Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Laura Gibbs: Fall Startup News for Faculty Using D2L

Someone I connect with online and consider to be an essential player in my personal learning network is Laura Gibbs, faculty at the University of Oklahoma. Laura and I are mainly connected through Google Plus as well as a Yammer network. Both of those are fairly new additions to the various learning networks that I attempt to engage in. Laura teaches completely online and is one of the least satisfied D2L users that I know.

Most of Laura's issues with the D2L Learning environment appear to me to be things that would also be an issue (IMO) with almost all LMS platforms; primarily related to the closed nature of traditional LMS and lack of true Web 2.0-ish tools. From my reading of her posts, she is also dissatisfied with the lack of a vibrant community of D2L users for sharing and learning.

Laura has been engaged in the past few days in making her courses ready for the start of the new semester. I asked her permission to cross-post some of her G+ posts here in an effort to reach a different audience. she agreed, so here they are. (Laura's words will be bulleted.)

Here's an example of her unhappiness. After I posted a link on G+ to my recent blog post about the D2L Student Success System, Laura replied with this:
  • "why do I learn about this from you and not from D2L? Why is there STILL no viable D2L online community for sharing ideas and strategies? And by viable community, I mean a community with discussions, notifications, sharing of files and media, etc.... gosh, kind of like Google+...!"
Laura definitely gives credit when credit is due. In this recent post, she shares the following:
  • Well, I have to say KUDOS to the guys at Desire2Learn... normally I budget appx. 8 hours per course to adjust all my course object dates every semester (ugh, it is the task I dread the most of getting ready for school), since in the past I have had to do that manually... but this semester, thanks to the magic power of OFFSET DATE I was able to reduce that 8 hour task to about 45 minutes!!!
  • For those of you at the University of Oklahoma, in case you want to take advantage of this EXCELLENT new feature at Desire2Learn:
  • For Weeks 1-7 of the Fall semester we are 217 days ahead of Spring 2011.
    For Week 8 - use caution! That was Spring Break of Spring 2011.
    For Weeks 9-12 of the Fall semester we are 210 days ahead of Spring 2011.
    For Week 13 - use caution! That is when Thanksgiving falls in Fall 2011.
    For Weeks 14-15 of the Fall semester we are 217 days ahead of Spring 2011.

  • I was able to automatically offset my dates for 13 weeks of the semester, leaving me just two weeks (Week 8 and Week 13), where I had to fiddle a little bit, using a mixture of automated and manual date changes.
  • THANK YOU, Desire2Learn! I have been waiting for this literally for years, and it will save me a solid two days of course preparation time that I can devote to something far more worthwhile than manually adjusting dates in the system. I am VERY grateful.
  • You will find this genius new feature in the Edit Course - Manage Dates menu, as shown in the screenshot below.

In another post she also highlights another new addition to the D2L LE, rearranging gradebook items:
  • Another nice new feature at Desire2Learn - it used to be that while the Gradebook items could be rearranged with numbers, for the Quizzes you had to bang a little arrow over and over again to move something. I've had to bang that little arrow as many as 100 times or more to move something up or down!
  • I would pick a favorite song and listen to it, banging in time with the music to make it (somewhat) less tedious. Now they have changed that to a numbered system.
  • Okay, that's good! But here's a question: in the Gradebook view, I get to have things nested: items appear in categories so I can rearrange items AND I can rearrange categories. Why doesn't it work the same way in the Quiz area? That would be even better - in addition to being a more consistent interface.

One more from Laura. I'm not sure if this issue is related to settings in place just at OU, or if everyone will have similar issues, regardless of settings. I'll update this post if I get clarification on this:
  • Okay, I have had two good Desire2Learn experiences (see previous posts about offset dates and homepage widgets) as I get ready for Fall, and now one seriously BAD thing... I just found out that the "notifications" feature that is new in D2L for us this Fall is GLOBAL - there can only be one notification standard for all students for all courses at our entire university.
  • Eegad: students cannot choose to have the notifications visible or not, and even instructors cannot choose for their own courses. That really sucks for me.
  • When a student logs on at D2L, for my course they will see the notification below: almost 200 unattempted quizzes. Well, that is true, but it is totally irrelevant and misleading information: my courses are set up so that students CHOOSE from a huge range of options for what they will do the complete the course.
  • Nobody is expected to take all 200 quizzes (which are not even quizzes, for that matter - they are "work declarations" for the most part) - so even as students get near the end of the course, they will still see this message about all the unattempted quizzes, giving them a totally wrong and discouraging message - because those quizzes are not really quizzes, and the students are not supposed to be attempting them all anyway.

  • This really bugs me: it is just CARELESS DISREGARD for users on the part of D2L that they did not set this up so that students or, at least, instructors, could enable or disable that notification.
  • Just when I start thinking D2L might have learned something from the customizability that is a hallmark of web2.0, I discover something like this. Ugh. My students are going to see a wrong and misleading "notification" every single time they log into my class... and there is not a darn thing I can do about it.
So there you have it. If you want to learn more from Laura, you can add her to one of your circles in Google Plus.

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