top hits of most popular posts on the blog

Year in review: some of the numbers

Numbers without a story are always tricky but as a quantitative part of my review of the year here’s a few of the numbers.

Workshops and training

Offered or participated in:

  • 101 items
  • totaling 174 hrs
  • [edit] of this about 13 hours was student-facing in class time (80% of this was in the last weeks of the semester in response to demand)

This included the ePortfolio and assessment series of workshops, One Session Wonders, the interim and pre-semester courses, and the drop-in ePortfolio labs (the latter were frequently unfrequented but were offered and staffed.)


Offered or participated in: 

  • 148
  • totaling 164.5 hrs

(1-1 support [edit: direct student support was 3 instances; most support was for the teaching community], committee and planning meetings)

Conference and events attended

  • 9
  • 144 hours

(et4online, D2L Fusion, D2L Ignite, UW Bothell ePortfolio symposium and 5 University Wisconsin system events)


1562 emails sent .

Blog stats

107 103 132 231 151 50 148 70 42 69 58 46 1,207

Not the busiest of blogs, but I’ve also not been the a particualrly active blogger this year. what’s interesting though is the most popular post (after the home page) :

top hits of most popular posts on the blog

Most popular posts

In this past year, the post on MCQ, reflection, and ePortfolio from 2012 is about 3 times as popular as any other post. It’s also by far the most popular post that people get to through search terms. Of the posts written this year my write up of ePortfolio news and projects from D2L Fusion is the most popular post.

Slideshare stats

I’ve finally got some of my presentations from this year up onto Slideshare – but have also noticed some missing. Time to rectify that. Slideshare seems to offer a fairly steady stream of traffic.


Year in Review: Corridors

Hallway, museum Boijmans-Van Beuningen, Rotterdam.

Hallway, museum Boijmans-Van Beuningen, Rotterdam.

As a semi-serious entry in the round up of the year…

I have an office on a corridor between classrooms and the exit; sometimes loud voices waft into my office from this public space that offer, perhaps a less formal and less considered source of feedback. Here are some quotes from this year:

OH: ‘I really didn’t see much about what it means to be human in the play’ [from later comments the play in question was by Shakespeare]

OH: “I didn’t read the syllabus” .. [Reply] “I barely remember to read those things she posts in D2L”

OH “Have you finished the paper?” “I’ve not started, I haven’t even got the book” “What book?” “I don’t know”

OH “so right when you go into D2L, don’t go into any of your classes go to the bottom left hand side – there’s a link to your ePortfolio” [After months of telling people to get to ePortfolio through a course … but having to add a front page link for other purposes – less clicks wins…]

OH “and I can go and write the fricking reflection, F*****g B******t”

OH “and she said 7-10 pages, I’ve nearly got seven so that should be ok”

OH “I don’t have permanent computer so I save things by emailing them to myself. [conversation continues to then discuss problems with versioning and working on wrong versions] … I’m hoping to get everything consolidated onto a flash drive over the break”

They offer a measure of bittersweet perspective and a mild reality check in the midst of the really positive feedback we’ve been getting about the new courses and program.

Collaborate vs Hangouts

One of the fun tasks I’ve been working on in the background with some colleagues is to create a ‘This vs That’ flyer to help our users – primarily the *teaching community – evaluate and understand different tools.

On campus we have Blackboard Collaborate integrated with D2L but with our use of Google Apps for Edu we recently added Google Hangouts as well. Both are online video conference tools of a sort – this poster helps you decide what to use for a given purpose or context.

We made this flyer to help with the choice. It’s fairly final but of course it’s possible we missed something – comments, corrections, and reuse welcome (CC: BY, NC, SA).

Comic flyer comparing Google Hangouts and Blackboard Collaborate

Comparing Google Hangouts and Blackboard Collaborate

Edit * teaching community rather than racing community …

Additional note:

By the way for those interested: Kerry and I drew up the comparison text, then I used Comic Life 3 to create the frontpage and passed in onto Amber to pull it together and lay out text in InDesign.

ePortfolio export and interoperability mini-project

Ruby code sample

Is anyone else thinking about how to support getting stuff out of D2L ePortfolio?

This may be a niche consideration but I’m wondering about how we support users who want to be able to get back anything which they’ve created or added to their ePortfolio but might not want to use MyDesire2Learn after graduation.

The current export options offer a D2L ePortfolio xml package of any and all content or an html site of a given presentation artifact.

The html site/ presentation is one way to get content out of an ePortfolio but I’m wondering if for some users that just gives them a fixed view of content. Last semester I had student worker who I could borrow spend a little time exploring either export option to transform them to a flat text file and folder of content. We had reasonable results but the code was in [working] beta when they graduated. The java code is now sitting on the shelf [edit: I should note that they did a great job and its shelved state is due to the shift in programmer and my resulting choice to explore Valance rather than further develop the java code – RJR].

