Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Blackboard 138 Patent in the Ether?

Why wasn't I invited to the party? There must have been a Blackboard patent burning party, and I'm feeling pretty badly about not being invited. Seems strange that I can't find any news about the party on the Internets. Y'all did a pretty good job of keeping this celebration a secret. Or did we just let the '138 patent slip into the ether as if it never happened? 'Tis a shame if we missed an excellent opportunity for fun and frolic.

I'm referring to the Blackboard (Alcorn) '138 patent. You might remember that they had this little flap with Desire2Learn that played out in a Texas courtroom and at the USPTO, and at the Software Freedom Law Center, and on a couple thousands blogs, including this one.

However, it's been really hard to get any substantiated news about the status of the Blackboard (Alcorn) '138 patent since about March, 2010. That's when Jeff Bohrer posted info about Blackboard's last 30 days "to appeal the USPTOs decision to overturn all claims in the '138 Alcorn patent." Apparently, they didn't do that. If they did, where is the evidence of that action?

To further give credence, the Blackboard Patent Pledge page no longer lists the '138 patent, which indicates to me that they can't list it because it is no longer a valid patent. Here's a screenshot from Nov. 16, 2010. (click for larger)

Compare that with this screenshot posted by Ray Mosteller back in March. The '138 was featured front-and-center on their pledge page back then, but it is missing-in-action today.

It seems odd to me that this news was allowed to pass into the ether without being widely shouted from the blogtops. Do I have this wrong? Did I miss all the action? I don't think so.

Back in October I was enjoying a pizza with a few friends when one of them opined that the Blackboard patent was dead and buried. That didn't seem credible to me, since no one else had been saying so. So I've looked and searched and asked around, and the best I can come up with is the conclusion that indeed
  • The wicked witch's patent is dead. Most sincerely dead. Long live Dorothy.
As coroner I examined her sound clip

This next item looks like it might be fairly insignificant, but it still looks like a fun thing to me. The North Texas Patent Group, Inc. has filed a complaint against Blackboard for "False Marking" of the '138 patent. This happened back on Sept. 25, 2010.

It does appear that these false marking suits are a dime a dozen. Here's one list of them, including the NTPG vs. Blackboard claim. It also appears (admittedly, on the surface) that there are several watchdog groups who tend to pursue claims of this type. My first reaction to this is that the NTPG isn't trying to get rich off of this claim against Blackboard (asking $500 in damages per instance), with only half of the proceeds (if any) going to NTPG and half to the United States of America (to help pay down the national debt, or what?).

The problem with false marking is the potential adverse effect on the free marketplace when you state that you have a valid patent when you don't. In the words of the NTPG (pg. 2): "False patent marking is a serious problem. Acts of false marking deter innovation and stifle competition in the marketplace. If an article that is within the public domain is falsely marked, potential competitors may be dissuaded from entering the same market. False marks may also deter scientific research when an inventor sees a mark and decides to forego continued research to avoid possible infringement."

I don't know what evidence NTPG collected against Blackboard and when, but it was pretty easy for me to spot my own evidence of false marking of the '138 patent. I took the screenshot below on Nov. 15, 2010. The footer of this Blackboard webpage clearly lists the '138 patent. The webpages in the "Investor Center" section still contain the old footer, but all the other pages I viewed had a new footer that didn't list any patents by number. (click to enlarge)

On line 25 of the "Facts" section, NTPG states the following:
  • "United States Patent No. 6,988,138 (the “’138 patent”), titled “Internet-based Education Support System and Methods”, was issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) on January 17, 2006 and all independent claims were held invalid as indefinite or anticipated by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on July 27, 2009. (See Ex. A.)
Okay, so what's right and what's wrong? Is it dead or alive? And who was in charge of sending out the party invitations?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Comic Strips in Online Courses

Over the years I've done quite a few workshops that included some sort of reference to using comic strips in online courses, either as part of the content provided by faculty or as part of the student assignments.

