Leaving BCcampus

Today was my last day with BCcampus. To some people this may seem like an abrupt ending, but to those who know me well, it’s been a long time coming. I’ve been there for 8 years. Done a lot of stuff over the years, some of which even helped. Learned lots. But a change needed to happen, both for me, and for them. With #opened12 put to bed and Open Textbooks just starting to gear up, the timing was opportune.

For me, the change is more than just one of switching jobs, which is why I’m pleased for a few months respite, through the holiday season and into the new year, to help get my head right, get back on the mat sitting, back to writing, and get me focused a lot more intentionally on what I can give and how I can serve.

So after a little break, I look forward to exploring new ideas on here with you about what this can look like, for me, for you. For now, I’ll turn and face the strange

Feedback on Possible BC WordPress in Education Summer Camp

Wordpress Schawg by Peregrino Will Reign

Last February, in the run up to Northern Voice, a bunch of us in BC post-secondary got together on the UBC campus to meet and discuss the various ways in which we were starting to use WordPress (and WPMU) on our campuses. I had some high (unrealistic) ambitions for the meeting, and while I felt like we didn’t necessarily meet those, it did feel like it was a good start to the conversation here in BC that allowed people to meet each other, see what they were doing, get inspired & encouraged about their own work, and share some of the issues we face in common.

I’ve been wanting to do a follow up, and since this year’s ETUG Spring Workshop is happening June 7-8 at the University of Victoria, some of us thought we’d try to organize another “WordCampEd” around that event, given that it typically brings together many of the interested folks.

So, three questions in this informal poll, which you can reply to in the comments below (and please circulate this as widely as you like; we’re not “exclusive” though it is likely to be mostly folks from BC post-secondary attending.)

  1. Does this sound like something you’d like to attend? We’re not asking for you to sign up yet (it will be free), just a show of hands to help us figure out what size/type of venue we need to find
  2. The ETUG event is on a Monday June 7th and Tuesday June 8th. Yes, I know, weird. In terms of doing this kind of session, should we be looking at:
    • full day session? half-day? less?
    • Sunday the 6th? (might have to be off campus.) During the ETUG meetings (potentially as a proposed session)? Afterhours on either the 7th or 8th? Or the day after, Wednesday the 9th?
  3. What would you like to focus on? Do you want scheduled talks? Unorganized collaboration time? Self-forming interest groups? Something else? Think about what we can usefully do in a face to face session that we couldn’t just do online (and the answer might be “nothing,” which is ok too.)

Let us know. I’m not “leading” anything, just starting a discussion. So far I know there is interest from UVic, the hosts of the ETUG conference, and a few others who were instrumental in the earlier gathering have also indicated interest. You should all consider yourselves part of the organizing committee. Indeed, somebody please jump in and take over, I’m happy to help but would much prefer those with a bigger stake in their WP installations to lead the charge. – SWL

Dare2BDigital – An Online ‘Gameshow’ to Showcase eLearning in BC


The folks at BCcampus (and this may be logrolling but let me be clear up front, while I work for the folks who have produced Dare2bdigital, I had nothing to do with the project) have come up with an interesting experiment to promote online learning in the province.

Dare2BDigital is a six-week “event” in which student teams compete for prizes by performing various challenges around existing online learing resources in the province, documenting their experience in team blogs that allow the “audience” to follow along, “root” for them, and also participate through blogs and forums (and end up eligible for their own prizes.)

So for instance, the first challenge involves the students interacting with the Tatla Online Observatory and conceiving a “game” that would take place in zero-gravity.

This is definitely not traditional marketing. It really is an experiment to try and expose more people to the really wide range of possibilities for (admittedly, but that’s our bailiwick) formal online education in British Columbia. It has just started, so we will see how it goes. Check it out. Depending on how well it does they may make it a regular thing, but it is definitely worth a least a look as an experiment in alternative marketing. – SWL

New Round of BC’s Online Program Development Fund


So while this may be of interest mostly to local readers, I thought I’d post on it because I think there’s a few things we are doing in this round that may be of wider interest.

