Crosslists crossed out, cross-eyed or just cross

This is going to be a rant; I can feel it coming on…

The overall rant is lack of integration between SCT Sungard’s SIS and Blackboard’s Vista product.

Normally this rant has to do with real-time integration between the two products and what happens to the CMS if students drop (Gradebook, Assignments, Assessments) …and then normally I go off into a product rant about Bb Vista, since the behavior of Vista has never thoroughly accomodated SIS integration, at least not with SCT Sungard. Maybe it’s hard with Datatel and Peoplesoft was well… I dunno.

Today’s particular rant is about the Bb Vista product (4.1.2 specifically, I’m sure this applies to CE 6.1.2 as well) and how it doesn’t handle cross-listed sections.

I spend more troubleshooting and workaround hours on this single item alone. Currently I have two support tickets open with Blackboard, as well as an enhancement request I filed March 14th. One of the support tickets had to be re-opened because the holy grail, being able to recombine an Instructor’s sections after the old crosslist was deleted, still isn’t attainable even after I followed all other Bb procedures.

Here’s one of my xlist rants … no, I”ll back up first. Crosslists should be cool, they really should. You take students who are in different programs but needing the same kind of credit, you put them in the same classroom registered under different course codes valid for their program and everyone’s happy. At Notre Dame, kinds of Program and Curricula arrangements are made between Departments and the Registrar. It’s not even necessary for the Instructor to know what course code various students register under…

Then you use a CMS and integrate it with your SIS. AND you mix in Instructors who are already teaching multiple sections of the same course (which they don’t know is x-listed) and then you sit back and wait for them to make requests -reasonable requests- for the CMS Administrator to create a combined section, ‘supersection’ we call it, so that they can provide a single online course site for their hybrid face-to-face/online course experience for multiple sections. This too should be a doable thing, a sweet thing.

As CMS Admin you then have to get rid of the original x-list and recreate one which includes all the sections using xml and a siapi import through the luminis adapter (or ims adapter, take your pick). It’s quite easy. Put some Perl script together to automate creating the xml. Nice. When it works.

But it doesn’t. When deleting through the UI, the Vista database somehow is retaining pieces of the old crosslist, which prevent those sections from being re-crosslisted into larger crosslists. You’ve now broken the original crosslists. You are unable to create new ones, and you have no enrollment management for that Instructor’s sections. Period.

Perhaps I should’ve labeled this rant “Recycling X’ed-Out X-List Garbage” because I have a feeling 75% of the grief would be x’ed out if only Garbage Collection worked. I guess I’ll find out in a few weeks on Vista 4.2 …