Tag Archives: teaching

Blackboard Open Enrollment Announcement

In another move following Blackboard’s March 26th announcement (aggregated responses on e-Literate site), yesterday Blackboard announced that Instructors using their CourseSitescan make their courses available for enrollment by anyone, effectively supporting an open courseware model. It means individuals can set up open teaching initiatives, community outreach and volunteer training, as well as collaborative research programs.

Of course, Sakai Project Sites also support these activities, but Sakai servers are not usually set up outside institutions.

Instructure Canvas is another company that also supports these activities, with their “Free for Teachers” version. I don’t know whether it supports open enrollment. Yet. But it will.

It’s a strange reversal for those of us observing this space. The past few years were those in which options seemed to become more and more limited. Without much of a pause, the pendulum now swings to more and more choices. Still, other than whether social media and mobile are supported, the choices don’t have many functional differentiators.

Instead, a main platform differentiator appears to be in the models for provisioning, reuse and interoperability of content. Our appetites are continually expanding for high quality content. Publishers, it’s your turn.

For further reading: “When it Comes to Content, Say “Yes” to Wrappers But “No” to Containers



Notes on Penn State Learning Design Podcast #4: Throw out the LMS?

They title it “Baby and the Bathwater,” Jeff Swain and Brian Young.


Full podcast available from ITunes :EdTech episode #4_ Baby & the bath water

These snippets of their conversation stuck out to me.

“If we implement it as we did in the past, if we support it as we did in the past, we will end up with what we had in the past.”  (Brian’s voice I think)


The LMS’s of today pretty much all have the same functionality. In what way are they flawed? What is it about an LMS as a tool that still needs to change… is it

– the workflow required of an Instructor to accomplish a pedagogical goal?

– the fact that it’s a closed system which doesn’t allow for students to interact with other students studying the same same?

– flexibility to make some parts open and others closed to the students taking it that term (in that particular section, or all sections taught by same Instructor? Or all sections across several Instructors?)

They love blogs (sounds like for teaching, research, and reflection method).

How does an LMS related to the ground swell of Program Assessment? LMS repositories aren’t built for providing artifacts and data for assessing the program… But why not?

What about from the student point of view? Why don’t we map out their entire program so that over time they can see how each course supports the program’s goals, how far they’ve come? How far yet to go?


100% of the issues with any of the LMSs are due to lack of planning on the Instructor’s part.” (around 26 minutes) – Brian Young

babies_water 4

No Wonder Video is Not For the Faint of Heart!

(…Or maybe just not for users who are PC-based, as I’m sure some of my readers would point out to me).

This story starts out with an online course I’m taking in Advanced Technologies for Distance Education (this course description page is due for revision so it may not be up when you click on it). My assignment this week was to explore video for teaching – read about it, find some I like and why, and make some. As someone firmly planted in-between supporting the backend of an LMS and supporting the faculty who use it, this is excellent professional development for me and a good assignment.

I also happen to be an assistant coach for a First Lego League Robotics team (which is an excellent program supporting STEM curriculum in the middle schools, despite the fact that it’s also fun). So I decided to kill two birds with one stone by doing a promo video for this season’s team as my video project for class.

So, again I deviated a little bit from the requirements of the assignment, but I did so to make the assignment work for my real life.

First, I used devices I currently own (and I’m the only one in America without a dedicated camcorder).

  1. PC running Windows 7
  2. HTC Evo (8+ megapixels and HD  resolution, 1280×720 pixels.

Secondly, I chose a project I needed to do anyway, and that was a video interview with a 5th grader. The phone camcorder was appealing to me in this setting for another reason as well- I figured all kids these days would have had a mobile phone pointed at them and had their picture taken; my interviewee would thus be just as comfortable with it as Mom or Dad pointing their phone at them and saying “Wow, Honey, that’s Great!”

The recording session went well, took virtually no time at all for a nice piece of 1:30 second video. My subject even knew where to look! The hardest part was finding a background on the bright sunny day. Indoors and my subject had green hued skin, outdoors and she faded into the shadow… until I found the glass door. Excellent.


Then began the process of setting up my computer to edit the film, add some intro music and a title. For our class we were to use Windows Movie Maker 2. But on that page you’ll see that users of Windows 7 are encouraged to click another link and download and install Windows LIVE Movie Maker instead. Since I use Windows Live Writer for blogging anyway, I figured this was a good thing…

Turns out Windows Live Movie Maker 2011 doesn’t like the mobile format, .3gpp . But even before that I had to wrestle my PC’s internal speakers to forget about the USB headset/mic I usually have plugged in. Live Movie Maker wanted to route sound through the headset’s MICROPHONE!

Then I realized I had codec problems when the intro music I appended played but the original audio didn’t. I do NOT know this stuff. I mean saying “codec problems” may sound techie and all that, but what I know about what a codec is and why we need them and how they are used is… well, here’s all I know:

A codec is a set of algorothms used by a computer program to translate one video or audio format to another so that the resultant file can be viewed, heard, edited and saved for use with some other program or device.

That’s it. That’s all I know. Windows Live Movie Maker 2011 and Windows Media Player 12 both were displaying my video but not playing the audio.

But because my operating system is Windows 7 and my Media Player 12 and Live Movie Maker 2011 were fresh downloads (untried really) , and they are both Microsoft, I made the assumption that if I fixed the problem in Media Player, they would share the codecs needed to make the translation from the mobile .3gpp to whatever they like.


In the process I discovered (after downloading and finding it didn’t work) that the Windows Media Player add-on called “Media Codec pack” has been superceded by the new Expression Encoder 4 , and that DID solve my problem of hearing .3gpp files – BUT ONLY while viewing them in Windows Media Player, NOT in using Live Movie Maker to edit the file. Oh, and Expression Encoder 4 has a prerequisite I also had to download, the newer Microsoft .NET framework 4.

So, where was I? Ah… the light was beginning to dawn. I needed to get a program expressly to convert the .3gpp mobile phone codec (format) to something else before Live Movie Maker 2011 could work with it at all.

This is when I turned to a freebie I had used several years ago on another PC, probably the last time I dabbled in video, which is distributed by DVDVideoSoft.

So now to the usefulness (or not) of video

That is the question, isn’t it? Is this stuff good? Is it needful? Does it aid memory? Stimulate learning? Engage folk? When to use it? I’ll hit these topics in my next posting.