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BbWorld16 session blog: SaaS deployment for Blackboard Learn Top 20 Questions

July 14, 2016                                              Trey Buck
1:30 – 2:20pm                                           Product Manager, learn
Venetian J                                                  Blackboard

  • General SaaS Questions
  • How does SaaS apply to Blackboard Learn
  • How do I get to SaaS
  1. What is Blackboard’s experience with SaaS?
    10 years of experience across multiple data centers
  2. What is Blackboard Learn with SaaS Deployment
    -Largest most established integration infrastructure in the LMS business.
    -A Single continuous version.  (code unified across deployments)
    -Flexible deployment option – control your local version
    -Available with original experience and Ultra (nothing is functionally different)
    -You can pilot Ultra with a particular set of courses/departments/colleges etc..
    -Multiple Tiers (SaaS Standard, SaaS Plus, SaaS Advantage.
  3. What does architecture look like?
    – Sophisticated and complex (partnered with AWS and IBM) able to automate and scale on demand
  4. What are the tiers of SaaS deployment mean?
    -Advantage: SLA 99%, Base Storage 1 TB, Interface: Ultra and Original, Continuous flexible deployment, Learning core, learning essentials, learning insight, full building block support, Full LTI web services and rest api, Test instance, staging instance, direct data access, service delivery mgmt
    -Plus – staging instance optional and direct data access optional, no service delivery mgmt
    -Standard – Full LTI’s – Optional, No staging, no direct Data, no service delivery mgmt.
  5. Why SaaS?
    flexibility, elasticity, scalability, resilience, innovation & change mgmt, Big Data
  6. How will my institution benefit from moving to SaaS
    – Enhanced Quality: fixes and maintenance more quickly
    – Rapid Innovation: Enhancements and features more quickly
    – Improved experience: Zero downtime updates
    – Easier Change Mgmt: Smaller, continuous, delivery updates
    – Better Support: Less variety of versions being supported
    – Peace of Mind: Experienced Bb Staff managing operations
  7. Which Critical Factors should I be considering when it comes to managing my online learning environment
    – Physical and Network Security
    – Scalability
    – Data Security
    – People and Processes
    – Redundancy
    – Monitoring Practices
    – Reliability
    – Change Management
  8. What are the main benefits of SaaS Plus & Advantage
    – Full Building Block support (includes custom and homegrown)
    – Flexible deployment options – determine when changes occur to your system
    – Support all learning solutions
    – Additional Services (advantage)
  9. Will all of our existing integrations work with SaaS
    – Building Blocks (all 3, but Ultra has exceptions)
    – SOAP Web Services (not in Ultra, yes in SaaS)
    – IMS LTI 1.2 Yes
    – Partner Cloud and Restful API – Yes
  10. What is continuous delivery and flexible deployment option?
    – Continuous delivery: developing software and releasing in small chunks (like apps on your phone) cadence is approx every 2 weeks (fixes enhancements and new features) default methodology.
    – Flexible delivery: Unique Bb offering: Release Candance – Q2/Q4 release Cadence (once or twice a year is fine) Still have cumulative updates, releases are larger and contain more code changes (optional delivery methodology)
  11. How do you know which is right for your Institution
    – Continuous delivery: less training, benefits of bug fixing (quicker)
    – Flexible deployment: controlling when releases come out (good starting point)
  12. What is Direct Data Access and how does it relate to OpenDB?
    – uses real replica of exact copy of db on production db
    – Direct Data is copied and up to date of productions in minutes..
    – Same schema and queries will work.
    – Security built in
  13. What does move to SaaS entail?
    – Prepare: Plan for Transition
    – Execution of Plan
    – Prepare Data, test migration and integration setup confirmation, final migration and cutover
    – two migration options:
    1. Course Based Migration
    2. Full Data Migration
  14. What is the difference between two migration options?
    Course based – start with a fresh instance and bring over archived courses, limits downtime, configurations and settings would not be brought across
    Full Data Migration – Clone current environment and file system, Restore info to new SaaS instance, Requires downtime, Maintains existing Data, configuration and settings
    For both options Blackboard provides: Project planning, test migration, final production migration, all for no additional charge
  15. Do you have an example of Project Plan?
    (Takes about 5 months on average – migration occurs in a much smaller window)
  16. What is Blackboard’s experience in helping us migration
    lots – 100 migrations a year, been doing it for years have a team that helps
  17. What consulting and training services are available if I’d like more help?
    ATP, Training program development, Building Block Evaluation, SIS Framework mentoring and grades journey services
  18. Does moving to SaaS mean that I have to take ULTRA
    No! you can optional upgrade certain courses etc.. It is an option
  19. So then where does Ultra Experience Fit IN?
    Wherever you want it!
  20. What does Transition to Ultra look like?
    Transition to SaaS Deployment with Original experience, then implement Ultra as needed/wanted.
  21. Why two Milestones?
    Two Words: Change Management!

