I am normally the interviewer for the Desire2Pod series, but this time Valerie Beyer of Desire2Learn interviews me about the Online Student Mentor program at Lake Superior College.
The Online Student Mentor program (PDF description) was selected to receive one of the three Desire2Excel awards at FUSION 2008 held last July in Memphis.
We are now in our sixth year of this program. Some of the best outcomes have been related to the number of students who decided to choose a career in education after their involvement in the student mentor program. The slides below are about three years old now, but can give you a good idea about some of the features of the program.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I am normally the interviewer for the Desire2Pod series, but this time Valerie Beyer of Desire2Learn interviews me about the Online Student Mentor program at Lake Superior College.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
I've been looking at the math involved in trying to meet the Governor's goal for Minnesota Online. By 2015 he would like to see 25% of our enrollments delivered online.
First, let's look at the most recent completed year - FY08.
- Classroom (01) = 114,364 FYE = 81.8%
- Internet (03) = 12,806 FYE = 9.2%
- Web Enhanced (09) = 3,718 FYE = 2.7%
- Web Supplied (10) = 7,631 FYE = 5.5%
- Other (01, 02, 04, 06, 08) = 1,361 FYE = 1%
- Total (all media codes) = 139,880 FYE = 100%
- Media code 01 is the traditional classroom face-to-face learning arrangement.
- Media code 03 is for online learning, although it is possible to have up to two required time and place events - such as campus/proctored exams, labs, and the like (see another post of how different states define distance education).
- Media code 09 is called "web-enhanced" learning which is what many people call hybrid. There is reduced seat-time in the traditional classroom and some required work to be completed online.
- Media code 10 is pretty goofy. It is called Web Supplied and it is for any course that uses the VLE (Desire2Learn in our case) as a supplement to the classroom. There is no reduced seat-time for these classes. Many schools do not properly code these classes. In other words, some of the courses classified as 01 should be classified as 10.
- All the other media codes are for other, mostly dying, types of delivery such as ITV, CD ROM, and Satellite delivery.
I do not assume that he means we should include media code 09 (hybrid) and media code 10 in reaching the 25% goal. If we do include those other media codes as being "somewhat online," then we are already at 17.4 percentage points on the way to 25 percentage points. Even closer if we were to properly code classes as a "10" if they use the VLE in any way.
One clue to the Governor's intention was revealed when he himself used the 9.2% figure during his press conferences around the state in late November. Therefore, I've been crunching some numbers to see what enrollments might look like if we are to grow our online courses to the point where they make up 25% of the total enrollment.
Looking at the enrollments for the past five years has been instructive. During that period (2004-2008), overall FYE (full-year equivalent students) has grown by just over 10,000 for an average growth of about 2,000 FYE per year. Can we expect that to continue for the next 5-7 years as well? I have no idea, but we have to make assumptions about all of this so I'm willing to assume that it can continue at that rate.
Additionally, looking at the percentage breakdowns of the various media codes, we see that there has been a reduction in FYE in traditional classes from 95% in 2004 to 81.8% in 2008. During that time the percentage for online courses (media 03) went from 3% to 9.2% while the percentage for the other web-related courses (09 & 10) went from 1% to 8.2%. All the other media codes combined basically stayed constant at about 1%. I'll try to embed a spreadsheet below with the numbers.
So, based on these figures, I'll try to make some educated (Masters in Accounting, if it matters) guesses on how the enrollments would look if we were to reach that goal of 25% online.
- 1) We will continue to experience an overall growth rate of 2,000 FYE per year through 2015.
- 2) We will continue to see a rate of growth of 15% per year in enrollments in the other web-ish classes (09 & 10). The annualized rate over the past 4 years has been more like 20%, so 15% is a conservative estimate.
- 3) We will have a steady growth in the online offerings and enrollments over this time period, not big jumps and small lags. This results in an annual growth rate of 15.35% to bring us to the 25% goal for online courses in 2015.
Of course, I could be wrong. (you can bank on that)
So, this begs a whole host of questions. What are we going to do with all these buildings when our utilization rates fall by 30%? Will this make it harder to get bonding money approved for buildings since we are greatly reducing our usage of them? How can we possibly triple our online enrollments while still maintaining quality? What kind of results do we expect if we begin forcing faculty to teach online who otherwise have no interest in doing so? I have about 50 more questions rolling around in there, but I'm sure you catch the drift.
Here's my surprising conclusion. I actually think it is possible to reach this goal. I'm not saying that we should necessarily strive to reach the goal, but I think it could be done. However, I don't think that it could possibly be done under the current format of Minnesota Online, under the current allocation formula for funding the colleges and universities in MnSCU, under the current configuration of our VLE and the governance structure surrounding it, and under the current lack of collaboration that occurs among the various colleges and universities. Other than that, it should work.
If the spreadsheet embed doesn't show for you, use this link.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Last week I attended meetings with the Southern Regional Education Board. I spoke about Web 2.0 usage in higher education and there were several other presentations related to teaching with technology and online learning.
One interesting session was led by John Opper of the Florida Distance Learning Consortium. I'm working on another post about some of the things that are happening in Florida, but this post will focus on some of the info that is available at the website related to a legislature-mandated task force regarding distance learning in the Sunshine State.
They are looking at special fees for distance courses, which begs the question about how to determine whether a course is a distance course that should have the fees applied. We deal with very similar issues here in Minnesota where a per credit fee is charged for distance courses (but not hybrid or web-enhanced courses) and also where most schools charge a higher tuition rate for online/distance courses.
