Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Reflections from D2L Fusion 2011 conference

Reflections from D2L Fusion 2011 conference
by Sheila Carlon

I attended several great sessions at the D2L Fusion meeting held in Denver. My two favorite, however, were the ones on Using Social Media to Enhance Online Courses and Academic Analytics.
  Using Social Media focused on using this method to connect to that group of students that are used to texting, tweeting and using facebook to send reminders to students about upcoming due dates, brief feedback comments and other short quips the instructor needs to communicate. The best way to use Facebook was not to “friend” students but to create a Fan Page for the course and post announcements and any other pertinent information there. That way you are not intruding on the student’s social life!
  The session on Academic analytics was exciting as with D2L, we will eventually be able to get actionable data from the LMS which we haven’t done before. The four areas of analytics: strategic (goals and objectives at the institutional level), administrative (operating effectiveness), academic (student success) and career (career paths) can be dumped into the Business Intelligence software that goes beyond just reporting – you can actually make decisions from the data. We have not had access to administrative analytics with any previous LMS so I think this will be very helpful. (This will not be available for us however until year 2. )

Sheila Carlon, Ph.D., RHIA, CHPS
HSA Division Director

Thursday, August 25, 2011

D2L Fusion users conference 2011

Reflections from the D2L Fusion user's conference
Doug Emmerich

Attending the Desire2Learn conference, Fusion 2011, was a great insite into the D2L culture. The presenters were very knowledgeable and presented great insight into using the D2L LMS efficiently to maximize the teaching and learning options of the end users. I picked up a lot of great suggestions to apply to the migration to D2L and contacts for future projects once the university is up and running with the LMS as current D2L users are more than happy to share with others in the community.

Two very interesting topics that will have great impact on Regis in the future is the work that D2L software designers are doing in the area mobile computing. The goal is to make working in D2L for students, faculty, and staff possible from multiple mobile device platforms. The intent is not limited to picking up messages or reviewing information to then work with on laptops or desktops, but rather to fully use the mobile device for development and deployment of assignments, course projects, course content, and other learning tasks and objects.

The second exciting discovery has to do Adobe Connect. D2L used to have a partnership with Elluminate as its featured web conferencing tool. After competitor Blackboard bought Elluminate, D2L has been working with Adobe to create the same partnership for Connect. In development is a widget, similar to a Nugget in WorldClass, which will give anytime access to an instructor’s meeting room to allow students the opportunity to have synchronous meetings and to practice with the software. Since Regis already has a Connect Enterprise license, this partnership will enhance Connect usage.

It was a bit overwhelming to go straight into a conference prior to being up and running. Not knowing exactly what to ask and what would be most helpful made for a few uncertainties, but in the end information gained was immediately applicable.


D2L Fusion User Conference Reflections

Desire2 Learn Fusion Users Conference 2011
Diane Ernst, Associate Professor, LHSON
Attendance Reflections

Based on my attendance at the D2L Fusion Conference, there appears to be many add-ons to the D2L system that are available for a fee.  While each of these add-ons (lecture capture through Capture, Connect Yard social media, etc), a cost/benefit analysis needs to be done on purchasing such add-ons.  The lecture capture on the surface appears to be an appealing and beneficial add-on but a more in-depth examination is warranted.  From the sessions I attended, it appeared that many sessions were provided on the add-ons and fewer sessions on the general use of the basic D2L learning management system.  It was definitely a marketing tool for expanding D2L use.

Conference sessions of how to use the Intelligent Agents built into the D2L system were intriguing and having this power in D2L has the potential of being very beneficial for a faculty and students alike.  Intelligent Agents can be thought of as “the eyes at the back of your head” and can be set-up to automatically send out positive reinforcement and reminders to students.  Faculty can set the parameters such that if students do not read the syllabus, an email is automatically sent to those students with a reminder to read the syllabus.  The dropbox parameters can be developed so that an email is automatically sent to students who have not submitted an assignment by a certain date.  Email reminders can be automatically sent to students who have not accessed the course for a set number of days. These are just a few examples of the use of Intelligent Agents.  Faculty develop if…then……statements to set the release condition for unleashing the power of the Intelligent Agent features.  There can be automatic, active, and passive release conditions set.  Faculty can control access to course components, release remediation and enrichment, news items, personalize discussions as part of the Intelligent Agent options. Faculty can become a member of the D2L Community and then will have access to release condition best practices and examples.  

As a faculty member who uses the “first post” option in Worldclass, I was disappointed that D2L does not have such a feature.  When the “first post” option is set in a Worldclass discussion, students are  not able to see the other students’ posts until they make their first post to the discussion.  One way to do this in D2L is to have the students copy and paste their first post in the dropbox where a release conditions has been set (there is that Intelligent Agent again).  Once the student submits the posting in the dropbox, based on the release condition, the student will then be able to see the posts in the discussion forum.  The student then copy and pastes the post—the same post as made in the dropbox, to the discussion forum.  While it requires the students to go through an extra step, it is probably the best method for doing a “first post” in D2L.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

27th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning- Keynote summary

27th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning- Nicole's Keynote summary and reflections.

