Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Disappointment in EDUCAUSE & Gates Foundation Report On NGDLEs

I was simply amazed that two organizations (Gates Foundation & EDUCAUSE) that I highly respected for their positive role in education and technology would release a research report that contain some very misleading statements and demonstrated poor research methodology. I am talking about "The Next Generation Digital Learning Environment: A Report of Research" an ELI April 2015 Paper.  The report can be downloaded at from EDUCAUSE at or at

Perhaps the problem is that I am simply take things to literal, but before one states that "no single application can deliver" in all their outlined areas, they may want to actually confirm that. Researchers learn in research methodology class early on to be very careful using words like "all and none", unless you are 115% sure you can prove it with data. The areas or domains that the report claims no single application can is interoperability, personalization, analytics, advising, learning assessment, collaboration, and accessibility and universal design. They additionally, lead the reader to believe that no existing application allows educational institutions to tailor learning environments to institution specific needs.

They start off saying that last summer they talked with over 70 educators, campus-based technologist, and developers from the private sector in addition to using an EDUCAUSE report on the "Current Ecosystem of Learning Management Systems in Higher Education: Student, Faculty, and IT Perspectives". First 70 conversations is not truly an appropriate representation of the educators, technologies, and private sector developers.
Additionally, only taking user prospective on current LMS systems will not provide a true finding of what LMSs can do. This is because in lots of cases LMSs can do more than the learning institution makes available to users. Partly because of the administrators lack of understanding the user need and in part because of the LMS vendors poor marketing of how features can be used and the benefits they provide.

The report stated 15% of the 99% of institutions in higher education using an LMS were thinking about changing LMS systems.  According to Dahlstrom, Brooks, & Bischsel (2014) this is a higher than normal rate in comparison to enterprise-class applications. They are not leaving the LMS world only changing vendors. Institutions change LMS vendors for lots of reasons like: lack of proper faculty training, lack of proper IT support, no instructional technologist on staff, administration's personal feels about a specific vendor, or cost vs budget. All of which do not mean the LMS does not have tools for each domain included in the Next Generation Digital Learning Environment (NGDLE). They state that 41% of faculty don't use the LMS to promote interaction outside of the classroom, that again is not the fault of the LMS application but of the institutions for letting faculty get away with that. However there are then 59% of faculty using it for outside classroom collaboration. Additionally, many institutions have student services or activity departments that use it for student communications, school clubs use it as a means of communications, and some institutions even turn on features that allow students to collaborate without faculty involvement, so as Blackboard (Bb) LEARN Social tools.Further claims stated that current LMSs were still course and faculty centric. Really, Bb Inc has stated and shown evidence of their change to being learn centric. Instructure's Canvas totally puts the learner first by design providing quick and easy task summary, list and other methods for keeping students informed, up to date, and engaged in a format current learners request it. The report also claims that current LMSs are using "one-size-fits-all assumptions about learning". Really? Then way do companies offer institution's instructional technologies and faculty academic freedoms to decide what tools and how those tools will be used. If they were one-size-fits all, would the LMS vendors remove the choice within their products? I believe they authors of the report are confusing the some vendors "one-size-fits-all" approach to product delivery in respect of features, updates, self-hosted, or cloud based.  Integration within the top LMS venders is simply via IMS Global's LTI.

In respect to LMSs not being able to work with the new disruptive education. There are several accredited higher education institutions offering Competency Based Education (CBE) programs that run within an LMS, if they did not work how are these institutions doing it? Helix Education created a CBE LMS and then sold it off. Maybe Helix could not sell the product because either Higher Education is not fully accepted of the CBE approach or they did not see the need for an LMS that only focused on CBE approach instead institutions are opting to stay with LMSs that can do both approaches. Ellucian even has a CBE LMS design for education institutions. Is this report saying even these CBE designed LMSs are not good enough also, even though they are specifically designed for the "new" approach to education.