 

 

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BbWorld15: General Session Learner’s Voices (Panel) – Session Blog

Education is not a given in everyone’s life, but it should be!  Change is needed – we have wide-spread acceptance of this fact.  98% of college/university president said that change was needed and 67% said that the change needed to be disruptive, incremental small change is not enough.

What do learners look like today? How do they behave, and what drives them? Our change needs to be based on understanding the people for whom our education systems exits.

The Changing Leaner –
– number is growing (How Many)- increase of diversity/age etc.. (Who they Are)
– expectations change: driven by technology (enhanced interaction, integrations) (What they expect)

Students expectations of education system:

  • learn from peers as much as intructors
  • career ready prior to graduation
  • Networking opportunities with alumni/employers
    Essential part of college experience should be networking with future employers, at least help in getting interview.
  • Value for money
    Value is created differently for every single student (research experience, ability to transfer credits), lecture versus experience in the field. Debt loads/Cost.  Quit being system-centric and start be learner-centric
  • real life application of learned skills
    More than likely students will graduate high school not knowing how to write a check, a resume, invest in stock market.
  • Credit for their prior experiences
  • high use of technology
  • Guidance for next steps
    Adaptability and flexibility of the institution is key!  Taking courses where they are best offered, if your institution can make recommendations based upon student learning styles.
  • Flexible institutions for non-traditional learners
    (military vets) Competency based learning model is a good fit for this!

Today’s Barriers

  • Too Difficult to navigate student support systems
  • Cost of Education and unavoidable debt
    What are you prepared to invest and what will you get out it?  Is it affordable for you?
  • Tough to see big picture across coursework and institutions
  • I don’t know where to go to get help or good feedback
  • My outside experience is not connected to classwork
  • Lack of flexibility in how i engage my courses and teachers
    Unique needs of learners should be met – all types of disabilities, Institutions should provide training for instructors on how to engage.
  • Need to address diverse backgrounds of cultures.  Empathy is key
  • Not enough counselors per student at secondary level.
  • Not every student can afford a device/connectivity problems

Positive Aspects

  • World perspective: learning experiences between cultures
  • Moved from pen to device (use the cloud)
  • After School programs/volunteer opportunities (like Baltimore intersection)  Creating student leaders, encouraging student engagement
  • Half of course grade is “Did you attain goals you set during year” – Reflection paper more critical thinking in learning.
  • In lieu of final three options, presentation – paper – project or if you have anything else (one act play)
  • Pre-course survey: knowing who is in the room. Learning with context
  • Recognition that education is about the students -> starting to be seen more an more.

Looking Ahead

  • We are learning with/from people who half-way across the world.
  • We all need to do a better job of understanding and sharing the educational experience.
  • Some don’t think it will change like it should.
  • More discussions and panels of these types of challenges/barriers.
  • All it takes is one person.
  • We are the change!
  • Teachers becoming facilitators of learning!
  • If you want to learn it you should be able to!

BbWorld15: Drop-In Trainings – A Buffet Approach to Technology Training – Session Blog

Speakers
Christala Smith
Director, Center for Instructional Development & Technology
Southeastern Oklahoma State University


Problem with scheduled training classes is low attendance.

Problem solving:

  • have to attend hour long training for 5 minutes of what they need
  • low attendance at scheduled training classes
  • different expectations
  • Quality delivery mechanisms

Educause Article on Drop-In Training

Wall of different software with handouts for each at the lab.  Go and get the exactly the information you want, right then.  Find experts in tech that wouldn’t mind being available to answer questions for the buffet-style training.