This narrated slidecast is a short (5 min. 40 sec.) description of some of the ways that comics can be used to pump up the creativity in an online course.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Custom Home Pages in D2L

I recently gave a short presentation about using custom home pages for courses taught using Desire2Learn. This is a 6-minute Slidecast (via Slideshare) that includes audio. Click the arrow to start the audio.

  • Do you know what web pages are "framebusters" if you try to embed them into the D2L course home page? Check out slide 5.
  • Do you know where you can easily make custom widgets for your course home page? Check out slide 9.
  • Please share in the comments if you do something different and useful on your course home page.

Friday, September 17, 2010

D2L Intelligent Agents

My first look at Intelligent Agents in Desire2Learn.

Having spent some time working on a Data Analytics project for MnSCU that would have served as an early alert system for online students not making good progress, I've been curious to see how deep the functionality runs in the D2L Intelligent Agents (IA) tool. The short answer is that there's some basic functionality there that might prove beneficial to some users, but the tool falls short of being a full featured Army soldier (you know, Be All That You Can Be!). (CC-by Flickr photo by Sarah G...)

I've recorded a narrated slide show that will illustrate the basics. In the slides you'll see: (a) where to access the IA tool, (b) how to create a new agent, (c) how to write a customized (sort of) email to be triggered by the agent, (d) how to schedule (or not) the agent to run when you want it to, (e) what happens when the agent is run, (f) and some pros and cons about the IA tool.

Click the green triangle Play button at the bottom of the frame to listen to the narration for the slides (or not). For better views of the screen shots, click the Full Screen icon in the lower right corner.

Basically, there are a few good things in this tool. You can receive notifications (and/or also send them to students via their D2L email address) for the lack of login activity for a specified number of days. You can also receive notifications when a student has performed poorly (or performed well, if you prefer) on a particular assessment that they have completed.

There are several shortcomings that I feel need to be pointed out. The IA tool could be very useful if these things are added in the near future:

1- The login agent only works at the system login level, not at the course access level. However, faculty will mainly want to know who isn’t accessing their specific course, which is where the agent was created in the first place, so this is only logical. With version 9, D2L added information to the User Progress tool to indicate the last time the student accessed the course homepage. Now they absolutely need to make this information available for the IA tool. Slide 14 specifically addresses this concern.

2- Currently the release conditions for an agent require an action on the part of the student, such as you took a quiz and got a high or low score, etc. However, it is usually more valuable for the faculty to know (and for students to get an email) when they are not doing something – didn’t take the quiz, haven’t posted to discussion forums, etc.

3- There isn't a way to create an agent that looks at overall user progress based on the overall grade book score, such as "you have only received 50% or less of the points available so far in this course, and your immediate attention is needed." The agent needs to be available to run on an overall view of user progress rather than just on one or more individual items in the course.

I contacted D2L about a future road map for the development of the IA tool. I received a reply from Matt T. He said, "I don’t have any details on specific time lines to address any of these or an overall road map for the tool, but I agree all three would be great additions."

My first grade for the IA tool is a solid C (I was always a tough grader, just ask my accounting students from back in the day). It is a step in the right direction, and has really great potential moving forward, BUT, it does need to move forward with additional enhancements to really meet expectations.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Eavesdropping on D2L10

Even though I'm happy with my decision to not attend the D2L User Conference this year, that doesn't mean that I wasn't interested in the goings on, nor did it mean that I didn't miss the many friends who were in attendance. I followed the Twitter stream from the conference in an effort to stay somewhat in the know. Here's a chronological listing of selected tweets.