This year I was able to secure a grant from the student technology fee fund to hire a student developer to work on this problem. Given the development of D2L’s valence api and its apparent extensive support for ePortfolio we’re looking into using that rather than the export options to provide a possibly smoother user experience for this.

The project has kicked off with helping the developer up to speed with ‘hackery’ and with using ‘api’s. I’m using ‘hackery’ to denote finding stuff other people have done and trying to adapt and fuse it together rather than coding from scratch or understanding how to write every line (follow every line – yes). Thankfully with a combination of code academy and Martin Hawksey’s excellent practice of blogging his development work they’ve had some success with Twitter’s api and are ready to move onto D2L’s valence api and talk with David Hietpas (a developer in UWO’s library who has been using valence to integrate a information literacy tool and game).

Anyone else thinking about this or developing a script or program around this?

I’m thinking that for export options it might be interesting to look into mapping to Google Sites if there’s an import option. I’m also wondering about a flat file manifest web page with LRMI embedded (and probably beyond current resourcing – LEAP2A or the like. Leap2A ( seems to be one of the few specifications for ePortfolio interoperability and it seems to have some use but not aware of much use of it in North America. Has anyone using D2L explored this?

University Studies Program, ePortfolio labs, developer project all underway

Runners in Oshkosh Marathon UnderwayWe’re about a month or so from the end of the regular semester for the first courses offered in UWO’s new University  Studies Program. From my point of view things seem to be going well overall but it’s too soon to tell how well students adding stuff to their ePortfolios is going. My schedule is filling up with instructors wanting to tweak the details of their assignments or asking me to speak to classes. All the training and professional development which we ran last year and in August is coming to fruition as students begin to add work to their program portfolio. How this will finally go is still a bit of a mystery. I’ve presented to many instructors about the use of ePortfolios, I’ve had feedback from a few about how it’s working out in their courses, and I know some departments  have used our materials to offer their own training and support. However, the real test of how things are going will be a post-semester inventory of ePortfolio use.

September and October were also occupied with  recruiting and training student lab assistants to support an ePortfolio drop-in lab for students. They’re in place, trained, and waiting. As November progresses I’m hoping their lab hours will begin to get busy but, despite advertising the lab hours, the students have so far had lots of time to study. It’s been a new experience working with student employees and I’m very grateful to have them supporting their peer’s use of ePortfolio [as cross-cultural aside I’m also struck by how much students here tend to work alongside their studies].

Another fun dimension of student workers is that I’ve been able to hire a student developer for about eight hours a week. I’m working with with them to look into the available D2L api’s with an aim of developing a slightly better range of export functionality from our ePortfolio platform so that we can support student choice. We’re fortunate that one of our library developers has used the API to support a information literacy tool and game that integrates with D2L and get help us get oriented quickly.

I’m impressed by and grateful for D2L’s hosted MyDesire2Learn service but consider myself professionally obligated to work on ensuring students have a range of choices for their ePortfolio stuff after graduation (D2L supports export to html, export as D2L package for another D2L system and for MyDesire2Learn, I want to look into what else we might support).

Instruction Design employment – response requested

Cropped photo of textbook cover reading "Instructional Design"

I know someone with a teaching background in tertiary education (no phd) contemplating changing career to become an instructional designer, but they’ve asked me a few questions. As one part of a response for them I thought I’d post those questions and ask y’all what you think…

Are there flexible Instructional Design jobs?

At first glance, instructional design (or learning design if you prefer) looks like a job you could do from anywhere and which need not be full time. However, in practice, all the instructional designers I know and all the instructional designer jobs I’ve seen advertised are full time and tied to being in an office at a specific campus or business location. Given the intensive and collaborative nature of instructional design work thisdoesn’t surprise me but I wonder if I’m seeing all the picture. Is there a wider part-time/ distance or contract work market?

What should an Instructional Designer study?

There are different approaches to getting into instructional design. There’s instructional design specific Master’s courses, education Master’s with a strong instructional design element, and a relevant Master’s and add instructional design Certificate.
For someone shifting direction to instructional design or wanting to add instructional design as part of a transition to other stuff – does it matter what you study?

How does an Instructional Designer get started?

And finally the over-riding note I’ve heard in conversations so far is experience trumps all, and most folk are looking to hire instructional designers with 2+ yrs of experience. So… what opportunities are there to get instructional design experience alongside (or, in any way before?) studying it.

In case this is of wider interest I thought I’d set this up as a post here and invite comment.