Wednesday, July 12, 2006

D2L Pessimism

We've had an online faculty lounge for several years now and occasionally the conversation gets revved up in there. The past couple of days there were a few posts from faculty members who are still unhappy with the D2L quiz feature. They have been waiting for a long time for the ability to export quiz questions out of D2L, and their frustration levels are once again reaching a peak. Here is part of that exchange that took place in the "D2L Suggestions" forum (quoted with permission, but without names).

Initial post: "There is a feature sorely lacking from D2L that is paramount to criminal on the part of D2L imho. I can see no way to export a set of quiz database questions to csv file format. Since D2L can import a D2L formatted csv file, there is no rational reason that the developers of D2L can not add an export feature; the only reason I can think of that they have not added such a feature is that they want to hold D2L users "hostage" to continued use of D2L; call me a pessimist, but that is my opinion."

Follow-up post by same faculty member: "Let me ask anybody who uses Respondus (I do not)-- can respondus access and then export D2L quizzes in a generic format such as text or csv? That would be a solution workaround to what I seek."

Some of the replies: "Well at one time when we were using WebCT I used it (Respondus) often. With Respondus you get some choices on the way you wish to publish your test, meaning send it to WebCT, Blackboard, QTI and others. D2L uses QTI (which I think is quiz testing interoperability, but honestly it may inoperability) and it is supposed to be on some kind of standard."

"See IMS Question & Test Interoperability Specification:"

"Back when we first converted (from WebCT to D2L) I was able to load up QTI tests. There were issues with images and some of the uploading images to a folder was manual. Also WebCT liked to use the "div" html tags, and D2L does not like them at all. So there was a process of finding and replacing those in the resulting file, as well as finding and replacing the scr locations."

"I used to send in questions to support asking when or how we could do things such as test imports and exports. For a while there was a rumor of a external test utility from D2L much like Respondus. But that was long ago and I don't know what to make of it. Anyway once the test got loaded there was a way to copy it to the question library. So I was able to get my questions and related images into D2L."

"Over the last few semesters I have off and on tried to load up a sample QTI test from Respondus, with not much success. And as it is a bit of work figuring out the location of the images I pretty much have been waiting for support to figure it out. So I don't really work at it any more. It might be nice to try again after the last upgrade as the testing in general seems to be better. But having said that I think it may be a bit of work to figure out test imports. As for exports, I guess we just have to wait.... I do think this is the one area that really needs attention."

That's the end of their posts. Here's mine. About 9 months ago we were told that there was a contract/agreement on the D2L desk from Respondus to develop a D2L personality. Still nothing. I was told at the Minnesota e-learning Summit in May that integration with Respondus was right around the corner.....looks like a big sweeping corner. I'm pretty sure that I did see an export tool in the quiz tool for D2L version 8, but I no longer trust my own eyes on these things...besides, for those of us in Minnesota we have no idea when we might ever see version 8.

Regarding QTI (IMS Question & Test Interoperability Specification), I have always found it doubly ironic that D2L has touted itself as standards compliant regarding IMS Content, SCORM, QTI, and probably others. One of the purposes/advantages of being standards-based is the whole "interoperability" piece, or the "sharable" part of the SCORM name. How the hell can anything be interopeable, portable, or sharable if you can't get it out of the container once it goes in? Sure, it's good practice to build things outside of the IMS (D2L) and always keep archival copies of what you build, but why then are you able to build and/or edit some of these things in D2L since you can't get them out?

One more thing that has always irked me about the D2L "question library" is that it is not a library at all. If I have a test question in a "library" (think repository) then I should be able to use that question in a quiz just by pointing at it, not by copying it and saving it again for every quiz that uses it. That's just stupid.

Now on the bright side: most, if not all of these things should be addressed and improved in version 8.X. Now for the dark side: will we see version 8 before our D2L contract expires or even before we expire?

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