective way to test new releases for Blackboard. The first week of school presented some technology challenges that effected Blackboard. The load balancer was a problem initially.
    A Blackboard test server is needed and hasn’t yet been made available to DLIT. This is important and has caused delays in our testing of Service Pack 2. (We are also waiting for a test server for Camtasia Relay. This server is needed to evaluate version 2.0 which has improvements around audio capture.)
    Work is needed to better communicate institutional buy in for technology around promoting learning. This can happen in a multitude of ways. From more best practice sharing to the Teaching, Learning, and Technology Showcase, and to the way we market our Blackboard and technology training for faculty. We could benefit from video testimonials that highlight how Bb is used and how it makes students more engaged and instructors more efficient.

    In this work it is important to treat Blackboard as an enterprise system with full ongoing support. In order to make this system effortless and indispensible for faculty, it deserves priority. Just as we have dedicated support staff and budget (7 1/2 analysts and 2 1/2 time infrastructure FTE) for Peoplesoft, so to do we need dedicated support for Blackboard (1/2 FTE) which is used by 93% of our students and 88% of our faculty on a daily basis.
    During our meeting we also talked about the need to better communicate our maintenance windows and also to review what time/day (Friday or some other day) where we can take the system down for upgrades/patches.
    Finally, a prioritized project list is needed, along with a timeline and calendar for upcoming work planned for the Blackboard Learn system at GRCC. This also should include daily maintenance tasks that can be overlooked. [Linked to Extending Bb Learn Platform DAP and DL CAP]

  • Respondus Video Tutorials – A series of new video tutorials were created and uploaded to GRCC’s YouTube channel. These videos highlight the use of Respondus for importing questions from MS Word and publishing them to Blackboard. [Linked to Extending Bb Learn Platform DAP]

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