Desire2Learn_PR: Boat cruises, great food, connecting with colleagues… FUSION 2010 is off to a fabulous start! http://bit.ly/17POaR (expand) #D2L10

ajwms: At #d2l10. Last time to see @140universityElluminate as sponsor, I guesshttp://twitpic.com/24h5u9

tabrown: Lots of fun catching up with folks at the #unD2L conference this evening#D2L10

ConnectYard: launching our new learning tool today for #d2l that integrates FB, TW & TM into courses. Stop by our booth at #d2l10 for more details!

ajwms: Has anybody been able to get their iPad connected to hotel wireless at#D2L10 yet? Get a blank login screen only.

kylemackie: 326 new D2L users at #D2L10

krivedal: And none of them were lawyers! RT @kylemackie: D2L has hired 60 new employees this year. #D2L10

barrydahl: RT @ajwms: @condonfnm on stage (in a coat and tie!) to present the first Desire2Excel award at #d2l10 - He does clean up well.

ajwms: SHARE Project (Support, Harnessing & Advancing Repository Enhancement) - Nottingham Trent accepting Desire2Excel Collaboration award#d2l10

Goamick: RT @kylemackie: Keynote: Stuart Brown MD, The National Institute for Play www.nifplay.org #D2L10

barrydahl: RT @katblue14: How do u put on ur playface in an online class?#D2L10 This speaker better have the answer for this one, or why is he there?

dariusz: Listening to Stuart Brown explain why playing around is super importanthttp://www.desire2learn.com/Fusion/keynotes/ #designd2l #d2l10

kylemackie: the opposite of play is not "work", it's depression. #D2L10

ben_ggg: Instruction Design - If you graduate with our degree without learning technology, shame on us. #D2L10

katblue14: Reminder to faculty that a PDF of a scanned doc is a picture and a screen reader can't read it, use OCR. ADA session (faboo session!) #D2L10

ben_ggg: Students DON'T want to visit course related websites, read postings online or participate in online discussions. #d2l10

ajwms: RT @barrydahl: Hey #D2L10 has @ajwms told u about Peillissippi State Ed Tech Svcs. on Facebk? http://bit.ly/a3qtzf (expand) /help us get 2 100 likes!

jcthomsonjr: RT @barrydahl: @kfrisch Maybe the Blackberry should go to a student since almost NONE of our students have Blackberries. How about Android/Apple? #D2L10

atblue14: Kaltura gets it! Same media piece mixed easily into versions for multiple delivery points. Let students control engagement point. #D2L10

kylemackie: Desire2Learn 2Go improvements: delivery of content, schedule meetings, AND they say they're bringing it to iphone and android soon. #D2L10

tjoosten: #d2l mobile will allow you to take video or picts on #droid or others and *share* to #d2l like you share with facebook, picaso, etc. #d2l10 (coming "soon")

w_mcelroy: Some fun web 2.0 tools I want to play with now (ediscio, animoto, glogster....)I can see instructors using these.... #D2L10

ajwms: #designd2l add ability to lock down parts of navbar to protect sections from editing. Please? #d2l10

kylemackie: want to talk community? come to the session @corykittel and I are leading, today at 2:15 (room 6-Illinois) #D2L10

barrydahl: @kylemackie Include this tidbit: developing online community is 36th most important thing to online students at LSC. Out of 36 items. #D2L10

kfrisch: Julie Evans Key note speaker at lunch The New " Free Agent Learner"-Are You Ready? FUSION 2010 http://bit.ly/aqarRN (expand) #D2L10 #osnss10

ajwms: Evans: 55% of students want reminders and alerts sent to mobile device. Glad we are sharing textblaster with faculty this fall #D2L10

rjasonthompson: #D2L10 "Understanding Pedagogy and Instructional Design when moving courses on line" - James Falkofske: www.pedagogyonline.com

tjoosten: Our preso is avail athttp://professorjoosten.blogspot.com/2010/07/student-perceptions-of-desire2learn.html #d2l10 @uwmltc #eportfolio #uwm

duncwhite: Using Soundpaper on the iPad to capture Fusion2010 notes. Patchwork is also a good app to try - will use with teachers this fall. #d2l10

krivedal: #D2L10 National American University has students sign a Self- Directed Learner's Statement

katblue14: #D2L10 the integration of Live Mail w D2L is looking sharp:) This may solve an issue!

