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)?