Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Moodle Faculty Advisory Board Meeting

The Moodle Faculty Advisory Board (MFAB) met Thursday, October 21st. The following is a list of items discussed along with action items (as needed). If anyone feels anything was left out, or would like to make additional suggestions, please feel free to comment.

1. In the Moodle ISU forums there is no way to isolate the instructor response from other students responses to posts. It was determined that the ITRC will find a way of making it clear who is the instructor, using either a special icon, or by formatting the instructor's name to make it stand out. Whatever method of highlighting is chosen it will be standardized such that it will appear the same in every Moodle ISU course.

2. Internet Explorer often has issues correctly rendering quizzes, assignments, and a host of other course elements within Moodle. ITRC will test out the problematic features of Moodle within the new version of Internet Explorer that is being released; if any problems remain it will be seen what can be done about getting a movement started within the larger Moodle community to get Microsoft to standardize their browser, or at least make it Moodle-compliant.

3. The Google Apps and Attendance tools were well-received by faculty. However, if we decide to use the Attendance tool we'll need to configure it ourselves to work with Moodle 2.0. Since this will required additional resources that may not be available, there is no guarantee the Attendance tool will be added as a permanent (or even temporary) tool within Moodle; ITRC is still exploring this possibility.

The Google Apps tool will be included in future course instances.

4.) When grading in the assignment tool, faculty are unable to input grades that are not whole numbers because it only allows you to select whole number grades from a drop-down menu. ITRC will work to make the grade input a text-based field instead.

5.) The popularity of MFAB has led many to wonder if there is not a similar board meeting available for BengalWeb users. ITRC will look into this and get back to the community.

6.) Faculty have expressed some annoyance with the way the HTML editor works in Moodle, including the following issues:

1. Style sheets don't get copied and pasted correctly.
2. You cannot simply hit the 'A' icon to change the color of text once you've already changed the text color; you have to re-select the new color from the drop-down list of color swatches every time you wish to change the color of some text.
3. Sometimes when you select a color for some text and then bold, italicize, or perform some other operation on it, the color or the other formatting doesn't 'stick'. The problem is also apparent when you first do the formatting and THEN select a color for the text.
4. The default font size is often different than what is imported (usually its smaller).
5. The font selector tool should allow for relative font sizes and not use point-based sizes.
6. Sometimes the formatting LOOKS right in the editor, but when the changes are saved they do not show in the final output.

* ITRC will be looking into all of the HTML editor issues mentioned above for solutions.

7.) Quickmail needs to be improved to show participant's names in the messages history; ITRC will look into this issue.

9.) ITRC will send out a link to the Moodle 2.0 test course, so interested faculty get a chance to see how it works and comment on it.

10.) We are contemplating doing a pilot this Spring for Moodle 2.0, with the actual transition to the new release in the summer or fall of 201l. This is not yet set in stone. One of the great things about Moodle is we do not have to move to the new version unless we want to. More information on this possible transition will be forthcoming as details are known.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) Grant Opportunity

Educause and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have teamed to offer a grant opportunity to education.

Here is a quote from the announcement as we received information about it:

I encourage you to review the NGLC RFP and consider the opportunities it represents for your institution and the nation’s learners. EDUCAUSE will host two webcasts (October 19 at 3:00 p.m. ET and October 27 at 1:00 p.m. ET) to provide additional information and answer questions. The pre-proposal application will go live on October 25, with pre-proposals due on November 19. Those asked to submit full proposals will be notified in January, with final awards made by March 31, 2011. Please share this information with your colleagues.

As you consider what Next Generation Learning Challenges means to you and your institution, let me underscore three important aspects of the program:
  • NGLC is designing the future. NGLC focuses on the next generation—of learners, learning, and technology. This focus will interest constituents from across your campus, including presidents, provosts, and faculty.
  • Information technology is at the forefront of change. NGLC heightens recognition of IT as a critical enabler of student and institutional success with new models that personalize, customize, and deepen learning.
  • NGLC will create a “multiplier effect.” NGLC encourages the adoption of effective practices across institutions. IT can extend the reach and multiply the benefits of new models without sacrificing personalization or effectiveness.
We in the ITRC are excited about the possibilities of this grant opportunity. We are considering option and potential projects even now. We would like to encourage the rest of campus to consider ideas as well. If we could partner on some kind of idea or project for ISU with individuals on campus, we would be very excited about that opportunity.

Below are three ideas we are brainstorming on now:

* A student technology support center
* Analytics from Moodle or distance education in general to provide better information for faculty to improve student learning and retention
* A focused eISU effort that encompasses, expands, and spotlights distance education at ISU

Those are just a few of the ideas we are considering right now. We would love to hear more ideas from the campus community. If you want to talk to someone about this opportunity please contact either Blake Beck or Randy Stamm.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Introducing Sage

Hello ISU community!

