Does your institution have these policies?

Because we didn’t do an in-place upgrade from Vista 3 to Vista 4, we’re realizing there are even larger gaps in our policies than we had thought, and there are serious misconceptions on campus concerning types of course management data and their retention, purging and archiving.

Notre Dame is starting to look at some of these issues and our assumptions around them:

1. How long should student work (online quiz answers, assignment submissions, discussion postings) be accessible to students after the semester is over? Is continuing their access through the next semester good enough? Should it be for the duration of their stay at the university?

2. How long should Instructors have access to student work?

3. How long should an Instructors’ online course (with student work removed) be retained live on the server? Here at Notre Dame we have a Banner SSB customization that displays a form to faculty allowing them to choose from content available on the Bb Vista servers as the starting point for any given course in the current semester. Behind the scenes this programmatically creates an assignment job of one section’s content to the specified one.

4. How much data can we feasibly store in the database? Even if archiving isn’t practical, what should the purging cycle be for online course content and for user accounts? Should it be based on some time after last access, or on a time period such as # of semesters or years?

5. Should we make the technical investment to develop a viable section archiving strategy and then, policies around it?

6 thoughts on “Does your institution have these policies?

  1. At the University System of Georgia, we looking at these issues as well from both the system and institution levels.
    1. We deny student access a month into the next term. I think this coincides with a reporting date for something in Banner. Basically, as part of the section creation with ICGORLDI, we also change the end date and enforce that change.
    2. At the system level, we do not touch faculty enrollments. Some campuses may? Something similar to denying instructors would be nice. The feature added to Vista 3 so users can hide sections was feature request from us.
    3. Is this a template? Conceivable a section may be taught once a year or every other year. What is the cutoff for the Law of Diminishing returns? Its not like faculty are going to tell you how much they use the sections or templates available. That would be the information you need to know. Do ePacks change this in any way?
    4. You can store at least 1.4TB. πŸ™‚ We have two that large.
    5. We are interested in this as well. Of course, we have garbage collection issues, so the growth is off the charts because of the lack of removing the softly deleted objects. Are you interested in just the archiving or also in providing a safety net to the individuals who destroy their sections?

  2. ez,
    Hmm, you ask more good questions. Let me see..
    #3. We aren’t using templates since migrating from Vista3 to Vista4. Our automated process allows Instructors to pick from past live content still on the server. Programmatically we’re not certain what Vista is doing when it receives the xml we’re sending it. It deletes the existing section, and recreates it with the content we’ve specified. There may be a template process in between. For Policy though, I think your point is well taken, if this content is being utilized as source for Instructors only teaching something particular every 2 years, then we must keep it live for 2 years. Vista4 does have a “reset” feature from the UI that scrubs out student data. This would decrease the amount of live storage needed.
    #5. We’ve got to provide a safety net to Instructors. That’s first. But secondarily, the student work product could conceivably be requested in response to a grade challenge. Or is that just too far-fetched? The Registrar’s Office tells this story of a grade challenge that came in 7 years after the fact. And they changed the grade! As many times as I hear the story, it never includes on what basis the change was made!

  3. Just got off the phone with one of our Institutions’ few Instructional Designers. The question who owns the online course content came up. I’ve always asked for permission from the Registrar’s Instructor of record for a particular course section in a particular semester and only granted access to others based on their response. What happens when they leave the University and someone else begins to teach that course? What about in the case of an online hybrid course where the Designer is the one who truly constructed it and the Instructor deals mainly with the face to face element? Perhaps the Designer is the owner? Do your Faculty sign anything at hiring concerning Research, Publishing? Does it include other instructional or research artifacts? If not, should it?

  4. #3 That you are able to provide a class potentially two years from now to an instructor doesn’t say in what form it is stored. A restorable section backup could be fine? Some people here are suggesting the section backup is a bad model because in two years we could be on a different platform (such as Vista 4), rending that backup useless…. So why not get that data in the right format in the first place? I agree in this ideal. We need a way to pull out the content (and in #5 student info) for long-term storage. On CE 3.8, I had CDs and DVDs in my office with old courses of which multiple were restored per term.
    #5 Wow… 7 years? That is disturbing, especially considering the instructor may no longer be employed or alive? Ostensibly it would have been from re-grading something(s). I’d think anything that can put an entry in the gradebook ought to be saved. I’m glad our policy is one term after and not infinititum! Though its possible local campuses ignore our system policy and allow longer windows.
    #6 (Who owns the content?) I love this question! We have a policy that anything created as part of the employment is our property. However, this view is definitely not held by the designers! I’m not aware of anyone contesting the policy. That said, I always tried to ensure I knew who created content and for whom (owner) and provide deference to the owner governing the use. It was all in my head which is not nearly as young as it used to be.

  5. ez,
    I hear you about your head not being as young as it used to be! (only because mine is aging rapidly as well… I can no longer pretend to hide this from colleagues!)
    I loved your idea about restorable section content, including student work product. Obviously it would be stored offline in some STANDARDS-based format, potentially restorable to ANY CMS system. The fact that this doesn’t yet exist indicates to me how immature the CMS product is.

  6. Hi Laura,
    A problem with using a standards-based format is the immature standards. Mature standards comprehensively fulfill needs and are adhered to by the market place. Blackboard and other companies involved in CMS systems have to adopt and adhere to the same standards.
    Making content restorable to any CMS system means instructors would have options to change systems. Both by us moving the content for them and taking it to another school.
    BTW, we hosted some Bb consultants a couple days this week to talk about where we are and our directions. Most of these ideas and concerns both us expressed in this comment thread were discussed. Its going to be a fun couple years. πŸ™‚

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