What they found in Florida was that different schools were defining distance ed differently. For example, one school might charge the extra fees for any course where 50% of the work was done online, but the next school would only charge extra if 75% of the work was done online, and so on and so forth. Before the task force could make recommendations about the fees to be charged, they needed to decide which courses would have any extra fees attached.
As part of their research, they looked at what some other states have decided with regard to a definition of distance learning. As you might suspect, the answers are all over the board. I find it somewhat surprising that most of these definitions allow for a fair amount of required campus seat-time and they still can be called distance courses. My experience in this matter tells me that students signing up for online (distance) courses expect there to be NO seat time whatsoever. Here's what the Florida group found from eight different groups, and I've added the MnSCU definition at the bottom. Please share if you know how this is being defined in other states. (My comments are in italics)
Definition of distance learning: More than 50% of instruction is delivered through one or more forms of technology in which the instructor of record and student are separated by time and geographical location.
(But up to 49% campus seat-time would apparently still count as a distance class. I like the description "separated by time and geographical location," but not the time percentage.)
Definition of distance learning: Instruction is offered mostly online. (Super vague.)
Definition of distance learning: A course when technology is the primary mode of instruction and more than 50 percent of the course content is delivered electronically.
(50% is a very low threshold.)
Definition of distance learning: Education or training delivered off campus via educational technologies, including video, audio, and computer-based instruction, where the students and the instructor are separated by physical distance and/or time. At least 50 percent of the instruction/interaction had to occur utilizing a distance education technology in order to be included in this collection.
(Not a totally thorough laundry list of delivery technologies, and 50% required seat time is not distance ed.)
Definition of distance learning: Course where 70 percent or more of instruction is offered away from the institution. Can be offered through the Internet, by satellite, or via correspondence.
(30% seat time could still mean that a student could be required to come to campus once a week - definitely not a distance course.)
Definition of distance learning: A course where technology is the primary mode of instruction and more than 50 percent of the course content is delivered electronically.
(Low threshold, again.)
State: Washington University System
Definition of distance learning: An academic degree credit course that is delivered predominantly through prerecorded media, surface-mailed correspondence, the Internet, interactive television technologies, and/or broadcasting.
(Does predominantly mean what I think it means? Anything over 50 per cent?)
State: Washington Community & Technical Colleges
Definition of distance learning: Courses are categorized as completely online, i.e., there is no mandated class time and they have a technological component.
(This sounds more like what students are expecting. However, Even in the same state they can't agree on what distance ed is and what it isn't.)
State: Minnesota (State Colleges and Universities)
Definition of distance learning: No more than two time and place requirements for the semester, such as campus visits, labs, proctored exams, etc.
(This has worked fairly well at least at my school where there are very few required proctoring situations, and almost no required campus visits at all. Not all schools in the system have almost no time and space requirements as we do at LSC.)
This pretty much confirms that e-Learning in higher ed is an ill-defined product. No wonder so many people don't understand what we're talking about. We're all talking about different things.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
This will be cross-posted at my Online Student Satisfaction blog. I have been analyzing some of the data (again) from the 2008 PSOL survey. This is the fourth year that we have used this Noel-Levitz survey at Lake Superior College. The embedded slides explain a bit more about the survey, including the four sets of data that are compared for online student ratings of both importance and satisfaction.
There are 26 items that are included in all PSOL submissions. You can add other items but only the first 26 can be compared across other populations since these are the only items answered by all students. In order of descending importance, here are the top eleven items for LSC students on the 2008 PSOL (survey item number is indicated at beginning of each line).
1. (20) The quality of online instruction is excellent.
2. (25) Faculty are responsive to student needs.
3. (11) Student assignments are clearly defined in the syllabus.
4. (18) Registration for online courses is convenient.
5. (07) Program requirements are clear and reasonable.
6. (06) Tuition paid is a worthwhile investment.
7. (12) There are sufficient offerings within my program of study.
8. (23) Billing and payment procedures are convenient for me.
9. (04) Faculty provide timely feedback about student progress.
10. (03) Instructional materials are appropriate for program content.
11. (10) This institution responds quickly when I request information.
There are clearly other items that are very important to online learners but are not included in the 26 PSOL items. Please leave a comment if you have some ideas about what they might be. Thanks.
Monday, December 01, 2008
I really don't know what to make of the latest posting on the D2L Patent Blog. The title is Blackboard sues U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. There's a link to a PDF of the suit filed by Blackboard. D2L says the following:
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Here is the 10-minute video compilation of the highlights of Governor Pawlenty's visit to Lake Superior College on November 20, 2008 (previous post here). This video was produced by Gary Kruchowski and team from the Public Information office at LSC.
Then we have the footage (about 1:30) below which was swept up from the cutting-room floor of yours truly stepping up the podium (unexpectedly) at the end of the press conference.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty visited Lake Superior College today as part of his statewide sweep to announce his goal of having 25% of all MnSCU credits earned online by the year 2015. During the '07-08 academic year, the system of 32 two-year colleges and state universities had an online enrollment rate of 9.2% of the total registered credits. (Photo by Janet Blixt)
"We live in an iPod world but much of our education system is dominated by whiteboards and lecture halls. We have students with different learning styles, different backgrounds, different capabilities, and exploding interest in online opportunities and services. We need to modernize the way college courses are delivered and put Minnesota on the cutting edge of online education."
Some of the talking points of his address:
- Improve student access and support for online courses.
- Required online learning experience prior to high school graduation. (Possibly, but necessarily an online college course)
- $150 bonus to the $1,200 ACHIEVE scholarship if the students completed an online course during high school.
- Increased non-credit access to online learning for adult learners.
- Improve the tracking of costs and benefits of online learning.
- Online tuition reciprocity for out-of-state students (LSC offers a single-rate for online courses to all students, but not all schools do this)
- Online readiness survey and costs calculator (these are already available but they need to be more prominent).