jbohreruw: Sweet! RT: @kylemackie: Desire2Excel award, III goes to...learn@ UW.#D2L10 @LearnUWMad

Goamick: Joel Cohen Writer and Co-Executive Producer of The Simpsons talking about engaging an audience #d2l10 this is excellent!

kylemackie: sometimes not using a great idea is a great idea #D2L10

kfrisch: You can get energized by a joke. Goes back to the theme we've heard all conference--play! #d2l10 #osnss10

_dmlong: John Baker: FUSION 2011 will be at Denver! #D2L10 #D2L11

Friday, July 09, 2010

No Show at D2L User Conference

I've been asked by quite a few people (seriously I have, approaching double digits) why I am NOT attending FUSION, the D2L User Conference that starts in a few days. I will very much miss hanging out with everyone at the Unconference Sunday night - in fact, I almost chose to attend this event without attending the rest of the conference, but decided against it. (CC photo by David Paul Ohmer)

A conference in July is never easy because there's just too much summer stuff, family-time, and all that jazz going on. But that's not the reason. We have severe budget cuts that are restricting our travel to these types of events. But that's not the reason.

Without further ado, here is my Top Five List for reasons why I will not be attending the conference this year:

Number 5: Location (actually this is a very distant fifth place)
  • I hate attending conferences in Chicago. Getting from the airport to downtown is as bad as flying into Denver.
  • Once I went out in Chicago with three friends for pizza and beers. Between the four of us we had one pizza and 6 beers. Our "guest check" was $120 before tip. This is the Midwest people - there's nothing special going on here at all. Get over yourselves.
Number 4: Screwups
  • I don't need to go into details here, let's just say that my days of being on the planning committee came to an end when some things were handled very poorly. Certain people will know what I'm talking about. Nuff said.
Number 3: Transparency
  • For three years (or whatever) during the Blackborg fight, all I heard from D2L was how "transparent" they were being with their clients - keeping the clients (and anyone else who might be interested) as informed as possible about how they were fighting the good fight for higher education in particular and against software patent bullies in general.
  • You lose all credibility (with me at least) when you then shut off all information and become as opaque as possible when the end game is reached.
  • Okay, I understand that you negotiated the silence during the end game as part of the settlement with the Evil Empire of BlackAngel, and that this particular item probably came at the insistence of Blackbeard, BUT STILL - this should have been a deal breaker. Don't tell me that you're transparent and all that crap and then just roll over and say "psych!"
Number 2: Deletion
  • The Desire2Learn website previously had a "Patent Info Blog" located at the URL that now contains just a single letter from CEO John Baker explaining (okay, not really) the settlement with BlackBart. In it he says "Consistent with our mission and vision, it's time for us to put the past behind us, and look to the future. As a result, we'll be taking down our patent blog tomorrow."
  • This patent blog had all the documentation, all the D2L assurances, all the maneuvers and counter-maneuvers that had occurred since the beginning of the litigation. It was an important resource. It was linked to by hundreds of people for many different reasons.
  • Of course Bb would have never posted all this information in the first place. By removing the information, the end result is that D2L looks just like Bb. Close-lipped and close-minded.
  • BTW. Thanks for the heads up in advance of deleting the blog. I hate to kill trees, but I went ahead and printed well over 100 pages of info from the blog site. I finished printing about 15 minutes before it started to disappear. Someday this will make for good bedtime reading.
Number 1: Desire2Quit?
  • Seriously? Laying down with the enemy? All the rhetoric over the years was just bullshit? "We're in it to win it?" The long chat we had last year at FUSION in St. Paul about how important it was to fight the good fight and how victory was within grasp - that was all a load of bull?
  • When you lay down with BlackVader, you become BlackVader.
So here's a list of questions that should be answered at FUSION 2010:
  • 1) Now that you are licensing the portfolio of Blackboard patents, in what ways have those patents impacted the newest version (9) of the Desire2Learn LE or other products?
  • 2) In what ways will those patents impact future versions of the Desire2Learn LE or other products?
  • 3) By licensing their patent portfolio, aren't you giving credence to the validity of the Alcorn patent (the subject of the litigation)? And if not, then what patents do they have that you do find valuable?
  • 4) Is there an end date on your cross-licensing agreement? If so, when? Either way, are new patents included automatically in the licensing agreement, or not?
  • 5) Did you ever get your 3.1 million dollar judgement back from BlackChasenSmall, or did that possibility go away in the middle of the night when the litigation ceased?
  • 6) What is the status of the Alcorn patent in the USPTO, or is this something you no longer care about?
Okay, so as you can see, I'm avoiding FUSION this year because pizza and beer in Chicago are just too expensive.