I have been attending this conference for about 7 years now and I'd say that I always get the most out the wonderful keynotes that present there. This year was no exception.

Opening Keynote “Education in the Age of Disruptive Innovation; Living on the Future Edge”
Lee Crockett, Managing Partner, 21st Century Fluency Project (

Lee’s presentation started with the overview that as educators it is challenging to keep up with changing technology and the sheer fact of adapting to change. Just when you learn one thing and get comfortable another better and new technology is already knocking at the door. Lee explained Moore’s Law ( which looks at the trends of computer technology history and future change. Basically Moore’s Law shows a pattern of how technologies improve exponentially and then also go down in price. Lee used the personal computer as an example. We can remember how back in the day we could buy a beast of a computer with a whooping 1 megabyte of hard drive for a couple grand! Pretty much every 2 years later the power and space would increase (double) and then price (to make and purchase) would go down twice as well. This pattern currently has been reduced to a 1 year and soon will be on a 6 month schedule. The funny thing about all this is that if Moore’s law is right in just a few years we may be able to purchase a computer that runs on 200 terabytes of RAM and has a 40 terabyte hard drive and may cost only $1.37!  It sounds ridiculous but you know if back in 1980 if we asked you if you’d have something like an iphone in your pocket that can do all that it does and that you’d pay about $200 for it we might have been skeptical. 
Technology is changing (improving!) as fast as lightening. How quick are we to adapt to the change? How quick are institutions when it comes to adopting and adapting to change?

Take cell phones for example, they are coming out with better versions of cell phones so fast that by the time we buy one there is a new ‘upgrade’ in just a few months and the one in your hand is outdated.  Is your cell phone a smart phone or just a thing in your pocket to make phone calls? Seriously, how long are you going to resist getting a smart phone? Contemplate the reasons why you haven’t. I have heard some people say “I just figured out how to use this darn thing why would I go get another (tech item) and have to figure that out?”  My reason was mostly due to cost. Of course now that I've finally made the switch, I don't know how I could have lived without my smartphone.
We can apply the same concept of cell phones to education. How many institutions are incorporating mobile technologies with the curriculum? Why might they not be? Certainly could be due to funding especially these days. It might be due to the fear of spending good money on one thing and then finding out the following year it is already outdated. There are a variety of reasons in combination that could be involved.

Obviously, we are all conscious of what is going on with change and technology, but the big question is how will this affect how we teach and what we teach? Are we preparing our students for the future and how to adapt to change? The reality of right now, 2011, information is easy to dig up at our finger tips. One key factor is deciphering the credibility of the information and how the info may be leveraged to problem solve.  The future will change our priorities now, and with that our thinking processes may change as well. So that means we need to address how we teach and what teach.  The 21st Century Fluency Project describes the fluencies that are critical for our students to have.  
Lee Crockett pointed out that we (as educators) may need to be open to the idea of “sitting with uncomfortable” for a while and be open to the change. We can’t necessarily teach the way we were taught or the way we have been teaching for X amount of years.  The next generation of workforce needs a different kind professional. For example, a professional that would not be afraid of change; someone who can adapt well to new technology; but most importantly someone who is a creative problem solver and critical thinker; not someone who can regurgitate facts or who is set into doing anything one way.  What sets apart your teaching than what students could learn from a book, website, video or other information source? Ponder this:  Are we teaching for “obsolete excellence?”

Lee’s keynote was much more engaging thought provoking then I described it above. Although I was certainly inspired, I was left with a feeling of urgency and I will admit a little bit of that ‘uncomfortable’ feeling.  Sometimes I feel like a little fish swimming against the sea. But when the sardine approach was explained it made me feel much better. When several small fish (leaders of change) swim together (collaborate) it makes it easier!
Please explore the 21st Century Fluency Project website ( for tons of resources, explanations and suggestions for teaching. Find out how you can become a committed sardine.

Later, I attended a round table discussion with Lee and here are some of the notes that I picked up from that conversation:

5 i’s for Teaching for creative fluency
Identify (the problem or situation)
Inspiration (look at what is currently out there, look for patterns)
Imagine (problem solve, brainstorm, think outside the box)
Inspect (review and conclude your solution)

“MFA is the new MBA” – David Pink
Biggest demand in the marketplace are creative thinkers and creative problem solvers.

The Flynn Effect: IQ scores have been steadily rising but creativity took a steep downfall around 1990 and has been decreasing ever since. Why? What can we do as educators to change that?

