NC State University Learning Management System (LMS) update

Contributions from: Dr. Donna Petherbridge, Dr. Martin Dulberg, Stacy Gant, Greg Kraus, David Howard, Jeff Webster, Laura Stephenson, Bill Hicks & Daniel L’Hommedieu

Gearing up for another academic year while continuing our LMS transition from Blackboard Vista to Moodle, and moving toward a single point of entry (WolfWare) for our enterprise-level, Web-based instructional systems has meant another busy summer for both DELTA staff and other partners on campus involved in various aspects of our enterprise level LMS work. We’ve made good progress on a number of LMS-related items that we would like to share with you as we head into fall semester.

8.14.10 LMS Maintenance Window.
During the August 13-14 maintenance window, we will be upgrading to Moodle 1.9.9, primarily for security and system management enhancements. Several Moodle accessibility enhancements will be applied, reflecting our work with Remote Learner to address accessibility issues we identified with Moodle. This will include adding titles to popup windows, and making the Topics format and all quizzes more accessible with improved headings.

The visual design of the Moodle entry page will change to match the WolfWare design, and usability enhancement and bug fixes applied to the existing NCSU Moodle themes. The WolfWare announcement area is also being tweaked so that announcements will take up less space and the announcement area will only appear when there are announcements.

The first new tool in the WolfWare Toolbox, the “Set Home Page URL” tool, similar to the “Homepage Link” functionality in the “Edit WWW Boilerplate” tool in WolfWare Classic, will be applied. And finally, we will be upgrading Elluminate to version 10, which provides us with accessibility enhancements, a new Activity Window, and an improved Elluminate Live Manager (See Elluminate’s overview of new features in version 10).

See https://delta.ncsu.edu/deltawire/lms-maintenance-on-august-13-and-14/ for additional information regarding this weekend’s maintenance window.

reVAMP.
DELTA staff completed the first wave of the Vista to Moodle migration this summer, focusing on courses in CHASS and the College of Management. Over 200 sections were migrated by DELTA staff, and eleven custom training sessions were provided to these colleges to help instructors get acclimated to Moodle. The second wave of reVAMP, focusing on CALS and the College of Education, is gearing up now. We are on schedule to have all Vista instructors moved to Moodle by June 2011 (which is when Vista is going offline.)

Education and Training Update.
DELTA staff have been working diligently to expand our LMS-related offerings, and we now have a robust set of workshops and seminars that vary in scope from beginner topics to more advanced practices. For fall 2009, we developed an Elluminate II workshop on Advanced Moderator Strategies and a new workshop about the Moodle Gradebook. A one-hour Moodle Express class was added to our catalog of offerings in spring 2010, and we’re currently developing a new Moodle Advanced workshop for fall 2010 as well as a class on how to Create a Moodle Custom Banner. We’ve also recorded approximately 8 LMS-related workshops for online access and we created 12 online tutorials (called QuickTrainings) that focus on learning management systems.

2010 Moodle Moot.
Dr. Martin Dulberg and Greg Kraus recently attended the 2010 Moodle Moot in Austin, Texas. Greg has posted information on what they learned at this conference about Moodle 2.0.

Blackboard Vista Update.
We continue to support our Blackboard Vista installation and the faculty using Vista. There were approximately 1,500 Vista sections in the spring and summer 2010 semesters. Throughout the 09-10 academic year, we resolved over 1,300 Vista support calls, which is 25% of all calls that we handled.

On the back end of Vista, we have been doing a lot to keep Vista functioning as well as possible for our users. Reporting and logging has been refined to allow us to better track Vista problems. Vista still requires a lot of ongoing database administration, and a great deal of time is spent monitoring the system and rebooting nodes when performance degrades. A recent problem that users experienced was a problem with SSL certificates that resulted in users getting a variety of errors, resulting in extensive troubleshooting and support to solve this issue.

A note about fall 2010: Vista sections will be visible to students on August 18 by default. However, instructors can change this date in the Vista Section Management Tool if they need to open their section early or delay the start of their Vista classes. Please keep in mind that Blackboard Vista will no longer be available for use in your classes after spring 2011. Contact learntech@ncsu.edu if you have any questions regarding migrating your course.

WolfWare Classic Update.
Fall Rollover will happen on August 16th. Note that this is closer to the first day of fall classes than usual because the summer ten-week schedule ran longer than it has in year’s past. DELTA is working with the Office of Information Technology on the server and system upgrades needed to keep WolfWare Classic running. These upgrades will be tested and deployed over the fall and spring semesters during regular LMS maintenance windows with little impact to users. We plan on keeping WolfWare Classic running for at least another two years as we work to insure that all of the features and functionality of WolfWare Classic are adequately represented in the WolfWare suite of tools.