My name is Sage Adams and I’m the new Senior Instructional Technologist at ITRC (as of October 1st); but you may just call me ‘Sage’ - there aren’t too many of us (Sage’s that is).

I’ve only been in Pocatello for two weeks - and really I’ve spent a lot of that time in Chubbuck, because that is where my apartment is located. In fact, I’ve only been in Idaho for two weeks.

That’s right, I’m not from around here. I am originally from Fairbanks, Alaska; and that is also where I’ve been living most recently - I had an 8 year break from Alaska from 1995 to 2003, during which I lived in places like Seattle, Portland, and Norway.

While in Alaska (for the second time), I worked as an instructional designer for the University of Alaska, Fairbanks (UAF) which is, perhaps surprisingly, the largest campus in Alaska. The University of Alaska, Anchorage (UAA) is quite a bit smaller (physically and in terms of faculty and student body size). Anchorage is, however, our largest city by far.

At any rate, I’m here now; and, this may come as a surprise to many Pocatellans, but I love it here so far. It’s much warmer than Fairbanks for one. Just this morning, for example, I woke up and it was about 40 degrees outside; chilly right? Well, in Fairbanks this morning, it was 21 degrees. And it only goes downhill from there. At some point this winter it will be -50 degrees in Fairbanks, perhaps for an extended period of time, and I will not be there. That in itself is comforting to me.

Second, and related to the first, is that you have four seasons in Idaho. In Alaska we really only have two: summer (which is glorious while it lasts - light all night, very warm) and winter (9 months of darkness and numbing cold).

Third, you can leave Pocatello (or Chubbuck) at any time - well, while you are not working - and drive to other places! I could go to Salt Lake City if I wanted, for example, and in fact I have. I bought furniture at the IKEA there, and I had a lot of fun doing so.

I could drive to Jackson, Wyoming and go snowboarding. I could take a few days vacation at some point and drive or fly to Portland, Seattle, Denver, Las Vegas, or a host of other locations just one or two states away (fairly easily and inexpensively from my perspective) . In Fairbanks you can drive to Anchorage (a six hour journey)...and that’s where you can go.

I also have been enjoying getting to know your little town. the Idaho State University (ISU) campus is very pretty, and it’s easy to get around on foot or by car. You have some lovely restaurants as well, including the Indian cuisine over on Main street, the 5th Avenue deli, and El Jacalito. Although to be fair, Fairbanks has some excellent Thai restaurants I will miss.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, working with the ITRC staff and students is a real pleasure. They are a great group of people, dedicated to helping faculty and students succeed. I have felt very welcome and at home here. The ISU community is lucky to have such a talented and inspiring group of professionals, here to assist faculty create and maintain the highest quality courses possible.

Thanks for having me.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Moodle 2.0 RC1 released

Moodle 2.0 Release Candidate 1 has been released and Moodle.org has been updated to the latest version. This should spur community input and polishing of issues and help solidify a timeline for ISU to move to Moodle 2.0. You can test the latest version at the Moodle QA Testing Site. I would encourage anyone who wishes to help in Moodle development to participate in the Moodle 2.0 QA Cycle 2 process. The QA site has its code updated daily and the site is reset hourly so you will be testing the latest coded and can't permanently break anything. ISU faculty that would like to do more involved testing or course development can contact the ITRC, itrc@isu.edu, for access to the Moodle ISU 2.0 test site.

For detail on the changes in Moodle 2.0 see the release notes. Some of the changes include:
  • Navigation has been redesigned and menus are now dockable to improve use of space.
    • Standard "Navigation" block on every page showing contextual links, while allowing you to jump elsewhere quickly.
    • Standard "Settings" blocks on every page shows contextual settings as well as settings for anything else you have permissions for.
  • Numerous quiz improvements and features have been added. See the release notes for details.
  • The Wiki has been rewritten from scratch and has interface improvements including support for Mediawiki-style syntax.
  • The Workshop module has also been rewritten from scratch.
  • Completion has been added.
    • Teachers can now specify conditions that define when any activity is seen as completed by a student. For example, when a certain number of posts have been made, or a grade has been reached, or a choice has been made.
    • Teachers can now specify conditions that define with any course is seen as completed by a student. Conditions include activity completion, but could also be by grade, date or a number of other criteria.
    • Teachers and students can see reports that show the progress of any user within a course, or through a series of courses
  • Conditional activities have been added.
    • Access to activities can be restricted based on certain criteria, such as dates, grade obtained, or the completion of another activity.
    • These can be chained together to enable progressive disclosure of the course content, if that is desired.
  • IMS Common Cartridge format, commonly used by publishers, can now be imported.
  • My Moodle page has been improved and made more customizable.