- Progress toward the goal of 25% online credits will be reported annually in Minnesota's higher education accountability report, Minnesota Measures.
I wasn't expecting to speak at this event, but the Governor called me up to say a few words. I muttered through some stuff about all the great support that we have had from employees throughout the organization chart (all true), but I missed my opportunity to say what needed to be said. With all the talk about quantity, there needed to be some focus placed upon all the efforts we have made to improve and ensure the quality of our online offerings. The Governor says he plans to return to LSC to learn more about what has put us in a leadership position in Minnesota for e-learning, so that will be the opportunity to share the story about quality with him.
During the press conference, we had a looping PowerPoint running on the monitors in the room. Those slides are shown below. Just some basic stuff about Lake Superior Connect.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
As best as I can tell, students using the new GI Bill to take online courses or other types of distance education offerings will be getting the short straw as far as benefits go. Apparently, if a student on the GI Bill is taking online courses, (s)he will not quality for the housing stipend that other "traditional" students would get:
Monthly Housing Stipend
If you are enrolled in a traditional college program as a half-time to full-time student, you will be paid a monthly housing stipend equal to the monthly Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for an E-5 with dependents. The average housing stipend will be approximately $1,100 a month. However, if you attend distance learning programs such as correspondence courses and online you will not qualify for this stipend.
Monday, November 03, 2008
I'll be heading to Phoenix this week for the annual WCET conference (at the Tapatio Cliffs, right). I have a presentation on Thursday with Al Essa from the MnSCU Office of the Chancellor which should be great fun. Al will be taking the pro side and I will be taking the con side in a debate about Second Life in higher ed. (Flickr CC photo by thorinside)
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
This story is almost too much to believe. I guess that is why the blog post at the D2L patent site has a title of: "Grab yourself a cup of coffee and get comfortable - we have a story for you!"
Many of us who attended D2L's 2008 User Conference (FUSION) in Memphis were distracted by the court proceedings that were occurring simultaneously in Texas. This was the proceeding where the court found that D2L version 8.3 does NOT infringe on Blackboard's bogus patent. From the blog entry:
"Blackboard convinced the Court that it should be permitted to have a representative at FUSION, Dr. Mark Jones (who served as Blackboard's expert witness) and the Court agreed. Counsel for Blackboard further requested:
- We would ask the court and ask D2L not to disclose that Dr. Jones is an expert for Blackboard or is connected with Blackboard at the conference. The court, I'm sure from its past statements, has read some of the blogs and some of the Internet traffic on this. And we don't think Dr. Jones should be subjected to some of the users who might think -- have certain opinions about in this case, and they may take it out on Dr. Jones.
- So, we would ask that Desire2Learn not only protect the connection that Dr. Jones has with Blackboard but also not disclose to the users that there is a Blackboard consultant at the conference.
The story goes on to tell how Jones was allowed to roam around FUSION under a cloak of darkness. I think it is very funny that Blackboard would make such a request in the first place, and I also think that it is amazingly sad the court would grant such a request and even determine the terms of the visit. Sounds more like something that Judge Judy would do, not a real judge in a real court. But alas, that is exactly what happened.
As a result of this, Blackbeard returned to the court and said that they had uncovered new evidence at FUSION that was pertinent to the trial. The court agreed and decided that "Blackboard may depose one representative from Ohio State University and one representative from Marquette University about the performance of step (a) of claim 36. The court denies all other discovery requests." (BTW, people from TOSU get very upset when you don't refer to them as THE Ohio State University. Come on judge, don't you watch college football?).
These depositions will be used to determine whether these self-hosted D2L customers create a liability for D2l. "Both customers Blackboard identified host servers on-site, within the United States, that run Desire2Learn’s software. Deposing representatives from Ohio State and Marquette will allow Blackboard sufficient opportunity to demonstrate whether Desire2Learn is installed in the United States and step (a) of claim 36 is satisfied."
Just for the record, I don't really believe that Judge Clark is the equivalent of Judge Judy. I also don't find it funny that Blackboard would make such a request, because that is exactly the type of corporate mentality that we are dealing with here. As for the bloggers who might have taken "it out on Dr. Jones," - gee, who were you referring to? Apparently there is a faction of us higher ed bloggers who have violent tendencies. All I can say to that is:
CC Flickr Photo
Friday, October 24, 2008
D2L Users Conference at St. Paul RiverCentre in July 2009
This from MnSCU CIO Ken Niemi: "St. Paul’s RiverCentre will be the site of the 2009 D2L Users Conference. MnSCU will co-host the event with Desire2Learn. The event kicks off on Sunday evening, July 12. The main conference will be July 13-15, with post-conference sessions July 16-17. This is a great opportunity for MnSCU faculty, administrators and technical staff to attend an international conference within driving distance.
The 2008 conference was held in Memphis, Tennessee, where an all-day Executive Session was offered for the first time. Given the success of that session, it will be offered again at the 2009 conference in St. Paul. The session will be geared toward an audience of high level planners and administrators, including CAOs, CIOs, presidents, and other executives involved in planning and administering enterprise system technology and learning management systems.
We look forward to co-hosting this event in St. Paul, and we anticipate high numbers of participants from all MnSCU institutions. The conference will include a variety of tracks geared towards teaching and learning, training and support, technical administration, and program management. Stay tuned for more information about the conference in the coming months." (eom)
I'm not modest enough not to mention that the main reason they want to come back to Minnesota is because the conference was such a success when it was held here in Duluth. There may be other reasons, but that has to be #1.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I'm just passing along the following questions and answers from the D2L Patent Blog.
