Monday, December 3, 2012

D2L Users Forum Was Good but.....

The first Colorado D2L Regional User Forum was this past Friday. Held at the Denver Downtown Sheraton, it reminded me more of a mini-Fusion than a meeting of D2L peers. The forum was complete with lanyarded name tags, programs, fancy signs, balloons, and full breakfast and lunch menus. There was even a keynote given by Barry Dahl, of late an employee of D2L responsible for communications.

I've been wanting to learn more about the D2L lecture capture solution called simply D2L Capture, and my wish was granted in the first session. Capture can be hardware-based, software-based, or limited functionality when hosted in the cloud. Best of all, it supports both Flash and HTML5 playback. A basic editor is included for removing those embarrassing sneezes or lapses in content. The hardware version allows  for scheduling of sessions. Features being rolled out in the soon-to-be-released new version include chat windows, instant publishing, and more granular access management rather than public availability.

Karen Kaemmerling discussed CCCOnline's venture into digital textbooks. Overall, they have had great success based on student feedback. One of the difficulties is in dealing with publisher support. Issues still abound, from inconsistent electronic resources, to student access codes, to ensuring ADA compliance. Karen recommends that those considering the use of electronic media meet regularly with the course development team, ensure that ADA compliance is maintained throughout, to train faculty on the use of materials, and have a support plan.

Nate Wadman discussed using D2L for administrative tasks. Pikes Peak Community College has created a D2L shell for a repository of documents related to courses. They created a single course and enrolled all instructors. The instructors then upload grade books, syllabi, and other course-specific documents. Administrators can then download the documents as needed. Slick idea. Nate mentioned that instructor training is an issue, as well as the adding of late hires and instructor removals.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the Forum was the networking opportunities. It's always a pleasure talking with Kristin Rivedal of Front Range CC, and this meeting was no different. Regis has been having significant issues with D2L, including the test server housing the new version 10. We were able to share issues and possible solutions. Very beneficial.

Which brings me to my big concern about the User Forum. I'm certainly not complaining about the quality of the show: the food was great; presentations, particularly those provided by my colleagues, were exceptional; and the event was pulled off without a hitch. But there was a glaring omission in that there was little time to interact with fellow users of D2L save for the brief 10 minute breaks between formal sessions. When I think of user forum I envision an informal forum where like-minded people can gather to discuss issues, problems, and ideas for solutions and work-arounds.  This is where round-table discussions are perfect. Yes, the formal sessions are informative and provide a sharing of ideas. But what is more beneficial on a regional level is the ad hoc discussion of specific issues. You might describe this as an in-person listserv, with one person describing a problem or issue and others sharing possible solutions. Hopefully next year's User Forum can include such forum.