Understanding the “sardine approach” to change at our institutions:
Technology is not a 21st century skill, it is the literacy of how we may leverage it and use it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Reflections from D2L Fusion 2011

Fusion 2011 was held July 2011 in downtown Denver. This was my first D2L conference and how nice that it was held less than 20 minutes from the Regis campus.

Image of Jonah Lehrer
The Monday morning keynote featured Jonah Lehrer, a rather young-looking scholar with a number of ideas about thinking. Jonah provided examples of how people can dramatically alter results simply by thinking in less obvious ways. He suggested trusting your intuition for rapid decisions. And similar to an inventor experiencing multiple failures before reaching success, he suggested that one needs to be incorrect multiple times before being correct once. Practice makes perfect.

Desire2Learn featured several new, or at least newer, products. One is Campus Life, a mobile app. This is a stand-alone product that integrates features such as campus announcements, a campus calendar, and similar with D2L courses including content, discussions, and calendar. It’s an extra cost option that is worth looking into. D2L also featured a recently acquired technology called Capture for lecture captures. Capture was recently purchased and is still being integrated into the D2L fold but appears to have all the basic features of a lecture capture solution including scheduling and streaming.

The Tuesday morning keynote featured Natalie Jeremijenko, a social scientist who examines the overlap between social media and the world around us. Although I found her talk quite entertaining, I really can’t summarize what she said. I’ll simply share the title and let your imagination take it from there: The new entertainment system: Why wrestling rhinoceros beetles, texting fish and building swamps is the new black.

I was fortunate enough to attend several private sessions with D2L reps including an overview of several mobile technologies. D2L mobile is included in the basic D2L package. Mobile provides basic access to content, discussions, and email to most mobile devices. There are also a number of extra-cost mobile options that show great promise. I’ve already mentioned Campus Life. A project targeting faculty that is still in development will provide downloadable assignments, offline grading that automatically syncs with courses when a signal is available, and on-screen notation. The app primarily targets tablet computers rather than smartphones since I can’t imagine annotating anything on a smartphone. Two other mobile apps mentioned that have real potential are a mobile eportfolio app and mobile analytics. Pretty cool stuff.

The Wednesday noon keynote featured Steve Brinder, a K-12 educator and professional stand-up comedian. Steve’s talk was titled “How to survive teaching with a sense of humor” and was really quite funny. 

Here is a YouTube clip from another talk he did but using similar material. Enjoy.

Gary Abbott from D2L did a session on D2L implementations. Gary suggested getting our campus library involved due to the integral role the library plays in the support of students. He recommended developing resource libraries for each discipline such as links to databases, common reference materials, and contact information for key library folks such as the reference and media librarians. He also mentioned a number of additional resources that I jotted down but none of which I can put into context. Hopefully these will prove useful:

o    Mediawiki
o    Drupal
o    Equella
o    Ning

Gary made a great point when he emphasized that students don't have issues when migrating to a new LMS but they do have issues with faculty that aren’t familiar with the new environment and how the tools work. Faculty must do their homework and become familiar with their new classroom.

Perhaps one of the best sessions, and one that is still being talked about on this campus, was presented by Josh Lund of DePaul University. DePaul recently completed a migration to D2L and Josh and his team were responsible for the creation of faculty training modules. He stated that his team created an entire training curriculum within three months. This included the print documentation, video tutorials, a self-paced course, and identified a number of FAQs. Their training materials also included quick guides and a step-by-step training of each tool function. Josh recommended providing a teaching commons area containing all D2L training resources. D2L provides an icon library that can be used for embedding specific into training pages. Very handy. Josh said to keep the initial workshops short (no longer than 2 hours) and to provide an open lab after each F-2-F session. DePaul created one fundamentals course and several separate tools workshops such as:

·         Workshops and suggested times
o   Fundamentals (2 hrs)
o   Assessing student work (1)
o   Quizzes, surveys (2)
o   Grade book (1)
o   Collaboration (discussion, chat, groups (1)
o   Personalize course (1)
o   Open labs (1)

DePaul provided sandbox courses for all pilot faculty. He suggested creating sandboxes as soon as possible. If creating video tutorials, he recommended focusing on one question and making courses functional rather than informational. Don’t tell them what to do but make them actually do the task. DePaul’s D2L training materials are available publically at Josh graciously allowed permission  for their use by emailing

The second phase of training at DePaul will expand on what’s already been created. This includes a D2L quick-start focusing on the fundamentals of course development, a module that goes beyond the basics including advanced content, modifying the home page, and similar. Another workshop will be on simplifying your life that has sections on the use of groups, grade books, and instructor tools. They will also create a module on "paperless papers" including Dropbox and Turnitin. Josh mentioned the popularity of open labs and how they are made available at the end of each workshop. Lastly, he recommends using a checklist of competencies. The example he used is available at