Wednesday, August 23, 2006

MnOnline Skypecast Recap

I am planning to hold a series of conversations around the state this year to gather input regarding Minnesota Online. As chair of the MnOnline Council for the upcoming year, I want to make sure that all interested voices are heard as we work on determining agenda items throughout the year.

As a first attempt, I hosted a 90 minute Skypecast on August 16. I was happy to have about 20 people join the conversation for part or all of the session. I also plan to hold open forums via ITV as well as by visiting some of the campuses during the year. One of my concerns about MnOnline is that not enough people know what has been going on with MnOnline and many people don’t feel that they have a voice at the table.

During the course of a few blog posts, I will try to capture most of the conversation. This first post will deal with the input from only one of the participants. James from Metropolitan State said:

  1. MnOnline should develop a Common Media Server or ensure that media objects are added only into the Desire2Learn LOR (Learning Object Repository).
  2. What about a MnOnline resource list of persons willing to share specific topics of expertise? This might help the smaller campuses tap resources on specific topics they need, such as:
    1. phone / email support,
    2. visits to remote campuses for workshops,
    3. willingness to serve on MnSCU-wide collaborative development (for training materials, orientation learning objects, guides & advice to students, etc.)
  3. What is the state of the integration of common user-IDs throughout the state to aid in making "seamless" the registration for and participation in classes from multiple campuses (to "build a degree" from multiple online classes / multiple sites)?
Answering #1: The major concern here is whether we allow large multimedia files to be loaded into the “Content” area of D2L (actually the "Manage Files" area) which is suspected of providing a rather large hit on system performance. We can expect that behavior to continue unless we provide alternate ways and means for delivering rich multimedia content. Al Essa, deputy CIO for MnSCU added that this is indicative of several areas where we need to have system-wide standards for usage and performance within D2L. This is a topic that rears its head at least once or twice a year but nothing has been done about it. Al indicated that this is one of the items that the soon-to-be-formed IMS Advisory Council will deal with. Just as a reminder, the MnOnline Council does not have a direct advisory connection with D2L.

Answering #2: This is a good example of the type of information/expertise sharing that we need to encourage within MnSCU. There are other examples that came up during the conversation, but this is the type of info that should be collected and shared during the next academic year. Similarly, the campus CIOs within MnSCU are developing a list of campus expertise related to I.T. concerns that they will share with each other. We may be able to use that as a model to develop a list of expertise related to teaching with technology, D2L training, and other things related to the academic experience and MnOnline.

Answering #3: During the Skypecast, we discussed the seamless project a little bit with Les Bakke (CIO at MSU Moorhead) giving the group an update on the current state of the Identity Management (IdM) project within MnSCU. This project is one of the most crucial things winding its way through the system at this time. Much of what we want to accomplish in MnOnline depends upon the successful completion of this IdM project, but it is not really a project that MnOnline has direct responsibility for.

The bigger part of this question (for MnOnline to deal with) deals with whether MnOnline should more fully enable the “build a degree” concept or possibly grant degrees. This discussion received thorough debate at the time that MnOnline was formed, but there are some (including me) who think that maybe the time has come for this discussion to begin again. There may be a few areas where a “centralized” degree offering might make a lot of sense. For example, how many different two-year schools need to offer an online Associate in Art degree? This is a pretty generic degree made up primarily of Minnesota Transfer Curriculum courses. Do we need 15 schools all trying to do their own things in the online environment with the A.A. degree, or should they collaborate together to offer broad choices to all students pursuing this degree online?

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