UNFED meeting notes – November 24 2010
My Figure by Noelas - Flickr CC image
The last meeting for 2010, and we had plenty of participants keen for news on the Blackboard upgrade and Moodle 2.0 pilot. The current status of UNSW-TV was also covered - Niki’s notes on the discussion are below.
Only a little time was left for conference reports. Andrew Chambers told us about the IODL Conference on Open and Distance Learning that he attended, hosted at Anadolu university in Turkey, which has 1 million+ students. Most of the attending universities were ‘mega universities’, that is those with more than 100,000 enrolments, and some advanced distance learning models were presented. Distance education is relevant to several UNSW faculties, and discussion will be continued at our next meeting in February.
Also at the next meeting we will continue with conference news: Educause, Sydney Uni Learning Technology Research Fest 2010, ascilite 2010 and more – so please bring your reports of summer conferences.
Blackboard, Moodle and UNSWTV Updates
The group discussed the recent Blackboard upgrade and UNSWTV outages and asked questions about the issues affecting these services. Niki Fardouly, Robyn Jay and Tom Cavdarovski provided the following answers.
Date chosen for the upgrade
Currently there is no date available in the calendar that will guarantee that there is no impact on learning and teaching activity somewhere in the University. Unless the academic calendar is rearranged to accommodate essential maintenance work, learning and teaching activities will continue to be adversely impacted. The date was chosen so that it would not conflict with either exams or summer semester teaching, i.e. to minimise impact on students. We were also advised, wrongly as it turns out, that marking would have been completed by that date.
Timing of outages
To enable more frequent maintenance to be done to the TELT systems will require a regular time to be set aside for this work. This could be a short weekly outage window with a longer outage once a month. Discussion of the best times in the week to have this outage raised issues of impact on learning and teaching activities, if conducted during business hours, and impact on part-time students who can only study on weekends if conducted on Saturdays.
Reason for the long outage
IT have avoided applying system patches at regular intervals throughout the year in order to avoid outages that would impact on learning and teaching activities. All the patches were saved for this one upgrade. The 9.0 patches had to be applied before the 9.1 software upgrade could be installed. The patches ran into problems on our system that required troubleshooting by Blackboard Support. Apart from the errors, the patches also took a much longer time to install than had been anticipated.
IT are conducting a Post Incident Review to identify other contributing factors that can be managed differently in future, as well as talking to Blackboard about why the software updates ran into problems on our system.
Current problems affecting Bb 9.1.2
IT are investigating why the NSS data feed to Blackboard has broken and what can be done to fix it. In the meantime course creation, student enrolments, and staff role assignments are being done manually. The WSSO looping issue is also being investigated. For other issues see Blackboard 9.1.2 Known Issues List (Resolved and Unresolved).
Funding has been provided to expand the Moodle pilot in 2011, with the Faculty of Engineering moving to the externally hosted UNSW Moodle instance. Moodle interface themes and a set of pedagogically designed templates will be developed for deployment in second semester 2011. Technical training and support materials and pedagogically focused professional development resources and programs will also be developed for deployment in the second half of the year, in preparation for a wider expansion of Moodle use in 2012. Register your interest on the TELT website.
UNSW TV issues
The UNSW TV service has been suffering frequent outages and storage issues since it was moved from external servers to on campus servers. This has made the service too unreliable for critical learning and teaching activities at present. The problems should be alleviated by early 2011. If videos don’t need to be kept secure they can be uploaded to the UNSW YouTube channel. Another option is to use the My Media service.
UPDATE Tom Cavdarovski advises that My Media is an option for staff only and those staff need to be able to make streaming files (contact Tom for advice). This system is not suitable for student uploads as it has no security system to protect the university from possible legal issues. Students do have the Youtube option – they can use/create their own Youtube account and can ‘relate’ their videos to other videos with the same name (ideally it would be a course code).
Next UNFED meeting will be February 2011, so best wishes to all for a happy and safe summer break. Don’t forget to let us know of any topics of interest, and to let your colleagues know about UNFED – contact Belinda for information.