This is the 5th round of BC’s Online Program Development Fund (OPDF), a province-wide fund that BCcampus (my employers) administer on behalf of the provincial Ministry of Advanced Education.

This year’s $750K call is notable, I think, first off for it’s inclusion of “Co-created Content” as one of the funding categories. This is an effort to acknowledge this phenomenom and support the co-creation of learning resources by students and faculty under a license that seeks to offer these for successive groups of students to build on.

The second thing possibly of more general interest is a new inclusion which asks the proponents to describe their strategy for seeking out existing freely reusable learning resources that could be leveraged in their project. This is an effort to promote one of the values underlying the fund, that good, free content should be reused where appropriate. The call does not dictate that existing content must be reused, but instead simply asks proponents what efforts they have made in this direction. It also does not stipulate where this content might come from – sure, we’d love people to look in SOL*R for suitable reusable content, but we hope they’ll bring in pieces from the thousands of other places you can find free learninng resources online.

Finally, another small innovation in the call is around how to promote interoperability practices. Like it or not, the majority of the content that’s been produced through past funds has been done in one of the course management systems supported in our province (WebCT 4, 6 and Vista, Blackboard, Desire2Learn and Moodle and a few home-grown ones are the current crop). While it is seductive to think one could simply specify a “standard” for content, this is for me problematic because a) it would be a top down approach that would likely not reflect the actual practices in the province and b) almost certainly wouldn’t simply “just work” anyways because of the uneven support across the CMS for even basic specs like Content Packaging. Instead, this call is an attempt to get people to at least factor the issue into their planning and describe how they plan to address it. From my perspective there is not ONE way to get content to work across these systems, nor does it have to even be in any of these systems at all. What it does need to be is as useful as possible to other faculty in the province (and ideally out of it too, but the funds’ mandate is specifically to foster content development in the province) regardless of the choices they make on their own, and the call simply asks people to describe their strategy to achieve this.

Blogging about “official” work stuff always makes me uncomfortable – not only have I been known to cock up before, it’s not an “official” part of my job. As is always the case, the words here represent my personal views and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer. If you want to know more about the OPDF, then read the call directly, don’t just take my word on it! – SWL

BCcampus Study on EdTech PD Needs in BC Post-Secondary

BCcampus EdTech PD Report

I’m hoping this is of interest to folks outside the province too – my employers, BCcampus, commissioned a study done by Janice Johnson of UBC to examine professional development needs around educational technology in public post-secondary in British Columbia. Through a combination of surveys, face-to-face meetings and an environmental scan of existing offerings, the report paints a picture of the current practices and potential needs for PD in our province. It also recommends a number of approaches for addressing these needs, including ways to harness existing resources in the province at a larger scale as well as the idea of dedicated ‘demo’ spaces, places where educators can try out new tech with very low barriers and cost.

We should start to see various activities come out of this soon which I am very excited about. – SWL

Campus 2020 Think Pieces – Envisioning Post-Secondary Education in BC 15 years out


It’s pretty easy as a Canadian to become jaded about the various reports, commisions and inquiries that our various levels of government sponsor. We’ve had no end of profound studies and reports that seemed to accurately identify both the ills and possible solutions on things like Aboriginal Self-Government or the Concentration of Media Ownership and yet years later see no real improvement on these matters (and yes, to be fair, those are both Federal examples).

So you’ll be excused if you look on this exercise sponsored by the B.C. government to help “shape the vision, mission, goals and objectives of B.C.’s post-secondary system for the next 10 to 20 years” with some skepticism. I know it’s my first inclination.

And yet I am encouraged in reading some of the first things to come out of the initiative, the Think Pieces on topics like “E-Learning and Beyond” and the truncation found in our institutional landscapes between types of knowing.

The e-learning piece is the one I paid closest attention to so far, and it at least hits all the right notes, urging a move towards ‘elearning 2.0,’ which they characterize as having an “architecture of participation.” I’m sure someone will find fault with this paper, but it seems to me that if we don’t move in that direction as a provincial system, it won’t be because a picture of what could be wasn’t painted, by people officially asked to do so. They even go further than I think many ‘think pieces’ would in offering a set of ‘internal review questions’ in Appendix 2 for educators and administrators to use examine their current technology implementation and adoption practices. It’s a good read. Let’s hope we can all make the follow on a reality. – SWL

BC Educational Technology Users Group Spring Workshops

One of my other destinations last week was the BC Educational Technology Users Group annual Spring Workshop, this year held at North Island College’s lovely Comox Valley campus.