A few final points of clarification:
  • 1) I still think D2L is by far the best choice for a vendor-based LMS.
  • 2) I consider many of the employees to be friends, not because they work for D2L, but because they are engaging, smart, and good people. All at the same time.
  • 3) I hope the conference is a smashing success. I am not attempting to send any ill-will their way, but I am willing to boycott something when I feel strongly enough about it. This is one of those times.
  • 4) I haven't decided whether I will feel differently in 2011. Lots can happen between now and then (and probably will).

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Blackborg Rides Again

Blackboard went on another buying spree today. Just a few random thoughts.
  • If Blackboard had purchased either Wimba or Elluminate, they could have spun it as a strategic business decision. By purchasing both of them, the only possible explanation is that it is another example of squelching innovation and limiting competition.
  • In Ray Henderson's blog post, he refers to both companies as "former rivals." Although it's true that Blackborg has some sort of a lame virtual classroom, synchronous tool (I believe they call it the Bb POS), very few people who work in educational technology would have seen Wimba as a rival of Blackboard. Or Elluminate. Hell, we barely see D2L or Moodle as rivals of Blackboard.
  • Maybe when you are the most hated company in the education sandbox, everyone seems like a rival to you.
  • Ray also says "We hear consistently from our clients that their online infrastructure and offerings have grown from important to mission critical." Apparently they stop listening when those clients follow that up with "However, the last thing we want is to have total vendor lock-in where we are completely dependent upon you and at your mercy (of which you have none)."
  • My favorite tweet of the day went something like this: "Blackboard Collaborate sounds so much nicer than Blackboard Conglomerate, Blackboard Cartel, or Blackboard Cabal"
  • It seems to me that buying Wimba would have been sufficient since it is more fully developed than Elluminate. However, by purchasing Elluminate they have effectively upset the partnership arrangements that Elluminate has with Desire2Learn eCollege, RemoteLearner (Moodle), and Unicon (Sakai). If you believe that Blackboard will really continue to "sustain this work and the partnerships," then you just haven't been paying attention.
To all the Bb lovers out there (you know who you are), I have one question:

Will you still be Blackboard lovers when they purchase Apollo (UofPhx), Kaplan, Capella, and others to complete their vertical integration into the education space?

Monday, April 19, 2010

MeeboMe inside Desire2Learn

I offered a one-hour workshop last week about using Meebo and MeeboMe inside D2L as another way of communicating with students. According to the Meebo website:

  • "Meebo is a web based IM that lets you log into your IM networks from any computer with a browser and internet connection with no firewall issues. It employs technologies (like AJAX) to make it act more like a desktop application, which dramatically improves usability. Many users enjoy the benefits of a native DHTML application, as it does not consume as many system resources as a Java applet (such as ICQ2Go or Yahoo Web Messenger). Meebo also offers other services such as a chat room client and a personal IM client for your personal/corporate web pages."
I've been using it for about three years now. I don't use the basic IM feature as much as I'd like, primarily because so few of my contacts use IM as a regular means of communication. However, I think the MeeboMe feature is just brilliant. You'll see a MeeboMe widget on this blog site as well on all my other blog sites. Here's a screenshot of placing a MeeboMe widget in the News section of the course homepage inside a D2L course shell. (Click image for larger view)

From their website: "Meebo Me lets you chat with anyone who comes to your blog or Web page. Visitors show up in your Meebo buddylist so you can strike up a conversation, answer questions, or just keep tabs on guests. Publish your online status so friends can see if you're available when they visit your site."

