In our Learning Technologies Advisory Committee Processes Working Group meeting this week, we were discussing how instructors access new tools, or enable existing tools. Much of the discussion was about communication, rather than the processes directly - instructors aren’t aware of the tools that are available, or what they can be used for, so they ask for new tools.
We have several applications available as the core online learning platforms at UCalgary:
- D2L Brightspace
- YuJa video content management
- Adobe Connect (but Zoom coming soon?)
- Top Hat
Within each of those applications, there are many components that can be enabled or disabled, often at the individual course level. So, if something is disable (but available), an instructor may not even know about it.
When we deployed D2L back in 2013, we had an initial mandate to keep things as simple as possible - to disable tools and features that weren’t essential, in order to streamline the migration from Blackboard. One unintended consequence of that streamlining is that nobody was responsible to circle back and revisit those decisions to see if any of those tools and features should be enabled once the migration was complete. Here’s the very very long laundry list of tools available within D2L, and whether we’ve enabled them for use in courses by default:
Built-in Tools in D2L Brightspace
|Advanced Data Sets||✅|
|Ally Integration||❌||Not sure what this involves… Why is accessibility testing disabled?|
|Brightspace Data Sets||✅|
|Broken Link Viewer||✅|
|Bulk Course Copy||✅|
|Bulk Course Create||✅|
|Bulk Course Export||✅|
|Capture||❌||a separate video capture platform from D2L, not licensed.|
|CAS Integration||✅||single sign-on. but will be replaced with Shibboleth someday…|
|Chat||✅||it’s a thing, but we haven’t tested or supported it.|
|Custom Course Branding||✅|
|Custom Data Export||✅|
|Custom Reporting Framework||✅|
|Custom Terms and Conditions||✅|
|Custom Update Sproc||❌|
|External Learning Tools||✅|
|My Org Units||✅|
|Online Rooms Connect||✅|
|Online Rooms Framework||✅|
|Online Rooms Lync||✅|
|Online Rooms WebEx||✅|
|Pearson Scripted Links||✅|
|ReadSpeaker DocReader Integration||❌|
|SIS Holding Tank||✅|
That’s a long list. Of the ones that are enabled, many need additonal configuration before they are made available within courses (like WebEx - we don’t have a license, so I’m not sure what the tool could even do…)
I don’t even know what many of those are. Discover? Sounds useful. I have no idea. And Pager? I mean. It’s 2020. Students have never seen a pager, aside from maybe watching old movies or something. Most instructors probably haven’t seen a pager, either…
Google Apps? We don’t use Google - we’re an O365 campus. How did this even get enabled?
There are a few of those tools that are enabled but unknown - we need to do a better job of communicating what those tools can do. Chat? Could be useful. Blog? Maybe (but it’s a really quirky blogging tool, for anyone that’s used literally any other blogging tool ever made).
And this doesn’t include any third party tools that could be integrated via LTI or the D2L API.
- Identify which of these tools should be enabled, which might be optional, and which should be disabled entirely.
- Communicate that clearly to instructors so they know what’s available, and how the tools might be used in their courses.
- Develop a clear and streamlined process for instructors to request integration of additional tools that aren’t on that list - including third party tools through LTI or other. How can instructors request access to a tool in a timely manner (they often realize they need a tool to do X maybe a week before the semester starts, or much later, and can’t wait for committees or Enterprise Review Processes to take place) so they’re able to effectively use tools without risking students' privacy or intellectual property or several other things that instructors shouldn’t have to spend time becoming experts in before adopting a tool.