Goals

– Have a Variety of Tools – they come for what they need  (they come wanting to learn thing but end up learning two or more)
– Start: Targeted Training
– Networking Opportunities
– Personalized Hands-on Training
– All Inclusive Technology
– Have food (buffet of tech and buffet of food)

Have floater walking around touching base and asking “Did You Know” questions to direct faculty to appropriate drop-in group.

Have different units there to help with area of expertise:  Trainers, Instructional Designers, Support Desk, Video Team, Web Content specialists, Library etc..)

Send images of software offered in press release and let faculty know that they can think of questions before hand.

Getting the word out:  E-mail, Flyers, Word-of-Mouth

Success:  More served immediately, increased exposure, improve meetings, creating unique solutions, bridge of creativity, positive feedback!

Future:  In Conjunction with faculty symposium, include other trainers/topics, additional space.

Connect With Online Students – Make Feedback Personal

banner-people-connectedOne of the challenges for any online instructor is making students feel a sense of community or connectedness in their online course.  There are multiple strategies that can be put into place to meet this challenge head-on.  Today’s blog post will focus on the feedback the instructor gives in an online course and how it can connect the student more personally with the instructor.

The type of feedback an instructor provides can have a tremendous affect upon the student/instructor dynamic in an online course.  Students who feel like they know their instructor report higher satisfaction levels and tend to be more engaged with the courses they are taking. Conversely, students that don’t sense instructor presence in the course tend to feel less satisfaction and engagement, and that can be reflected in course evaluations.

The following are steps an instructor can take to connect with online students via course feedback:

1. Leave specific feedback.

Be purposeful about leaving feedback that deals specifically with aspects of a student’s submitted work. A side-effect of a good best practice to save time for online instructors is that sometimes generic feedback can be used to a fault. The online instructor can counteract this by leaving specific feedback about the students’ attempt every few assignments.

2.  Use student names when leaving feedback.

Starting assignment feedback with a student’s name immediately personalizes the interaction.  Placing emphasis on the personal before leaving the feedback of the assignment, points to interest on the part of the instructor in the student’s individual attempt. The idea that an instructor cares about student success is vitally important in any course, online or otherwise.

3. Use multimedia to personalize the interaction.

To a student sitting at their workstation/laptop/tablet, a grade or text-based feedback in an online course can seem almost sterile and devoid of the human touch that comes from the professor handing back grades in a face-to-face course.  Luckily, most LMS’s these days come with tools that can make the feedback interaction more personal.  Just the sound of the instructor’s voice will add a personal dimension to the feedback experience.  The addition of video to assignment feedback kicks it up a notch!

Audio Feedback with Blackboard Collaborate Voice AuthoringAt SHSU, Blackboard is the Learning Management System for online, hybrid and web-enhanced course offerings, and it comes equipped with tools that can enhance the feedback experience.  It also interacts well with third party tools and other types of files that can fulfill the same type of need for students.  For example faculty can use the Blackboard Collaborate Voice Authoring Mashup to leave audio feedback directly in the feedback of the assignment.

As a bonus a student is not just limited to hearing the disembodied voice of the online instructor for feedback.  Faculty members can also use the Video Everywhere tool to drop a recorded video into the feedback shown to the student.  The Video Everywhere tool utilizes YouTube to either link to a video uploaded to the instructors YouTube account or record a video at the point of feedback and place it directly.

Using Video Everywhere for FeedbackIf the instructor does not have ready access to a webcam or microphone on their computer, he or she can record a video with their smartphone and upload it to YouTube as an unlisted video, then link to the video with the Video Everywhere tool.  Instructors can also use voice recording apps to attach audio files to feedback for online students.

Personalizing feedback for an online course is an important best practice for any instructor. However, personalizing every feedback entry for every student would take too much time away from grading and other important interactions.  As with all things, moderation is key.  Try provide a few personal interactions for each student, each semester, letting them know that the instructor is committed to their success and is willing to connect with students on a more personal level.

The Best Browser for Blackboard Learn

Jacob and his MinionSo last week I went on a trip to visit a very good friend of mine.  He can’t see very well and he is addicted to wearing overalls, but he is a great dancer and is the life of the party wherever we go (especially with the younger set).  Any-who, we were walking down Fremont street together and he asks me a fairly straight forward question.