Another option would be to place the chat window into a custom widget on the home page. Of course, you could also choose to place the widget on a content page, or anywhere else in D2L where you might want to provide the communications channel between you and your students. You can actually place multiple instances of the chat window anywhere you want, and it will still work as a single window. (Click image for larger view)

If you want a full-featured chat room with one-to-many communications, then check out Meebo Rooms, which allow for a chat room to be embedded anywhere you can paste the html code. I don't use the rooms myself, but they should work as advertised.

The open dialog box from MeeboMe has several advantages.
  • Students will only see that you are online and available when you are logged into Meebo. In other words, if you want to hide your online status in D2L, you can make your self available through Meebo when it is appropriate to do so (think online office hours, etc.)
  • No one else needs an account to chat with you in the MeeboMe widget. If they have a Meebo account and are logged in, then you will see their username. Otherwise they appear as anonymous. Clearly there are times when you would need the student to identify himself for help reasons.
  • You can have any number of one-to-one conversations. There are certainly times when you don't want everyone in a chat room to see what you are saying. You can create groups in Meebo, but typically the MeeboMe widget would be for one-to-one.
  • It is very easy to convert the web chat into another form of communication. Skype, or anything else can be a time saver.
  • You can make any number of MeeboMe widgets which allows you to customize the title bar (header), widget size, and color choices any way you want for multiple classes or other uses.
Note: there's not much that you can do with the basic IM service that you can't do with the D2L pager. I think the main benefits come from the MeeboMe widget. My recommendation is that you try out a MeeboMe chat window as a way of opening up a line of communication for your students that easier than email or just about anything else.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

D2L Enables Web Tools Interoperability

I just finished watching the recordings of the D2L webinars from March where they demonstrate the Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) features of Desire2Learn. This seems like a major step forward, IMO.

You can find the webinar links inside the D2L Community. If you're not a member, I do believe that you will need to request access to view the recordings. The webinars were conducted by Chuck Severance of the IMS Global Consortium and Matt Teskey of Desire2Learn.

I've spent the past several years demonstrating ways of embedding web-based tools into D2L and other LSM platforms. However, in all those cases there was only the appearance of integration between the tools and the LMS - but now this is possible to happen in a truly integrated process. "Truly integrated" means that your authentication credentials can be passed between the tool and the LMS with actual single sign-on.

(Screenshot above CC photo from Chuck Severance, dr-chuck on Flickr)

Two specific applications that were demonstrated include MediaWiki and WordPress. That got my attention since we are hosting both of those open source tools on campus and have them tied into our active directory for credentialing. These appear to be easily added to a D2L course through the use of quicklinks. Looks very cool. A few other examples (shown through screenshots) are some new widgets/gadgets and Google Maps.

A few questions.

  • 1. Are there any hopes of greater integration rather than just authentication? For example, I would love to have Zoho tools available for word processing, spreadsheets, web forms and other Zoho apps. Single sign-on is a good start, but I would really like to see integration where you can save documents directly into D2L and share with the instructor and/or other students.

  • 2. Where is the on/off switch for this? I've looked in the Dome and can't find it. We are using version 8.4.2 at the current time and this is the D2L version that they are demonstrating in the webinar. My guess is that MnSCU has not turned this feature on at this point. Generally speaking, we don't get to use the new tools in a timely manner since we are self-hosted and apparently very risk averse when it comes to using new features in the platform.