On page 9 of the report they admit that some of what they are promoting is currently happening and even list eight main areas. However, they then call these actions "disparate". Which is really unprofessional. Earlier in the report it claimed current tools were out of date, now when they acknowledge that current tools are being enhanced and new tools included, the vendors are disparate. To be as a technology professional with who also works in higher education, it sounds like the report authors are disparte in trying to sell the "LEGO NGDLE".  The items on page 10 that are listed as needed are currently included in LMSs. For example workflows, mobile-first designs, portfolios, peer evaluation, group work, rubrics, instructional design capabilities, and success tools.

The LMSs this report describes are what existed 15 or 20 years ago. But the modern LMSs are customizable, integrated with dozens of campus and off campus systems, flexible, standards compliant (IMS, SCORM) and all the other buzz words used within the NGDLE. Current LMSs are learn centric, however some institutions have do not turn these tools on because their faculty are not yet ready to accept or do not fully understand the shift to learner centric.

Next time, perhaps they should talk with more users to get a better sampling of the population, do more of their own research, and actually look how LMSs are being used by educationally advance higher education institutions.  

2015 SLATE Conference CFP & Registration News

Below is a re-post from content received via email from Ken Sadowski received on Tuesday, May 19. This is a great event that some of our Blackboard (Bb) MVP's attended last year. Click here to review a summary post by one of them.
Jason Rhode (@jasonrhode) & Terry Patterson (@terrypatterson)

Call for Papers and Registration Information

The 13th Annual SLATE Conference the Midwest's premier educational technology and teaching event, has attracted faculty and IT learning professionals from across the country and around the world in higher-ed, K-12, government, and business.

The conference will be held on October 21-23, 2015 and hosted by Northern Illinois University at their regional campus in Naperville, IL (thirty minutes from downtown Chicago).

 Call for Papers 

The official Call for Papers for the 2015 SLATE Conference is NOW OPEN. The SLATE Conference is one of the premier educational technology conferences in the Midwest, known for offering a wide variety of topics ranging from best practices and pedagogy, to innovative teaching/training resources and cutting edge technologies. Speakers are encouraged to submit proposals whose general focus is the use of technology in teaching and learning regardless of the platform or tools being used. To learn more about the conference, including speaker guidelines, session formats, venue, registration, etc., go to the conference website and use the navigation links on the right side of the screen to access the desired information.

 Early-bird Registration 
Early-bird Registration for the 2015 SLATE Conference is NOW OPEN through June 30. Click on the link below, select your payment option (credit card or purchase order) and complete and submit the registration form.  Single-day and group options are available, so register early to take advantage of reduced pricing.
Copyright © 2015 SLATE Group, All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Online Attendance Bb Learn B2 Update

For years Blackboard (Bb) LEARN clients have been screaming for a built in attendance tool within the base LEARN application. To clients this seems like a no brainier for an online classroom to have an online attendance tool, but for some reason Bb Inc. developers seem to not agree. 

Thankfully, the developers at Baylor University heard the cries from Bb user community and created a wonderful "Online Attendance" tool and provided it to the community for FREE via the OSCELOT site. OSCELOT is a place where innovative meets open source and collaboration to solve the challenges facing the e-Learning technology community.  In short, this is where schools that have developers or employees with a passion to program (develop) can share their work and solve problems for not only their home school but for others around the world facing the same issue. 

Many clients, self-hosted and managed-hosted, benefited from this building block then when the sad news that Baylor was leaving Blackboard hit the community the Building Block disappeared from the OSCELOT site. 

Than a miracle happen, Hardin-Simmons University willingly assumed ownership of the "Online Attendance" project. However, you won't find the building block (B2) on the OSCELOT site anymore. Instead you will find it on the Behind The Blackboard Partner Extension Catalogue ( The importance thing is to make sure to select the one from Hardin-Simmons, because at the time of this blog post Blackboard Inc. had not yet removed the old Baylor tool, I am assuming because Baylor's tool worked with older (out of date) versions of LEARN. 

