Canvas LMS Selected

The Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges has just completed a exhaustive RFP process to find a replacement for Angel, their current Learning Management System (LMS) which is slated to be unsupported by 2014.  The successful vendor selected was Instructure Inc., the providers of the newest LMS on the market called Canvas.  This is an open source project, built on the Ruby on Rails framework.  It is a vastly cleaner and simpler to use system that received high usability ratings from the faculty who participated in vendor testing over the course of the past few months.

What is happening with the other state schools?  In my conversations with colleagues across the other state four year institutions, it is clear that they are all looking carefully at this product as a replacement of their current systems that range from Moodle to Sakai, to Blackboard.  The State Board is currently in contract negotiations with Instructure to agree on a contract and costs, and are allowing for the other Washington institutions to be on the contract if they choose.  Everyone is watching closely to see how this all develops to potentially take advantage of the opportunity to tag on to the contract.

What does this mean for Evergreen?  Since 2006, Evergreen has self hosted their own LMS (Moodle) on a bit of a shoestring.  If the Instructure contract made sense and Evergreen decided to move to the new platform, it would be a big change for the institution.  If Evergreen decided to participate, a vastly updated suite of built-in functionality would be available including student eportfolios, teleconferencing, improved student assessment functions and accessibility tools.  Sticky problems of Moodle such as the inability to make course sites public and elegantly embedding media files (to name just two), would be resolved.  This would be an enormous leap in functionality to a highly extensible tool with a modern, flexible user-interface.  It would also be a change (which can be difficult) and faculty would need to be trained and brought up to speed along with their colleagues across the state.  Ultimately, migrating to Canvas will come down to cost and whether the faculty and institution believed that there is value to moving away from Moodle.

Check it out for yourself.. As contract negotiations at the state level trundle along, I highly recommend that anyone interested in this topic to go to the Instructure website and create a temporary demo account.  You will then be able to poke around and see what it looks like and how it works.  If you do any experimentation, please send me an email or post a comment below as you develop thoughts, questions, etc.. I truly would love to hear them.


How to attach a document to an assignment in Moodle 2

Want to use a pre-written set of instructions for an assignment or attach guidelines to a forum without having to write it over and over again int the instructions?  wnceduonline published the video below in youtube as an illustration of how you can attach a file to an assignment in Moodle 2.0 (not just link  it), which is a little tricky given the new file structure.  Give it a look and try it out, it actually works pretty well.

Staff Challenge Results

The Challenge:  The Consultant Trac ticket challenge was issued at the staff meeting on February 2.  The challenge, the most *Valid* tickets submitted by a consultant by the end of the quarter wins a free lunch with me (I know, how exciting). Careful and scrupulous review of the data show a clear jump in the number of tickets issued (and resolved – thank you Techcons) as it appeared that many were clearly on the lookout for technical shortcomings in the Center.

Figure 1

General Results: In general there was a considerable increase in ticket activity from when the challenge was offered (middle of week 5), as can be seen in Figure 1. One cannot help to surmise that even given the occasional sandbag (see link at the bottom) by and large the Computer Center was the beneficiary of a heightened sense of vigilance regarding the state of the facility.

More to the point it appeared that Dylan and Ian went head to head on tickets from the get go.  By week 7, ticket rates went back to historic norms.  It is unclear at this point if this standard distribution was a result of pure exhaustion on the part of the consultants or because there just were no more problems or issues to be squeezed out of the Center – IOW everything was working perfectly.

Figure 2

Individual Results: It would appear that, after close review of the tickets and the elimination of one clearly invalid ticket, Dylan and Ian ended up in a  dead heat for first place (Figure 2).

That said, Ian and Dylan and I will be heading out to lunch in the near future whenever it is convenient for them.  Arrangements will be made.  Thanks to all for a considerable net increase in proactive work and keeping the place working smoothly and happy week 10 of the quarter.

Ticket Sandbag

Building a community around IT

One session this morning centered around a group of reps from different institutions that  were relaying their experiences in providing a core IT support environment in higher ed.  There were definitely some common themes that were pervasive, most of which revolved around strategies for building a community.  Things that might be useful to bring home to the mother ship (AKA Evergreen) would be proactive outreach to constituencies that might have concerns, questions or issues around IT but we are not hearing from them because nobody’s asking them questions directly.
Client Services things to consider as important in rebuilding trust and accountability.  Look for the problems, seek out the festering sores.  Do not work with blinders on that reinforces the misconception that if i don’t hear any rumbling then  everyone must be happy.  Also, that commonly over-spouted concept – Transparency – communicate all the things we are doing at any given time.  Be proactive about meeting with groups to let them know what the priorities are.  We need to move away from a climate of “fear of reprisal”, this does nothing to further trust and functionality.

Creating Innovative Learning Spaces

Day 2 of educuase – Just went to a presentation by folks at GWU CITL who created what they considered to be an innovative learning space..  which wasn’t geared towards technology but had alot of technology imbedded in it.  They used a student academic program to redesign a technology learning space.  They conducted surveys of faculty, held focus groups, studied learning space desingn, furniture, AV, and other technology.  Seems like the focus was on a flexible space for small collaborative groups and the ability to record sessions in the room.  I think many of the concepts that were introduced here could be leveraged towards any of our spaces for a view of a new computer lab paradigm and technology teaching space.   Questions and ideas include;

What technology should be in the space? What is the tech focus?

  • Modular, moveable furniture for total flexibiliy.  Don’t be hardwired, mobile computing should be the dictum.
  • More whiteboards all around.
  • Double screens and/or tripod mount LCD’s (for mobility)
  • Technology should not be too visible – unobtrusive.
  • LCD’s are movable to different parts of the rooms.
  • All the furniture are on wheels (half round tables on wheels that can be configured a whole number of ways

Could this be something that we do in the GC1?

Allow the room to be used for reservation only collaborative needs – laptops with virtual desktops avaiable (but not just sitting out, needs to be coordinated)

Interesting ideas!