Tuesday, May 27, 2008

D2L Provides Answer to My Challenge

About a month ago I tossed out a challenge to Desire2Learn and all other VLE developers to build some new functionality into the virtual learning environment. A couple of days ago I received this response from Matt Fisher, a Lead Product Designer at D2L. I will reproduce his response below in its entirety.

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Barry,

A few weeks ago you posted a “challenge to D2L [or other LMS] developers” which called for LMS vendors to provide software that focused on the creation of student content and would allow for students to collaborate in an online environment that had a web 2.0 feel.

The challenge that you have proposed is something that we (Desire2Learn) have just recently released – ePortfolio 1.0! An ePortfolio allows users to create and collect digital artifacts that can be shared with others for feedback and assessment. ePortfolio also has tight integration with the Learning Environment which allows users to leverage such tools as Dropbox, Quizzing, Grades and Competencies.

In your post you outlined various scenarios that you would like the Learning Environment to support. I’m confident that ePortfolio can satisfy each of these:

  • Web 2.0ifying the Learning Environment
    • ePortfolio uses many Web 2.0 concepts such as:
      • Dashboard – allows users to see recent activity within their portfolio at a glance.
      • RSS – a user can subscribe to RSS feeds on comments and assessments added to their objects or on invitations that they have received. This means that they don’t have to log into the system to see what they have missed.
      • Tagging – Any ePortfolio object can be tagged with keywords which allows users to easily sort/organize and retrieve objects based upon their tags.
  • Zoho Writer – allows users to create documents on the web and share/embed and collaborate on them
    • ePortfolio allows users to create artifacts on the web using the new 8.3 WYSIWYG editor. These documents that are authored in a user’s portfolio can be shared with other users for feedback or assessment using rubrics and can be edited based upon the feedback received. In the next release of ePortfolio (scheduled for Fall ’08) users will be able to collaborate (meaning edit the same document) on items within the portfolio while still receiving feedback through comments or rubric assessments. A user can also place one of these “living documents” into a presentation to showcase their work in a visually appealing fashion.
  • Students should not have to leave the Virtual Learning Environment to edit a document
    • All the documents are stored within the ePortfolio so they can be accessed for anywhere
  • Submit live documents within the Learning Environment to the dropbox
    • All ePortfolio documents can be submitted to the dropbox for assessment. This means that the document that was submitted will be copied to the dropbox folder for evaluation, allowing the user to continue to edit the copy in their portfolio if they wish without affecting the version submitted to the dropbox. A course instructor can give feedback on the submission which may mean applying a grade which would be displayed in the user’s gradebook.
  • Sharing – share with your instructor; share with your students
    • ePortfolio allows users to share with others in their organization. This means that a user could share with their peers, instructor, mentor or even an external users who don’t have an account in the system

At the end of your video you ask a couple of questions:

  • Why are students not allowed to use editing tools inside the virtual learning environment?
    • With ePortfolio they are! ePortfolio is completely user-centric which allows each user to control their own experience.
  • Why don’t we build this vs. having to embed tools like Zoho?
    • This is one of the main reasons we built an ePortfolio vs. partnering with an existing portfolio vendor because users wanted this type of functionality to be all under one roof.

If you have any questions about the above information or need any clarification please don’t hesitate to ask.

Thanks, Matt

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Although I've learned quite a bit about ePortfolio through the two different podcasts (first and second) that I made about the product, I still haven't used it myself. I guess I need to sign up for one of their webinars.

We don't have access to it in my state system and I don't think there are any plans to pay for it in the future. My system (MnSCU) already has a portfolio product, called Minnesota efolio, that they heavily promote and are quite proud of. Here is my efolio which is in dire need of a makeover (and an update).

Basically, none of the features that I am talking about can be found in Minnesota's efolio. It tends to be 1) not very social (at all), b) not very flexible, 3) not integrated with anything that I know of, d) not link friendly (very complicated URLs), and I'll stop there so as to not make some people even more upset than they are at this point in the paragraph.

At this point I'm not able to pass judgment on what Matt has to say about the D2L ePortfolio. Maybe it will accomplish many of the things that I am hoping for, but I'm not sure about that. When I was a kid I thought that Sea Monkeys could really walk across a tightrope and that turned out to be horribly wrong. Therefore, I have learned to reserve judgment until I get to see how something works first-hand. (BTW, I realize that the previous statement is a bit of a lie - I don't reserve judgment on much of anything - but I am willing to change my mind when given new evidence to consider or other such additional input. But the Sea Monkey thing still makes me wary of slickly packaged goods.)

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