By Nadeem Sheikh | Published: Tuesday, May 21, 2013
With every new release that Desire2Learn deploys, our aim is to consistently deliver a solution that is recognized and valued by the educational community for its intuitive tools, simple interface, and time-saving workflows. In our efforts to drive personalization in the educational experience, we always develop new tools and technologies with the end user in mind: we want to enable learning, your way.
The newest release of Desire2Learn Learning Suite is the latest demonstration of our continuing commitment to usability as a design focus. As a Senior Technical Product Manager for Desire2Learn Learning Environment, my goal is to align our individual teams, products, and people to a consistent, personalized, user-focused vision. To provide you with some helpful insights about how we’ve worked to achieve that goal in the latest release, I’m happy to share some of the new features and updates in Desire2Learn Learning Environment that reflect our approach to usability.
Our customers always provide terrific feedback about navigation, templates, and tracking. We’ve worked to successfully transition many of them into our content solution. With the newest release, instructors are now able to add any activity – such as checklists, discussions, Dropbox folders, surveys, or quizzes – directly into content with just a few clicks. That should make things more complex to navigate, right? Actually, it’s easier!
We’ve redesigned the content map as an expandable left panel, simplifying navigation to any topic in that module or the entire course! Through a visual timeline of content progression, instructors instantly know what has been completed without leaving the Content tool. They can also select from pre-defined document templates, with accessibility and mobility capabilities built in, when creating new documents. Viewing the information has never been easier – as documents now automatically resize to fit the viewing frame.
Discussion threads are now displayed separately with inline replies. Topics clearly display the associated rubrics, clarifying what the discussion is trying achieve. ‘Easier’ is the way forward, and communicating via email is now easier with a clean, simple UI that includes autocomplete capabilities for personal and course contacts.
We have also made key improvements within the Assessment suite. Work faster with Dropbox by downloading, evaluating, and uploading bulk files. If you move too quickly and delete folders you needed, no problem – now, you can restore them from the Event Log. Quizzes, surveys, and self-assessments have also been further streamlined with a switch from input boxes to drop down selectors.
Our continued focus on improving usability has directly resulted in ownership of quality at every level of the team. We’re dedicated to only implementing new functionalities that can deliver the intended customer experience. The updates listed in this post are just a few examples of our usability focus moving forward as we continue to develop solutions for lifelong learning. We are committed to delivering the market’s highest quality learning platform, and that means designing and implementing every new feature or update with our users’ experience at the forefront of the discussion.
Posted in: Learning Suite
By Carin Headrick | Published: Wednesday, May 08, 2013
When I was studying at university, I once found myself talking with another student about the kinds of movies we liked – especially interesting, considering this person was severely hearing impaired, and I am blind. This contrast stuck with me, and has since made me look at videos from a whole new perspective.
We know that to make a video accessible for people with hearing loss, it requires a means of turning audio content into something that’s visually consumable – such as captions, or transcripts. Even the sound effects have a place in the captions – the sound of a knock at the door, or the music taking on an ominous tone, or even an indication of who is speaking can give the audience clues about their surroundings and what's to come.
Captions have many benefits. For one, they can help with literacy – for kids, people learning English as a second language, or just those who benefit from experiencing the content in a different modality. They’re also helpful when the person speaking is hard to understand or the audio quality is poor. On top of that: when you caption a video, you suddenly make all that content available to search engines!
That covers audio, but what can be done to make a video’s visual content accessible to people who can’t see it? That depends on how much information is being transmitted visually. Some videos convey a tremendous amount with their dialogue, but others are full of action and don’t have much time to explain what’s going on! These videos benefit the most from described video. Video descriptions are also helpful in cases where valuable information is being conveyed visually: audio descriptions of the content are inserted in a way that doesn't interfere with the dialog, but explains what is happening. Other videos use information scrolling across the bottom of the screen to help convey the overall message.
Some videos designed for educational purposes display statistics about the topic at hand as well as other information that the maker of the video couldn’t cram into the audio because of time constraints. People who can't see miss out on that whole track of information, and sometimes it is not readily apparent to them that they're missing out! This would happen to me at school, and sometimes, I would only find out when I found myself face-to-face with a befuddling exam question!
Video description is an approach with definite side benefits, but they aren’t as numerous or easy to find as the advantages of captioning. People who aren't as familiar with English may find the descriptions of the action helpful, since they’re usually written in a more proper form of English than some of the potentially slang-peppered dialogue. Some events also occur so quickly that having them described can provide additional clarification about what’s happening.