Moodle Update.
Moodle sections will be visible to students on August 18 by default. To make a Moodle section available to students earlier than 8/18, change the “Availability” option in Course Settings. Instructions are online here: http://help.ncsu.edu/solutions/all/3712.php.

Elluminate Update.
The higher education community has paid a lot of attention to Blackboard’s recent announcement to acquire both Elluminate and Wimba. Currently, NC State has an enterprise Elluminate license through March 2012. Elluminate is a heavily used tool on our campus and our clients have primarily reported that it works well and they are happy with this tool. Our current plan is to continue using Elluminate as long as we receive the excellent support that we are used to, and as long as this product continues to meet the needs of the campus for synchronous learning. A recent meeting with our Elluminate customer support representative was reassuring in that the Elluminate staff present noted they remain committed to excellent support for us during and after this transition. Of course, the LMS Steering Committee will keep an eye on Elluminate, and at some point, may ask for a re-evaluation of synchronous learning products if we need to examine either service and support or campus needs.

Mediasite Update.
While currently not presented via WolfWare as a tool integrated within our LMS, DELTA recognizes that the use of lecture capture software is growing quickly across campus, from the Distance Education studios and classrooms supported by DELTA to the mini-studios and classrooms being implemented across campus. DELTA staff are committed to providing services and support around the Mediasite product at an enterprise scale, and are currently working on a support service plan for review and implementation this fall as we integrate this tool into our learning technologies toolkit.

LMS Committees.
The LMS Committees, comprised of both DELTA staff and members of the NC State community, did not meet during July to accommodate staff vacations and other projects. However, the committees are poised from their June meetings to make some very good progress this fall. You can visit their websites for additional details.

* The LMS Steering Committee will be reviewing and voting on a Feature Request process for requesting additional LMS features or functionality. In addition, this committee will consider and coordinate the needs and recommendations of the other LMS committees, reconcile differences (if any), and suggest action plans for services and/or distributed needs to the DELTA Strategy Team.
* The LMS College Needs and Policy Committee will be drafting additional policies and procedures (e.g. a backup and retention policy based on information to be provided by the LMS Technical Committee) as well as drafting documentation related to appropriate uses of NC State LMSs (as a way of informing the community about current processes).
* The LMS Technical Committee will be reviewing LMS backup processes for retention, disaster recovery and system performance needs, begin the technical evaluation of Moodle 2.0, and provide guidance on the technical feasibility for the development of new WolfWare tools. Once the feature request process is in place, this committee will be involved in doing initial reviews of pending requests.
* The LMS Best Practices and Support Committee plans on reviewing previously received LMS feature requests, working in conjunction with the other committees to prioritize and as possible, begin implementing requests.

Recently-completed work on LMSs.
Over the most recent spring and summer, several updates to Moodle and WolfWare were made, including:

* the addition of “My Courses” functionality to WolfWare that allows students or instructors logged into WolfWare to see a list of all of their courses in Moodle, Vista or WolfWare Classic
* a change to Moodle settings so teachers are able to add other teachers in Moodle
* the addition of two new roles to Moodle: Designer and Teaching Assistant
* limiting the themes available in Moodle to those that comply with technical and university branding standards, to include the NC State-developed themes plus the standard, formal_white, and custom_corners2 themes that come with Moodle
* the installation of additional language packs for Moodle, including Spanish (es), French (fr), Hindi (hi), Urdu (ur), and Português – Brasil (pt_br)
* the addition of some logic symbols to the HTML editor in Moodle including ‘logical and’, ‘left arrow’, ‘subset’, and ‘superset equal’
* process and workflow created in Moodle in support of the Chemistry placement exam for incoming students
* numerous system administration and performance tweaks for all LMSs

See the LMS Strategy Wiki for previous information and updates.

Upcoming work on LMSs.
In the near future, the following items are on the LMS “to-do” list, with the expectation that additional items will be added and prioritized as we move through the fall working with the various LMS committees:

* Develop and test a way to submit grades from Moodle to SIS with the goal of having this available in time for submission of fall semester grades.
* Investigate branding for Elluminate so that it visually matches the WolfWare environment.
* Develop a new WolfWare Toolbox application to replace the current Moodle Integrations tool.
* Continue our evaluation of Moodle 2.0.
* Implement an add-on / change request system for our LMSs to collect requests, and make progress and decisions about requests visible to the larger community.
* Do initial work that will allow us to take advantage of future non-credit registration feeds (e.g., extension offerings, professional education courses, etc.) from the new DestinyOne system purchased by Extension.
* Pilot a College Administrator role for Moodle with the College of Veterinary Medicine. This role would provide some level of administrative access that will allow authorized college personnel to make changes to courses within their college.

If you have any questions or concerns about the LMSs, please contact our LMS Coordinator, Dr. Martin Dulberg, at lms_steering_chair@ncsu.edu.