Q. Does Learning Environment 8.3 infringe Blackboard's Patent?
Q. Didn't Blackboard try to get the court to say LE 8.3 infringed?
A. Yes, but the court ruled against Blackboard.
Q. Why did the court rule against Blackboard?
A. Because the court found (1) that the design of the system was in Canada; (2) that the steps of the method patent were not performed in the US for clients who were hosted on Desire2Learn servers in Canada; and (3) that the installation step of the method patent was not performed in the US for clients that are self hosted in the US.
Q. Does that mean Desire2Learn is a safe choice?
A. Yes. The safest choice, in fact. Only Desire2Learn performs steps of the patent outside of the United States. No other Blackboard competitor that we know of can say that.
Q. Does the patent affect any non-US clients?
A. No, not now, not ever.
Q. What about the appeal?
A. It's proceeding. Of course, we've already paid the judgment and are hopeful that with a successful appeal that money will be returned (with interest).
Q. What about the Patent & Trademark Office?
A. The non-final rejection of all 44 claims still stands, and we're awaiting a final rejection. Blackboard keeps trying to suspend that proceeding, for obvious reasons.
In other words, no news is no news. Carry on.
BTW, Blackboard still sucks.
Monday, October 13, 2008
This is a free conference. Friday, November 7, 2008 at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Some of the e-learning sessions listed in the program include:
- Care to Moodle? Description: Overview and demonstration of the open source online course platform, Moodle.
- Matching Practice to Outcome. Description: An Examination of Online Teaching from Multiple Perspectives-- students, interns and professor. Presentation of information from a research project that systematically examined the practice of online teaching to discover what works, what is challenging and the relationship between practices and outcomes.
- My Online Course Speaks to Every Student--Does Yours? Description: Discussion of accessibility issues surrounding D2L (and/or other learning management systems). Part 1-Becoming aware of the various barriers to learning for many students in courses delivered with D2L and developing awareness of work arounds to these barriers. Part 2-Tips and tools for developing accessible curriculum materials.
- Online Tools for Active Learning. Description: Demonstration and panel discussion of discussion in bulletin board postings vs. chats, setting up online peer review groups to discuss drafts in writing intensive courses, using wikis with second language learners, and the use of Adobe Connect and SitePal in an online, simulation-based course.
- Online vs. Hybrid. Description: Discussion of observations of differences in course design, implementation and management between online and hybrid courses with first year students; and factors to consider when deciding to offer hybrid or online course delivery. Self-check questions included for those considering offering hybrid or online formats (particularly in undergraduate courses).
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
The annual ITC eLearning 2009 Conference planning committee is in full gear. Every year that I have attended this conference has been better than the previous year, and I expect this year to be no exception. As a board member of the Instructional Technology Council, you would likely expect that I am biased in that respect, which is probably true. However, it is because of the quality of the conference and the people involved that I even wanted to join the board in the first place.
- The Basics of Blogs, Wikis, and RSS - morning session
- Using Web 2.0 Tools inside your Virtual Learning Environment - afternoon
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Only four slides embedded below. The results are shown from a clicker question I posed during two different speaking engagements in front of K-12 audiences. I just think it's interesting, but not terribly surprising.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
For several years now I have railed against the use of ed2go courses when they are affiliated with a college or university. During my time on the Minnesota Online Council I was especially adamant against the listing of the ed2go courses at the MnOnline website as though they were endorsed courses from a member institution. There is no way that I think the brand should be diluted by including courses like this in our offerings. Why not? Glad you asked.
NOTE: most of this post was written after I discovered that my own school had recently signed on with ed2go. This saddens me to no end since I spent the past five years railing against the use of ed2go in Minnesota Online and our colleges. Our VP in that division assures me that they will do what they can to not harm our reputation for quality online offerings - and I believe that, I'm just not sure how much of that we can actually control. I waited a couple of weeks before posting this to see whether my opinion would be changed by other people around here - and now I'm pretty sure that's not going to happen.
ed2go courses are what they are. They aren't what they aren't. They aren't college courses. They aren't OUR courses. They aren't taught by our faculty. They aren't developed and vetted by us. Their web services aren't supported by us. The assessments aren't created and evaluated by us. Student successes (and failures) aren't determined by us. (etc., etc.!!)
So why the heck do we brand these as OUR courses? Why are we saying that we have this online instruction center (below) when it isn't true? We do have an e-Campus at Lake Superior College, where students and faculty can come for help, but it has nothing to do with these ed2go courses. We have worked very hard over the past 11 years to build a stellar reputation for our online offerings at LSC. Now our reputation also depends on a profit-seeking company that has no connection to us whatsoever and over whom we have no control.
And why would Minnesota Online want courses like the one shown below listed on the MnOnline website?
That's an ed2go course, and it's probably not the only one that is being called a MnOnline course.
And now for the best part(s). Don't you just love testimonials? How about when the same testimonial is used for each of the first five schools (all in MnSCU) that I looked at on the ed2go website. Laura really gets around since it appears as though she takes classes from almost all of the schools.
Final point. Notice how the graphic above mentions accreditation? Take a look at this next one, it's even better.
Doesn't this strike you as more than just a little bit odd? It definitely strikes me that way. Schools are touting their accreditation status while promoting courses that they have absolutely nothing to do with (except collecting a little bit of revenue). Their faculty don't teach the courses or develop the curriculum, their employees most often are oblivious that these courses are even being offered, and yet somehow this seems to be the time to hype up the school's accreditation. Seems to me that this type of offering completely flies in the face of accreditation. Isn't it ed2go that needs to be accredited to do this stuff? I'm just asking.