To test whether all the important information is provided audibly as well as visually, imagine if the audio track of the video was going to be put on a radio show. Would the audience get the whole message? Or would vital chunks be missing? If so, you might wish to inquire if the video has been described. Some DVDs already come with a descriptive video version. To help students with a visual impairment, a supplemental transcript could be provided containing details of what’s happening onscreen - complete with indicators of when information was displayed so that a user who couldn't see the scrolling text will receive it in context.
Videos can be a terrific medium for driving your point home, as long as we take the time to ensure they’ll drive that point home for everyone – including those with impairments that might make audio or visual information difficult to process. If you make your own videos, caption them! There are lots of ways to do it, depending on the format in which your video is composed.
When using Desire2Learn Capture, you can either have your captions done by CaptionSync or insert your own SRT files. If you are using a video produced by someone else that isn't captioned, just provide a transcript. Finally, if there is visual information being conveyed throughout your video, look into described video. If that information is only a few text snippets, provide a transcript so individuals with visual impairments will get the same information.
Visit the tools section of NCAM to find examples of captioned and described media as well as links to some captioning tools. This is by no means the definitive list – but I thought it might provide some interesting reading, and help you make videos more accessible, exciting, and valuable for everyone.
Additionally, you can visit Desire2Learn’s website to learn more about how we emphasize design standards, commit to open reporting, and work directly with clients to make accessibility a priority in everything we do!
Posted in: Accessibility
By John McLeod | Published: Wednesday, May 01, 2013
At Desire2Learn, we’ve always believed empowered learners can change the world. We celebrate efforts to create the technologies and practices that help make learning engaging and accessible. That’s why, each year, we join with the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) to recognize innovative post-secondary approaches to education - on an international scale - with the Desire2Learn Innovation Award in Teaching and Learning.
This award highlights exceptional educators who have explored, experimented, and shared progressive teaching methodologies that are helping to ensure their students achieve success. These individuals have demonstrated a commitment to inspiring students and discovering new techniques that will enable faculty to deliver an engaging, personalized learning experience.
I am pleased to be able to highlight the 2013 recipients:
Dr. Sandra Bassendowski
Professor in Nursing
University of Saskatchewan
Dr. Bassendowski has improved the quality of education for nurses through a methodical integration of technology and teaching practices. Her innovative “Concept Capture” solution has encouraged worldwide learner communities to embrace a rich and meaningful approach by engaging them collaboratively in a virtual space. This consolidation of pedagogical frameworks with web-based e-learning tools has helped those students turn knowledge into action.
Assistant Professor in History
Professor Graham strives to deploy an interactive approach to learning, having guided the creation of a student-produced augmented reality book for the Canadian Museum of Civilization, a virtual archaeological dig, and an ancient Roman civilization simulation. From first-year to the graduate level, his efforts have helped students achieve success beyond their own expectations.
Director, First-Year Seminar Program
University of Guelph
Professor Murray has demonstrated a passion for meaningful education by integrating an enquiry-based learning approach with an online environment. Beginning in 2004, she implemented first-year seminars designed to deliver an intensive, learner-centered experience that would immediately equip students with transferable skills that they could use to demonstratively enhance learning throughout their careers.
Professor, Transformational Learning
University of Guelph
Professor Tucker has introduced toys, learning technologies, enquiry-based techniques, and real-world applied learning scenarios into his teaching methods. His unwavering efforts to evaluate and share the results of boundless innovation have demonstrated an unmatched collaborative passion for providing challenging, engaging, and highly interactive environments for all learners.
Professor in Law
University of Ottawa
Professor Zweibel introduced experiential and blended learning to teach core legal competencies while also contributing to the design of an award-winning blended learning program for health professionals. Her collaborative efforts to deliver an engaging experience have helped to create a responsive and enthusiastic student base.
All five 2013 Desire2Learn Innovation Award winners will be celebrated at the 2013 STLHE Annual Conference on June 21st, in Sydney, Nova Scotia. They will also be recognized at FUSION 2013, Desire2Learn’s global users’ conference, in Boston July 15 - 17.
We are thrilled to be able to recognize such inspirational individuals. On behalf of everyone at Desire2Learn, I would like to congratulate each of the winners for the contributions they’ve made to the evolution of teaching and learning. We wish them all the best in their future endeavors – and can’t wait to see what further innovations they create in the future!
To learn more about the Desire2Learn Innovation Award in Teaching and Learning, please visit http://www.stlhe.ca/awards/desire2learn-innovation-award/.
Posted in: Higher Education
By David O'Hagan | Published: Monday, April 22, 2013
From Australia’s thriving economy to the growing prominence of China and India, the Asia-Pacific region is an exciting place to be right now. There is an interesting distinction between educational institutions in the region versus those in North America: one of deeper community and collaboration. This isn’t absent in other parts of the world, of course – but the openness here is both refreshing and powerful.