  • 3. MnSCU has a tentative plan to upgrade to D2L version 9.0 in early June. Are there any changes or improvements to the LTI in version 9, or is it the same as version 8.4.2?

  • 4. What are some of the other tools that people would like to see the LTI bridge built for? For the most part, it seems to me that it would make sense for tools where the login is an essential part of the user experience (for publishing, in other words), but if all you are doing is viewing content that it might not be very important.

  • 5. They stated that accounts in the web-based tools are automatically created for the students and tied to their D2L identity. It sounds then as though a student who already has an account (let's say in WordPress) will then have two accounts with the new one tied to D2L. That might not be a bad thing, but I'm not sure. What about several courses at the same school using these tools - does the LTI piece know not to create another account for that student (sounds like a stupid question, but I can't tell any more)? What about students who are attending more than one MnSCU school? Would they have a WordPress/LSC account and a separate WordPress/CLC account as well (where LSC is Lake Superior College and CLC is Central Lakes College)?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Magna Webinar - March 23

I am the presenter for a Magna Publications webinar scheduled for March 23, 2010. The title is: Free Web 2.0 Tools to Use Inside Your LMS. This seminar costs $249 if you register at least a week in advance. The slides below (embedded from Zoho Show) indicate the things that I will be demonstrating during the online seminar. Because there are so many of them, I will likely have time to show either one or two examples for each of the eight goals.

I've done this workshop many times live and at least once before as a webinar. I'm looking forward to it. We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

These Buttons are Worthless Now

Remember when D2L was fighting the good fight? My single biggest disappointment (at least professionally) in 2009 was when D2L decided to make peace and lie down with the devil. That warm fuzzy feeling for me is all gone now. That's a shame.

Partnering with Blackbeard? That's a much bigger shame.

And what the hell is going on with the USPTO re-examination of that stupid patent? Is that no longer an issue? It is for me.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

New Netiquette Guidelines for LSC Online

The LSC Online Programs Advisory Committee decided to craft a set of netiquette guidelines that would serve as the recommended list that faculty could use for their online courses. It's not a full policy or anything like that, just an attempt to give them some useful information to post in their online courses. Faculty are free to use them, change them, add to them, not use them at all, or whatever. The list is posted in the LSC wiki.

This project was taken on because many of our online faculty had been using a particular web resource for many years as a netiquette guide. That web page began carrying less-than-attractive banner ads and quite frankly was always more about general online netiquette rather than focused on online learning. There are quite a few other sets of guidelines out there, but many of them are rather lengthy or include items that we don't feel are needed, and occasionally we just disagreed with them. So, we decided to write a relatively short list of our own, as follows:

LSC Online Course Netiquette Guidelines

1. Behind Every Name There is a Person

a. Respect the privacy of your classmates and what they share in class.

b. Ask classmates for clarification if you find a discussion posting offensive or difficult to understand.

c. Avoid sweeping generalizations. Back up your stated opinions with facts and reliable sources.

d. Understand that we may disagree and that exposure to other people’s opinions is part of the learning experience.

e. Be respectful of each other. We’re all in this together. Before posting a comment, ask whether you would be willing to make the same comment to a person's face.

f. Keep in mind that everything you write, indeed every click of your mouse is recorded on the network server. On the Internet there are no take backs.

g. Keep in mind that you are taking a college class. Something that would be inappropriate in a traditional classroom is also inappropriate in an online classroom.

2. Online Communication

a. Be aware that typing in all capital letters indicates shouting.

b. Be careful with humor and sarcasm. Both can easily be misunderstood!

c. Review all discussion postings before posting your own to prevent redundancy.

d. Check your writing for errors by reviewing what you’ve written before submitting it.

e. Acronyms (LOL, etc.) and emoticons (smilies) are commonly used online, but be careful not to overuse them.

f. Many communications with your instructor or fellow students are best handled through email. Only post on the classroom discussion board if the conversation is relevant to others in the class.