Thank fully, Wade Ashley (@ashbyw) has is willing to accept feedback on the Hardin-Simmons University version. If you want to know more about other FREE add-on tools for Bb Learn and how to locate them consider attending the Bb User Conference (aka: BbWorld) in July at National Harbor. They have extended Early Bird rates to May 22, so register soon by clicking here.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Video Everywhere Users, Share Your Viewpoint at BbWorld

Image result for video everywhere 

 Video Everywhere

You may have read my prior posts on the feature in Blackboard (Bb) Learn known as Video Everywhere that integrates YouTube nicely. If not, click here to read my prior post. You can also find a post on it by David Gray from the students usage by clicking here

USC provides instructions of use here and of course there is always the details on I am sure you can find may other discussions on the Web about it also. You may find a few unhappy users right now though. Why? Because the Bb Community got used to this tool working and using it to engage students, but then it just stopped working one day. Well not really, Google changed their API and Blackboard developers did not get the building block updated with these new APIs. (Click here to read more API change) Why wasn't the building block updated? Only Blackboard Inc. knows the answer to that question, but I am guessing it was simply overlooked due to their hard work on the new Collaborate and Learn versions. 

Luckily the Bb User Community is great and works together to solve issues that Bb misses or pop-up. William DeWysockie, provided a work around via the Bb List Server. William's solution:
 "If instructors begin using the Video Everywhere tool without having previously authenticated into their YouTube account, they need to sign into their YouTube account using the 'Sign in to YouTube' option in the Recorder window. This is fine - but then the first attempt to record a video fails. The instructors have to close the Recorder window and start over. All successive recording attempts then seem to work. Instructors don't encounter this problem with the first video failing if they are already signed into their YouTube account before they begin using the Video Everywhere tool. They still have to click the 'Sign in to YouTube' option but the tool recognizes that that the users are already authenticated into their YouTube account and lets them begin recording - and the initial attempt to record a video works fine. To make this whole process a lot simpler (until Blackboard gets this fixed), we just direct instructors to the YouTube site to record their videos. They can then use the Video Everywhere tool to integrate their videos into their courses."

Video Everywhere is a good tool and I would hate to see people stop using it because it does not work as designed and Blackboard taking to long to update APIs. If you one of those frustrated users and you are not a system administrator who can share your feels on Behind the Blackboard, then come to BbWorld 2015 and talk with lots of Bb employees about your frustration, let your voice be heard! You can register for BbWorld (held in July) at

*** UPDATE ***
Here is the response received from Behind the Blackboard:

The status of the Known Issue associated with your case has been updated to Pending Release to show that we have confirmed this is a bug that is planned to be fixed in a specific future release of Learn, but that release is not yet available. You may have received this notification due to a release target that has changed. The Case Number may show on Behind the Blackboard as “Closed”, but any related Knowledge Base article will be updated with new findings, and you will be updated by email and through the case when we have more information. See details below.

Note that work on this defect may be ongoing, and there are several factors that could cause our plans to change again. If that should happen, you will receive another update in email and in your case notes. It is possible that this defect may be fixed in a Building Block or Learn Cumulative Patch release prior to the release of the current Targeted Version. If this issue will be fixed in a Cumulative Patch, the information will be included in the Support Bulletin for the Cumulative Patch release and your case will contain information regarding this issue's inclusion in the Cumulative Patch.

If the impact of this issue is severe enough that you feel you cannot wait for the release of a fix because of a direct, critical impact to your production environment or if it impedes your ability to upgrade to a newer release of Learn, please call us or go to Behind the Blackboard and re-open this ticket.

Please see the Known Issue Article number below. You may search for this number on Behind the Blackboard in the Knowledge Base Search area.

Knowledge Base Article Number: 000040461 Case Number: 02160714 Case Subject: Video Everywhere Tool and YouTube Mashup Tool produce "Device Not Supported" YouTube video Targeted Version: Enterprise - TBD Estimated Timeframe: N/A

Please note that there are some issue types, such as security issues, that do not get published, and if this is a newly reported issue it may take several days for the article to be published. We strive to make the information available as quickly as possible after our due diligence is complete. If you do not see your article published, you may always submit a support case and reference the article number above; our Support Staff can get the available information for you. We appreciate your patience and understanding with this process.

Also, you can keep up with our maintenance team via their blog, which is accessible via the Maintenance Center link under Self-Service on Behind the Blackboard.

If you have questions about the status of this case please either visit
or call our Client Support organization (

Blackboard Support
Blackboard Inc.