In 2009, I joined a scrappy little tech company that was doing good things. As a new Trainer, I doubled the size of the Training team. Desire2Learn impressed me for three reasons: their promising tech, their range of education clients, and the opportunity for lots of face-to-face client work. I had previously started my own coaching business and am passionate about helping people and organisations excel and succeed. In 2012, with business in the Asia-Pacific region expanding, I was approached about a Sales Engineering position in Australia. I’d previously lived in Sydney and loved Australia – the place, the people, and the lifestyle – and made the transition that September.
Working as part of a smaller Australian team compared to their Canadian organisation counterparts, I’ve been happily wearing more hats than usual. We’ve identified creative opportunities to build stronger relationships between Desire2Learn and our individual clients while also fostering collaboration among them. Recently published, a Desire2Learn client success story highlighting Kardinia International College illustrates one such case.
I began working with the Kardinia team in 2011 and immediately liked both the people and the school. They valued technology in learning, they were easy going but also forward-looking, and they introduced me to dim sim! Now, I make monthly on-site visits to this progressive, independent school for K12 students in Geelong.
Kardinia has a keen interest in ongoing development and self-improvement for both students and staff. Together, we explore untapped functionality in their configuration and fine-tune existing settings. I also work with teachers on course development and consult on the roll-out of new products like ePortfolio, which provides some excellent use cases since Kardinia is an International Baccalaureate school.
As an example of the regional educational community’s openness to collaboration, representatives from Kardinia visited Brisbane Grammar School prior to implementation to witness how Desire2Learn technology worked in an environment similar to their own. This type of consultation is not uncommon, but it prompted us to explore new ways of further building relationships on these foundations.
The global Desire2Learn teams are experts in their respective practice areas, but we’ve seen how FUSION – our annual North American-based user conference – encourages client-to-client sharing of comprehensive, firsthand product expertise. Individual institutions will always have reasons for resisting collaboration, whether due to competitive restrictions, questions of time and priority, or confidentiality concerns. With Desire2Learn providing a structure that facilitates these collaborations, however, institutions are inherently more inclined to participate. Building on the success of FUSION (2013 will be its tenth year), we launched the annual Asia-Pacific Teaching and Learning Conference in 2012.
My role also involves the development and growth of client user groups. Working with regional account managers, we’ve kicked off an Australian K-12 user group that meets both virtually and face-to-face throughout the year. Enabling the attitude of collaboration throughout the Asia-Pacific educational discourse will help institutions create a more localised community of knowledge.
As an added advantage, these regional institutions can exchange ideas about best practices, expertise, and methodologies with heightened relevancy because the users involved share more similar, localized perspectives than they might with international peers. Our team can educate clients about the benefits of Desire2Learn products, but someone hearing about that value from other Desire2Learn users is ultimately more powerful – and simultaneously enables that sense of collaboration and community.
Posted in: Transforming Teaching & Learning
By Charlene Douglas | Published: Monday, April 15, 2013
The Desire2Excel Awards are an annual program that encourages the development of Desire2Learn Learning Suite usage best practices. To promote these efforts, we recognize organizations that have used our solutions to demonstrate leadership, teamwork, originality, and influence in the education community.
During FUSION 2012 in San Diego, Desire2Learn honored five 2012 Desire2Excel Award nominees. Now, we’re thrilled to present a detailed series of case studies highlighting these nominees’ inspiring stories.
Oklahoma State University took teaching into outer space!
NASA Teaching from Space and Desire2Learn’s Learning Environment Provide Authentic Learning Opportunities and Influence Students’ Perception of STEM
Daytona State College simplified both the development of institutional learning outcomes and student ePortfolios.
Building an Institutional Outcomes Structure to Enhance Course and Program Assessment and Multimedia How-To Guide for Desire2Learn ePortfolio
Hennepin Technical College used Desire2Learn Learning Environment to optimize process and redefine focus.
Using Desire2Learn Learning Environment to Organize the Work of the College
The University of Waterloo made accounting interactive and engaging by embracing an online approach.
Using Desire2Learn Learning Environment to Achieve High Interaction and Engagement in a Fully Online Course
The VHS Collaborative fostered new levels of participation to drive student success in an online AP course.
High Interaction and Collaboration Yield Student Success in Online AP Course for Grades 10-12
Every year, we look forward to sharing these accomplishments on behalf of our users. We’re pleased to announce that nominations for the 2013 Desire2EXCEL Awards are now open!
The 2013 Desire2Excel Awards will include new prizes and even a new category: the Desire2EXCEL Student Award. Be sure to spread the word and nominate those who you believe EXCEL in innovation, collaboration, and making an impact on their learning community!
Posted in: Transforming Teaching & Learning