Please feel free to leave comments or suggestions.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Twittering about D2L and Blackboard

I usually keep an eye on a Twitter search looking for posts that have something to do with D2L. The beginning of the semester is always interesting, especially as students are posting their unfiltered thoughts about school, online courses, professors, D2L, and lots of other things. Here are some examples. I'll leave out their Twitter names since I don't know these people.

  • Dear D2L though my college, please fix yourself so I can take quizzes on Firefox. THANK YOU! Love, Cissa
  • trust me, everything you click on d2l... and the time u spend on each "page" they cn see....
  • 71 unread discussions on D2L? CRAP! I was only gone for one weekend!
  • In class with a professor that doesn't know how to work the internets and d2l. Maybe he should use the googles.
  • ocu's desire2learn has to be the shi**iest web page ever. period. well, aside from the other ocu web pages.
  • Online classes start today. Not liking their new D2L system.
  • Go to a "Laptop Campus"...should ALL of my classes have D2L sites? Whatever.
  • just LOL'ed when he looked at D2L at the same class he just took last semester. god taking the same class over is priceless. LOL hate it.
  • D2L is SUCH a pain in the tuckus.... Maybe online classes were a bad idea
  • just realized that something she thought she posted to D2L last week didn't actually get posted and of course she didn't save it... :-(
  • there has to be an easier way to keep track of due dates in d2l.. seriously!
  • Well this stinks. I've got an assignment due tomorrow and D2L is down :( fml
  • Really wish that more than 2 of my 5 classes were up on d2l... Come on profs, classes start monday! Get on that sh**!
  • really hopes this isn't a semester that none of my professors put their stuff on d2l...its friday...classes start monday...lets get movin!
  • I'm sorry but I have no "Desire2Learn" .. why must I be forced to go on that site.
  • D2L is making me angry.
Yep, that's mostly negative stuff. I didn't skip the positive posts from students because there basically weren't any (there were some from educators, along with lots of neutral ones). I'm posting this just because I find it interesting what students are willing to post online about this type of thing - and I wonder what their frame of reference is.

To be fair and balanced, I also check from time to time to see what people are saying about Blackboard. Not surprisingly, it's easy to find lots of comments there that fall in the negative category as well. I think the number of swear words per Blackboard post is higher than posts about D2L - which might be a good topic for a research paper.
  • Well that was quick, logged onto Blackboard and the only thing my class contains is a link to a real website for the class that works.
  • But I enjoy starting every semester with the Blackboard is completely unusable, so just send me your assignments via email instead. (Prof, I believe)
  • Great, my school upgraded to a new bug infested version of Blackboard. At some point I'd love it if they'd just move open source and fix it. (Prof again)
  • i love how i'd rather be on fbook or twitter than #BLACKBOARD. :)
  • Few things in life can anger me as much and as quickly as WebCT/Blackboard and their Java Applet CMS crap. And we pay millions for it. ugh
  • Blackboard is my frenemy.
  • i'm bout to get real ill. F**K is wrong with blackboard?
  • I hate Blackboard! Too many folders, no overview :-((
  • Effin hate the blackboard! Wtf. Pls load.
  • FUHHHH just noticed that the assignment i submitted online through the new Blackboard 9 for my online class on Fri didn't attach right! :(
  • i hate blackboard! ugh!
  • Trying to finish my online homework, but stupid blackboard/open campus isn't working so I can't finish it and it's due tonight, grrrr.....
  • Why doesn't Blackboard support Firefox versions above 2.X? This is ridiculous.
  • I've never hated something as much as I hate the new BLACKBOARD. Seriously!!!!!!!
  • I fu**ing hate #blackboard
  • hey, blackboard. wanna stop being retarded?
I'm wondering how much any of this chatter affects the general view of either Bb or D2L. Probably not much, but maybe it's growing in importance as a source of information about them. And finally, for the record, this post sums up my thoughts about these two "rivals" (partners?) -