Of course I can already hear the excuses for this. "Well, our accreditation doesn't cover continuing education and non-credit offerings, just our degree programs and such." Point #1: then why are schools hyping their accreditation status on a page that deals with continuing education? Point #2: Maybe our accreditation isn't affected, but our reputation is.
I don’t care whether 1,500 other schools are using Ed2Go and telling the world that people are taking courses from “their schools.” That only tells me that administrators at 1,500 schools are making very poor decisions and are willing to stake their reputations on something over which they have no control.
Okay, one more that I just couldn't resist. I have (should I say "had?") lots of friends at North Hennepin CC. But it's just downright embarrassing when their ed2go site says the following: "North Hennepin Community College is accredited by MnSCU." (Ummh, NO, they're not!) In fact, I think this whole scam is a major embarrassment, but apparently I'm the only who's embarrassed by it.
Friday, August 29, 2008
To go along with our other TV and Internet advertisements, we put together a little riff on the green aspects of e-Learning.
Very well done. My thanks to Gary K and Dave K.
The other videos? Lake Superior Connect - Why Us? and also Lake Superior Connect - Talking e-Campus
Friday, August 22, 2008
Since I first started teaching online (back in the day), it has always struck me how many of the students are in a different place in their lives than most of the students that I taught in the traditional classroom. I realize that's not a news flash, but the whole aspect of providing access to higher education to some of those who otherwise wouldn't have it is still the number one reason why I get out of bed in the morning and make my way to the office.
A few years ago I started a scholarship fund just for students completing one of our online programs at Lake Superior College. The scholarship fund balance has grown to more than $10,000 and we typically give 2 or 3 awards to deserving students each year. The scholarships for FY09 were handed out at the end of the spring term and sometime after that I received the following thank you note:
"Dear Virtual Campus Contributors,
I have been yearning to return to college for several years and the generosity of this scholarship is ensuring that I am able to pursue my degree at LSC. Taking online classes is the perfect way for this mother of 6 to start building for our future. Thank you to all foundation contributors for giving me this opportunity." Sincerely, name omitted.
Yep, that's why I love this job. It's also the reason why it makes me see red when people talk negatively about online learning. They all need to see a few letters like that to realize the importance of providing access to education.
Monday, August 04, 2008
Okay, I'm back. Nine days of being disconnected was an interesting experiment - but I'm really glad to be back online again.
As I previously reported (also here), those of us who are in the distance education business will not be required to start treating our students as criminals. We now have the final clarifying language (actually called the Statement of the Managers) regarding the Higher Ed Act especially as it relates to distance education. Contrary to some of the original fears (including my own), this Congressional act will NOT have the effect of making us put ankle bracelets on all online students - nor will we have to install webcams throughout their houses to watch their every move. Instead, we have to make sure that they authenticate (with username and password) each and every time that they login to our online courses - something that most of us are already doing.
A great deal of work was done to get this clarifying language into place. Leading the charge was Fred Lokken, chair of the ITC Board, David Baime, Vice President for Government Relations for the AACC, and people working in the office of Senator Henry Reid (D, Nevada) who was one of the bill's chief authors.
Here is the important part of the clarifying language (see page 136):
"The Senate amendment and the House bill require accrediting agencies to require that institutions of higher education offering distance education programs have a process by which the institution of higher education establishes that a student registered for a distance education course is the same student that participates in, completes, and receives credit for the course."
"The Conferees adopt the provision as proposed by both the Senate and the House. The Conferees expect institutions that offer distance education to have security mechanisms in place, such as identification numbers or other pass code information required to be used each time the student participates in class time or coursework on-line. As new identification technologies are developed and become more sophisticated, less expensive and more mainstream, the Conferees anticipate that accrediting agencies or associations and institutions will consider their use in the future. The Conferees do not intend that institutions use or rely on any technology that interferes with the privacy of the student and expect that students' privacy will be protected with whichever method the institutions choose to utilize."
Take a deep breath. Life goes on.Voices of reason have been heard. Hallelujah, or something like that.
Friday, July 25, 2008
I threw together the following video rather quickly, so it doesn't have the highest production value. Photos from FUSION08D2L as well as some video clips of speakers and musical groups from Beale Street and Graceland. No sound except during the videos.
Still rather bummed that I decided to leave my camera in the hotel room (I had thrice walked away from it during this trip) rather than tote it along for the final night on Beale Street with John Baker, Shonagh, McLeod, Matt, and lots of other D2Lers; plus Terri, Dany, Dawn, and several others including Stephen Downes. Suffice it to say that I really wish I could have included shots of most of this crew singing karaoke and dancing (and yes, that includes Stephen who the karaoke jockey introduced as David Crosby). It was over the top.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Andrea Foster's recent Chronicle article titled "New Systems Keep a Close Eye on Online Students at Home" is intended to get attention, but not intended to accurately tell you what is going to happen regarding the Higher Ed Act language about distance learning. After reading it more carefully, I can see now that there is nothing new being reported in this article. All of this doom and gloom about distance student authentication has been talked about for over a year now. I've used the Troy University Big Brother device several times in presentations and here in the blog to point out how completely absurd all of this is.
This post from Nov. 2006 basically provides much of the same info that is in the Chronicle article. A second post in July 2007 looks at the first blush of the language that was written into the higher ed act. A few days ago I posted the clarifying language that is currently attached to the bill. Right after that Foster's article was posted at the Chronicle website and all hell broke loose on several technology listservs and the like.
Settle down people. Foster is basically correct in what she says, but notice that she doesn't say that Congress is going to require these devices - BECAUSE THEY AREN'T. She says that the language "could lead distance-education institutions to require spy cameras in their students' homes." True enough, it could, but it won't. Notice that she has no quotes from anyone who is working on the bill. I'm sure she doesn't even know that there is clarifying language that basically says distance students need to be authenticated with a username and password every time they log in to do coursework.