“Jacob, what is the best browser for Blackboard Learn?”

I smiled back at my friend the minion and told him that was a question we get often at our Technology Support Desk for SHSU Online. We strolled along together while I tried my best to answer his question. Well, my friend the minion liked the answer so much he asked me to share it with you.  So, with this blog post, I shall attempt to do so.

Traditionally our support desk has leaned heavily toward one particular browser, Mozilla Firefox when answering this question.  While I still think that Firefox is probably the best answer from a stability and fails-the-least-with-all-of-Blackboard’s-bells-and-whistles standpoint, the real answer is more nuanced than that.

While visiting with the minion last week in Las Vegas, I had the occasion to make a small side-trip to the Blackboard World 2014 (#BbWorld14 – for those that tweet) conference.  One of the sessions I attended on supporting Blackboard’s user community was put on by the University of Knoxville, Tennessee.  During the session they stated something that we here at SHSU Online always knew, but never put into words:

“The best browser for Blackboard is every browser.”

This zen-like statement on viewing Blackboard via the lens that we call our Internet browser is almost mind-blowing. It seems like something that “the Dude” would have uttered.  If you think about it though, it is true.

Internet browsers are on an accelerated development schedule.   They receive updates sometimes weekly in order to be sure that they are safe & secure to use for netizens across the globe. Blackboard, on the other hand, receives updates officially twice a year for the most part (not counting any cumulative patches your institution decides to apply).  The update disparity here is clear. You can already see where the pain points might happen when a browser is updated as often as they seem to be.  If one browser’s update messes with how you interact with Blackboard Learn, then try another.

Sometimes you may be on a deadline and “It’s my Blackboard and I want it now!”  In this case, just being able to launch another browser rather than making sure you clear your cache, delete your cookies and cleanse any temporary Internet files, makes life easier.

This is why it is important to have a stable of tools you can turn to when the need arises.  For PCs, your browser list for Blackboard should be: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox & Google Chrome.  For Macs: Safari, Mozilla Firefox & Google Chrome.

Blackboard even provides a supported browser list that will work with your particular version of Blackboard Learn.

Well, the minion and I had a great visit.   I also visited a few more of my friends and they too had some questions that might interest you, but I’ll save those for another blog post.

BbWorld14 – Certified Trainer Summit

I had the good fortune to attend the Bb Certified Trainer summit pre-conference workshop as a Bb Certified Trainer.  I was invited to present by my mentor and 2013 CTP facilitator Craig Agneberg from Blackboard.

1st Presentation – Lessons Learned From the Trenches – Online Faculty Certification
Jacob Spradlin | Assistant Director of Training & Developemnt | SHSU Online

My presentation consisted of Lessons we learned in Implementing our Teaching Online with Bb Faculty Certification cohort. In the interest of brevity, I’ll skip all the introductions and get right to the lessons.

Lesson 1: Do Chunk it ‘Like A Boss
Packing almost everything you’ve wanted to know about Blackboard, but were afraid to ask” into 8 weeks, you need to find ways to make the material digestible. Our certification is chunked across 4 courses:

  1. Blackboard Learn – Course Building
  2. Blackboard Learn – Communication
  3. Blackboard Learn – Assessment
  4. Teaching Online – Strategies for Success

Each course is divided into no more than 7 and no less that 5 modules that covers topics. Each Module is divided into Objectives, Content (Learning Unit) & Assignments (Content Folder).

*One of the big lessons learned for us is to “chunk” the cohort by doing more than one section of each course if the enrollments get to high.

Lesson 2: Don’t Always use the Same Feedback
Engaged your participants in different ways by using different feedback methods:

  • Audio/Video (in Grade Center and throughout the course)
  • Weekly Announcements/E-mails summarizing what they went over and previewing what comes next.
  • Summary Discussion Posts
  • Chat Sessions
  • Peer Feedback
  • Text

Lesson 3: Don’t Assume They Won’t Enroll if it Isn’t Mandatory

How did we garner enrollments?