If the workshop schedule was actually reflective of current practices in BC, then you’d be led to believe we have almost ubiquitous adopting of elearning 2.0 in the province – 2 different wiki workshops, a podcasting session and blamb’s always entertaining and educational social software tsunami (with guest D’Arcy Norman, who we keep letting into the province, but I told him he better just move out here or else we’ll start asking to see his papers!) BCcampus’ Executive Director, David Porter, has a good writeup on one of the wiki sessions as well as the invigorating opening session by journalist Mark Schneider over at his new blog.

And as D’Arcy has mentioned, I also made my small contribution, a Web 0.1-ish session on our new service, SOL*R. More to come on that soon, but so far I have avoided being pelted with rotten fruit, always a relief when rolling out new services. – SWL

Reports from Collaborative Moodle Pilot in BC


As the original home of WebCT, it is not perhaps a big surprise that it is the most widely adopted CMS in the province of BC, where I live and work. And while that doesn’t look set to change anytime soon on a large scale, 6 institutions have done pioneering working to investigate the viability of Moodle as an alternative, and have made the resulting reports available for all to see. The project was funded by my employers, BCcampus, through an Online Porgram Development Fund grant.

There is lots here to read – in addition to the final report and project recommendations, the partners have produced extensive documentation on each of the 10 distinct objectives (including such useful materials as documentation to migrate WebCT 4.1 courses to Moodle). And all of it is appropriately delivered via a Moodle site!

I know at least one of these partners has since gone on to announce its official adoption of Moodle as its institution-wide CMS, and that one of them was already firmly a Moodle adopter. So whether you are looking for a way out of your current lock-in or looking to buttress your arguments as to why your Moodle pilot should grow, you’ll find some useful evidence here. (If I am sounding slightly partisan here, I have just spent the last few months of my life struggling with getting content out of WebCT servers to interoperate with the rest of the world, and let’s just say I am the worse for wear.)SWL

Correction – NO New Round of B.C. Online Program Development Funding Announced


This is mostly of interest to any B.C. readers (and even they will probably hear about through the normal channels) but one of my employers, BCcampus, has just announced another round of funding through the Online Program Development Fund.

Well, just goes to show you you should never trust news releases. I’ve just been informed that this news release dated September 19 is actually referring to the last round of funding that was first announced in late 2004, that it took a year for the press release to come out, and that no new round has been announced. Boy, do I feel stupid!! I think they call this ‘premature blogulation’ – SWL

BCcampus selects The Learning Edge to power repository


Early this year we went (back) out to RFP for software to power a ‘learning object repository’ for BCcampus. OpenSchool BC and the Alberta Online Consortium, both from the K-12 world, were also partners in the RFP.

In May we reached a decision to go with The Learning Edge, an LCMS product from Australia. There were many good proposals, but overall we were very impressed with the maturity of the solution (which given the history became increasingly important), its support of standards, and its interoperation with existing repositories and CMS (all of WebCT, Blackboard and Moodle are supported out of the box). It also comes with a Java-based WYSIWYG editor, which has the potential to greatly assist with re-contextualizing and re-using content from the repository, though in the multi-institutional settings all three organizations inhabit we are cautious about how much uptake of that tool we will see.

Really, though, the fun has just begun; we are now proceeding to get our instance up and running and configured. The challenge isn’t the software – that’s also one of its real strengths, a very powerful administrative interface – the challenge is the process pieces, workflows, schemas, etc. We aren’t starting from scratch, much of the work we did last year will still apply, but I’m also not expecting to get it perfect on the first try. Part of the trick will be devising a reasonable change management process that allows us to innovate some of the interface and logic while still fostering user adoption and familiarity. Wish me luck! We are aiming to open the doors in October, though my expectation is for a ‘soft launch’ that slowly grows. – SWL