In my opinion, the only thing the Chronicle article does is shows plainly how ridiculous some of these measures are. 360 degree cameras in everyone's home? In the immortal words of George H.W. Bush, "NOT gonna hapen, NOT gonna happen."
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
I just like using that title - Blackboard Loses! I might use it at the beginning of every post, even if the post has nothing to do with Blackboard. Just finished reading an informative article in Campus Technology today that paints a picture of the contempt hearing that is colorably different from what most people are thinking. David Nagel talked with Matthew Small on Monday night after news spread about the contempt charges being thrown out by the Texas judge. Small, the chief legal dude for the evil empire, tells Nagel the following - (excerpted from CT article)
Small recounted that the judge in the case in reviewing the contempt motion seemed to have agreed with that, saying that version 8.3 is not, in fact, colorably different from version 8.2.2; nevertheless, the judge did not issue sanctions against Desire2Learn, leaving it up to Blackboard to meet the burden of proof that the new version does infringe.
Does this mean a new trial? That isn't quite clear either. But Blackboard is definitely not dropping the matter.
"It's still our position this is not a valid workaround," Small told us. He said Blackboard will be taking the next steps in the matter when those steps become clear. The final order from the court has not yet been issued to either party. What that order says will determine what happens next in the case.Apparently we can expect the evil empire to continue to make friends and influence people in the education world. Will they get their just desserts? As we say in Minnesota - you betcha!
Monday, July 21, 2008
Very brief message at the D2L Patent Blog.
Court Denies Blackboard's Motion for Contempt
"We just received word from Texas. The Court denied Blackboard's Motion for Contempt. We anticipate we will receive the Court's written Order in a few days and will post it when we receive it. "
Stay tuned for more. Party tonight at Graceland.
Friday, July 18, 2008
There has been a tremendous amount of angst (much of it generated by me) about the distance education language that is expected to be included in the Higher Education Act whenever that finally gets approved (probably by September). I'm at the ITC Board Meeting in Reno this week along with a colleague who has an inside track to information about the work being done on the clarifying language that will be attached to the bill. The ITC, and Fred Lokken in particular, has been instrumental in bringing attention to the many concerns related to the authentication of distance learner language that is currently included in the bill. Most of those arguments center around concerns about cost and availability of the technologies to accomplish this task. Much of that angst was based on speculation about what it means to authenticate who the distance learner is.
The latest language in the bill goes something like this: "requires an institution that offers distance education to have processes through which the institution establishes that the student who registers in a distance education course or program is the same student who participates in and completes the program and receives the academic credit."
That is the language that has had everyone tied up in knots about whether that means test proctoring for everything, the big brother 360 degree camera device such as used at Troy University, the data analytics stuff that is growing in usage, or some other authentication method. According to Fred (and this comes straight from the office of his senator who is an author of the bill), that at this time the level of authentication that they are seeking is along the lines of username and password.
The clarifying language (currently) for that section of the bill reads as follows:
",,,,the bill requires accrediting agencies and associations to ensure that institutions offering distance education programs have processes by which they establish that the student who registers is the same student who participates in and completes the program. The Committee expects institutions that offer distance education today to have security mechanisms in place, such as identification numbers or other pass code information required to be used each time the student participates in class time or coursework on-line. In time, as technology develops, the Committee anticipates that additional identification technologies will become more sophisticated, less expensive and more mainstream."
Thursday, July 17, 2008
The next battle in the D2L-Blackbeard war begins on Monday in Texas. Blackbeard will once again try to leverage their home court advantage against their combatant from north of the border. I've read a great deal of the proceedings from the earlier skirmishes, and I believe that the judge has a definite bias against Desire2Learn and in favor of Blackbeard. Last week I had a conversation with John Baker, CEO of Desire2Learn, in which he told me that the D2L team is extremely confident that they will prevail and be found to not be in contempt regarding their patent work-around version 8.3. I wish I could share in John's optimism, but I've not seen, heard, or read anything that makes me believe they will get a fair hearing in East Texas. Furthermore, there are several people who I've talked to who believe that D2L has been way too optimistic throughout this whole affair. Not that there's anything wrong with optimism (I wouldn’t know, but I've heard that), but that maybe their optimism has kept them from making the superhuman effort that is (was) probably needed from the very beginning. That's not my opinion, that's just what I've heard from others.
Baker told me that the D2L team was very thorough in their analysis of the court record, and every item that was determined to be a patent infringement in their previous versions was modified or re-coded. There are no longer pre-determined roles. Instead the users have the capability of creating any and all roles that they choose, but none are created in advance for them. This is, I believe, the key factor for the infringement. Based on a careful reading of the patent and the court proceedings, this should be the necessary work-around to the (bogus) patent. However, there were several items that I saw in the court documents (see the D2L patent info blog) that lead me to believe that Blackbeard has sufficiently confused the issue to make the judge (and the no longer engaged jury) believe that the patent covers more than what Blackbeard originally said it did. In other words, I definitely have the impression that the judge is understanding the idea behind having multiple roles for a user, but that he is overlooking the part about the predetermined multiple roles, and is of the mind that D2L infringes as long as there is the capability (feature) that allows users to have multiple roles. I certainly hope that I'm wrong about that - but I'll believe it when I see it.
The other thing that John Baker told me was that he thinks the UPSTO will issue a final action on the re-exam fairly soon. Based upon the history of the USPTO in inter partes cases, I once again find myself with a very different opinion. I expect it to drag on for a few more years, especially since I expect the losing side (no matter who it is) to appeal the final action and thus keep this nightmare running for a couple of years past the issuance of the final action.