  • Peer Pressure (Beta Cohort with early adapters, and “Squeaky Wheels”) They went out and sold it for us
  • Certificates & Badges – Certificate for completing cohort and badges upon each course completion.
  • Partner With HR – We use Talent Management and faculty can record external training for PD.
  • Positive Attitude – Work on Relationship with Faculty/Departments/Deans get them excited about the prospect

Lesson 4: Don’t Assume Tech Fluency

Your faculty, just like your students, don’t come into Blackboard with the same technical skill sets. Find ways to make the process of navigating and using Bb tools “snag free” by providing:

  • Mechanical Instructions – How to use the Tool
  • Contextual Instructions – Place academic and mechanical instructions at the point of the assignment as well as in your syllabus
  • Demonstrate Success – Show the participants what success looks like upon assignment completion.

Lesson 5: Be Present in the Course

  • Have Virtual office Hours
  • Be more than text on a screen – Ensure your photo is in your courses, place yourself in audio an video in your courses and interact with your students (Its not correspondence!)
  • Give individual Feedback (Use Student Names)

Lesson 6: Develop a Routine

  • Use Expectations to let students know how often you will be in the course
  • Check your course before you wreck your course!
  • Check your Virtual Office
  • Limit your Availability (you need time for you)
  • Grade Turnarounds
  • Give individual feedback but not on everything
  • Leverage canned generic text where you can place student name

2nd Presentation – Faculty Training Evolution: An Institution Case Study
Kesha James | Instructional Technologist/Director of Distance Learning
Lawson State Community College

(Ice Breaker)
Handing out Pennies as an ice breaker – say something interesting that happened during the year on the penny.

Kesha described how her office/job formed and how the evolution of faculty training has grown from hey we probably need to do this, to creating a position/department that handles it.

To help bootstrap her way into the game Kesha earned a Certificate in Distance Learning – University of West Georgia, leaned on the resources of the Instructional Technology Council.

Where to Begin – Needs Assessment (Survey)
From the survey, they found the courses that they were lacking and placed them into a Summer Bb Insitute (2 month)

Planning – ADDIE Analysis, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate

Preparation – Training Material, Eventbrite (Scheduling Registration Software)

Go to Bb to update Materials. (Purchased training materials from Bb)

3rd Presentation – Is Your Course “Badge Worthy” – Rita Thomas, Frostburg State University

Objectives

 

  • Understand Evolution of Teaching Online Training at FSU
  • Produce & Discuss creative motivators (group activity)
  • Understand need to develop cert. process
  • Review the rubric to evaluate a course at fSU

Background –

F.O.C – Faculty Online Certification
(stipend) after completing cert
Hotel California Feeling – You can enter but you can never leave

How to get faculty to keep improving their courses & to eventually develop courses according to Quality Matters rubric? Credentials?
What happens after Certification? What’s Next?

Faculty have to apply to attend Online Cert. Training
Badging for Tech Evaluations –

Put Badges on course banner, badges for competency, skill/ability/knowledge

4th Presentation – Tech Tools I (We) Cannot Live Without – Melinda Rhodes-DiSalvo, University of Cincinnati

Can’t live without iPad

  • 1to1 iPad requirement
  • Closed Operating system,
  • industry leading battery life,
  • app volume purchasing program,
  • revoke and reuse app redemption code
  • mobile device manager – give out apps at scale
  • Standardized suite of apps, (Apps organized by Bloom’s)
  • apple tvs everywhere – wirelessly project ipad change dynamic of classroom freedom from lectern
  • Content Delivery with iTunesU (optimize content for ipad)

redid content with iBooks – everything that was PowerPoint was redesigned in multi-touch ibook – SAMR MODEL technology driving toward

Every student has a virtual computer (remote access) – students purchase IPAD as part as program – Devices managed – air watch $100 in apps.

Can’t live without Technology kits for faculty (using faculty development dollars)
eLearning backpack – Apple TV, iPad Air, intelligent backpack, wacom tablet (Kahn academy videos), styles, wireless usb mic, wireless headset, camtasia studio (about $2000 in equipment) (20 hours of consultant who work with faculty)

I Can’t Live Without
Snagit, Camtasia – Scorm Created Objects, Webcam, Wireless headset/Mic (explain everything – Videos) $5 dollars, (Jott Stylus)

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