If D2L gets a favorable ruling in the contempt hearing – they are basically out of the woods regarding the Bb patent, pending any appeal opportunities that the evil empire might have at their disposal. If D2L version 8.3 is determined to be non-infringing, then they will be able to put this debacle behind them, although they have pledged to continue the fight at the USPTO even if they are no longer determined to be infringing. One more thing comes to mind related to the patent re-exam. A representative from eCollege came to visit me last week. They are trying to prepare for a possible future RFP possibility if MnSCU decides to go down that road when the current D2L contract expires or is no longer renewed. At the end of the conversation, I asked him why eCollege would be a safe bet for us and what protects them from the predatory practices of Blackbeard and their patent. His answer was that eCollege believes that they have some prior art that would be relevant and protect them from patent infringement. Excuse me?!? Prior art that is not being brought to bear on the current patent re-exam? I don't actually believe that they have prior art that they are withholding from the process - but it sure seems like an odd statement to make.
As I've written earlier, it will be very interesting to be attending the D2L User Conference in Memphis at the same time that the contempt hearing is occurring in Texas. The hearing should be concluded before the end of the conference, but I'm not sure whether we can expect to hear the outcome of that hearing prior to the end of the conference. Best of luck to D2L and all those who are dependent upon a favorable ruling for Desire2Learn next week. I know, I know, luck will have nothing to do with it. Best wishes then, if you prefer that.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Who are you? Who, who, who who? I really want to know.
"Distance learning promises anytime, anywhere learning. But that convenience for students comes with a potential risk for educators – finding a way to make sure the registered student is really the person doing the work." That is the party line from Acxiom, one of the market leaders in using personal information from their massive database to authenticate learners. I've been invited to attend a discussion about this service at the upcoming D2L User Conference in Memphis. I'm undecided whether I'll attend at this point, but I just might do so given the U.S. government's meddling into the whole authentication "issue." I'm not convinced that there is a real issue here, just a perceived one. Although if Congress finishes their work-in-progress that makes it into an issue, then it is an issue, at least for those of us in the U.S.
There is an interesting tidbit on their page titled: Identity Verification to Support Academic Integrity. In talking about their own security and how they are protective of student data, they say that "due to the decentralized nature of IT departments, higher education leads all industries in numbers data breach events." I guess I'd like to see their data that verifies that claim. Maybe it's true, but I don't know that to be a fact, and I'm not inclined to just believe them because they say so.
CC photo by scragz
The annual Desire2Learn User Conference - FUSION 08, starts Sunday night, July 20 with a reception at the Pink Palace in Memphis. The photo at right is John Baker addressing the crowd in 2007 at the opening reception at the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth, Minnesota.
Sessions get started Monday morning with an opening keynote address by George Siemens. For those who might like a preview of the keynotes, I posted podcasts last month with conference lead-off Siemens and closing keynote Jason Ohler.
For bloggers, photographers, or anyone else using any sort of social software tools, please use the following tag: FUSION08D2L (no difference between upper and lowercase). By tagging your content from the conference it makes it so much easier for all of us to find it.
For example, if you Google for the tag for last year (FUSION07D2L), you find the following artifacts:
- A Flickr photo group with 238 photos from 5 people
- About a dozen blog posts from several different people
- A couple of bookmarks from del.icio.us
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
The Instructional Technology Council is reviving their member service of quick polls. Today they posted the results from the latest poll dealing with schools that are switching or have switched from one VLE to another, and also some questions related to the popularity of hybrid/blended courses.
44 member schools replied to the survey. Of those respondents, 25 schools, or 55%, have either switched platforms within the past year (11) or are planning to within the next year (14).
Poll question: If you have migrated or are planning to migrate, please list the course management systems your institution could have used, or had a license to use, at your college - before the move. (You can select more than one)
Those 25 schools responded with a total of 47 VLE that they were using or were licensed to use, or an average of nearly 2 platforms per school. Of particular interest to me was that 33 of those 47 responses indicated that they were migrating away from one (or more) of the Blackboard platforms (including old WebCT).
Below I'll indicate what the respondents said in the aggregate about which platforms they are migrating away from and which they are migrating to:
- Blackboard (all forms): 33 going away, 14 coming aboard
- Moodle: 7 going, 6 coming
- Sakai: 3 going, 0 coming
- Angel: 2 going, 7 coming
- Desire2Learn: 1 going, 5 coming
- Educator: 1 going, 0 coming
- Undecided: 7 schools indicated that they haven't finalized their new adoption
Monday, July 07, 2008
I've been wanting to try out Poll Everywhere, so let's do a little experiment to see how this works. Here is the embedded poll. After each vote is cast, you'll be able to see an update on this page. It took about seven seconds for my response to appear after I submitted my vote via text message on my cell.
You can also send people to a webpage where they can vote with their computers, but I'm interested to see how many votes we can accumulate only by using cell phones. Each cell phone can only be used once to vote, so people can't stuff the ballot box with multiple votes. The free version is limited to 30 responses for each poll, although you can have as many different polls as you like. Paying a monthly fee will allow you to collect more reponses per poll.
According to their website: "It's the easiest way to gather live responses in any venue: conferences, presentations, classrooms, radio, tv, print — anywhere." We'll be the judge of that.
Let's see how long it takes to gather 30 responses, at which time I'll close the poll. To submit your answer to the poll question (How many different e-mail accounts do you check regularly?), just send a text message to the phone number 41411. If you have a hard time seeing anything on the embedded window above, click the full screen link to have a better look.
The only thing you put in the text message is the following
cast 5789 (or whichever number is correct for you)
Thursday, July 03, 2008
The LSC Public Information office and a local artist recently developed the following 60-second promotional video about Lake Superior Connect, the e-Campus at Lake Superior College. We will be using these spots to try to raise awareness of our new name and of the leadership role that we have played in bringing e-learning to Minnesotans.
We also have two separate 30-second spots using the same content for TV ads and other online placements.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
I returned Saturday night from the Tennessee Board of Regents e-Learning Summer Institute on Web 2.0 and now I'll be heading back to Memphis in 3 weeks for the Desire2Learn User Conference - FUSION 2008. I had a great time in Memphis and met some really great people, many of whom will also be at the D2L conference. On my last night I went to Corky's BBQ and definitely Put Some South in My Mouth. After returning home I was catching up on some email and RSS feeds when a couple of things caught my eye about the D2L conference:
- According to the D2L Patent Info Blog, the judge will be hearing Blackboard's Motion for Contempt against D2L's proposed workaround (version 8.3) on Monday July 21 and Tuesday July 22 which are the first two days of the conference. This is pretty amazing timing. I'm sure that it's pure coincidence, but some of those Blackbeard conspiracy theorists out there (you know who you are) are probably thinking that Bb somehow influenced the judge to schedule it on these dates. This should add a fair amount of drama to the conference proceedings.
- On a completely different tangent, I was pleased to see that all three of my breakout sessions have reached full enrollment for the conference. D2L is one of the few conferences that have you actually register for the sessions that you are going to attend and then limit the attendance at a session rather than letting people just pack into a room in any way possible.
- Although I presented at the TBR Summer Institute on much of the same stuff, I'm going to re-work several pieces of the material to add some new examples and to organize the Web 2.0 content into the three sessions as listed below:
Title - Present: Web 2.0 Tools Inside Desire2Learn
Description - Slide presentations can be augmented and made unique with an array of Web 2.0 applications. This presentation will demonstrate the use of these applications inside Desire2Learn. Slide presentations, screencasts, live video streaming, and others will be shown. (Also, photo slide shows will be included)
Date - Tuesday, July 22nd from 1:15pm to 2:15pm
Title - Collaborate: Web 2.0 Tools Inside Desire2Learn
Description - Social networking and collaboration are enabled by many new free Web applications useful in education. This presentation will demonstrate the use of these applications inside Desire2Learn. Social bookmarking, Wikis, Web Office tools, and others will be demonstrated.
Date - Monday, July 21st from 2:45pm to 3:45pm
Title - Be Creative: Web 2.0 Tools Inside Desire2Learn
Description - Student creativity can be enhanced by many new free Web 2.0 applications. This presentation will demonstrate the use of these applications inside Desire2Learn. Digital photo projects, cartoons and comic strips, music videos and other tools will be shown.
I'm a little confused about which of these are hands-on and which aren't. Either way though I provide all participants with a guest account to access the D2L course materials so they can continue to review the content for a couple of months after the conference. Maybe they'll let me use the D2L Community site to do that rather than the LSC site. I'll have to ask (maybe I just did).
Friday, June 27, 2008
This podcast episode is an interview with Jeannette Brewer of Desire2Learn. Jeannette told me about many of the new features of Desire2Learn version 8.3. The word Blackboard (or even Blackbeard) didn't come up once (until now). The title is a "Birds-Eye View of Version 8.3." We discuss several things including 1) the look of the new My Courses widget, 2) some of the other homepage management features, 3) new widgets, 4) how can 8.3 help me to manage my Schedule better? and 5) What are some of the lesser known features of 8.3?
Jeannette Brewer is the developer of Desire2Learn’s ePortfolio training programs. Prior to joining Desire2Learn two years ago, Jeannette completed her MSc at the University of York in the UK. She travels to clients across North America and the UK to help them set up their sites and train their staff.
powered by ODEO
One thing that we didn't get around to in the (20 min.) interview was the HTML editor, which has seen a few changes.. It is now embedded, and it is W3C compliant with all functions available by either screenreader or keyboard. You can now resize the editor window by dragging the corner, you can now edit equations, access the attributes of pictures, and there’s a much better spell check.For the CSS geeks out there – the header is no longer removed, so you can edit your Dreamweaver content without screwing up the CSS.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Today I made a brief post at OLDaily (brief, because that's the way OLDaily rolls) about a relatively new research report about Inter Partes Reexaminations by the USPTO. This will be a bit longer post about more of the info contained in the report from the Institute for Progress. Patent attorney Michael C. Smith sent me a link to this information, but it took me a month to pay attention due to all kinds of lousy reasons.
Here are a few quotes from the report:
- "Despite a mandate for "special dispatch", the time required to complete an inter partes re-examination is much longer than commonly believed."
- "Reexamination, particularly inter partes reexamination is not simply used as an alternative to litigation, but an integral part of litigation strategy – more than half (52%) of patents in inter partes reexams are known to be in litigation during their reexamination"
- "Without appeal, the average pendency period for inter partes re-exam is 43.5 months, much longer than the 28.5 months reported by the USPTO"
- "Although no inter partes re-exam has ever been completed after being appealed, the average pendency for appealed inter partes reexams is 78.4 months."
All told, this really looks ugly. Unless this case turns out to be different from the norm, we can expect the reexamination to last for quite some time longer (as in years). Judge Clark will continue to rule on the court case regardless of what is happening (not much apparently, think of paint drying) at the USPTO related to the reexam, and Clark is clearly in Blackboard's camp which puts him in very select company, at least among those who know anything about the IMS/VLE development in the early days.
Via the Intellectual Asset Management blog where there is also a follow-up post.