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eLearning Ontario/ OKNL Chooses Province Wide LMS

I have just heard a rumor that the Ministry of Education through eLearning Ontario/ OKNL has chosen a province wide LMS – Desire2Learn. I have been speculating on this for a while. Desire2Learn is a local company from Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. This is big news, since the school boards in Ontario, to maintain funding for their LMS’s, must switch over to this platform in the next few years.
We have been using Blackboard for at least five years at the TCDSD and have invested a lot of time and professional development in promoting fully online and blended learning models through the Blackboard LMS.  There is so much content in the Blackboard (rebranded eClass) system, and I really hope that there will be an easy way to shift over the content.

More to come …

eLearning Ontario – LOR

eLearning Ontario has posted a selection of the learning objects that are going to be posted in the Ontario LOR.

The arctic survival simulation game as well as the owning a car are good ideas. I think that it could inspire some interesting discussions for students. I’m not so big on the Sam Huges type LO that was developed, why not just show a video?? Or maybe have Sam Huges descendents talk about their grandfather.

The LOR is stated as it will comply with “with copyright and intellectual property rights� this is fine for content created by the ministry, but how will this be monitored if other boards or individual teachers submit LO’s. DRM will be a bureaucratic nightmare.

As educators become more adept at creating online course content they need to be able to edit the LO’s in order to customize them for their students experience. Providing the end product is not enough. I would want the raw files that were used to create the LO’s and make them useable for my students in the context of the course that I teach. Reusability of set LO’s is inversely proportional to the skill level of the educators creating online course content.

OKNL – eLearning Ontario

Well OKNL seems to be going through a transformation. The name has changed to eLearning Ontario, but we are still waiting to find out which LMS the province has chosen to go with. The Blackboard and WebCT merger has made them a real powerhouse in the academic LMS market or perhaps they are doing to go with someting more local like Angel or Desire2Learn, who knows.

Everytime this department makes a presentation whether at COCA or another venue, we tend to get the same information regurgiated in a new format.

Who are the boards that were chosen to test out the province wide LMS? What criteria did they use to decide on which board? What is the funding model that they are going to use? What happens to boards that are using a blended model? Will they get any support at all?

OKNL RFP

Well there have been three different amendments to the OKNL RFP for a province wide LMS and LOR. These amendments were based on questions asked by LMS/LOR companies and seemed quite necessary.

It seems as though the LMS and LOR will not have the functionality to support a blended model of instruction, that is, outside of the courses offered through the provincial LMS. At out board we have hundreds of teachers who have used a blended approach to teaching their courses – both secondary and elementary.

Also, they seem to be leaving out certain features that were previously included. Why remove a “drag and drop’ feature from menus? Does this give certain vendors a better chance than others? Very curious…

OKNL Course Overviews

Well the Course Overviews are out from OKNL. They provide information about the online course offerings from the Ministry of Education available to school boards to have taught using the yet unamed province wide LMS.

Grade Course Name Course Code Level

OKNL RFP on LMS and LOR

Wow that is a lot of acronyms.

Well the Request For Proposal http://oknl.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/default.asp for the Ontario wide K-12 Learning Management System and Learning Object Repository has come out.

It is a 100+ pager which seems to encompass a broad range of just about everything. The abstract is available online, but the actual RFP must be requested. I didn’t want to get into any trouble for posting a copy of it here.

Here are a couple of highlights from the abstract:

A major component of the e-learning strategy is to provide all District School Boards with common tools and resources to support the delivery of e-learning credit courses and to enable equitable access to e-learning courses and resources across the province. The Ministry is looking to establish a contractual commitment with one (1) proponent for the hosting, installation, configuration and operation of both the LMS and LOR and associated help desk and support services, for a period of three (3) years, with the capability to extend this for one (1) more year at the sole discretion of the Ministry. Associated training will be for the first two (2) years with an option to continue for an additional year.

I also found it interesting that the abstract mentions elementary students as potential elearning students. Most of the talk around the elementary level has been the LOR I’m interetested to see how this will translate into the LMS. Are we going to see the blended model promoted through the provincial LMS?
Another fascinating bit of information was the estimate that OKNL makes for the potential number of elearning students/teachers in programs over the next 3-4 years – 80,000-100,000 that is incredible. That is greater than the total number of students in the entire Toronto Catholic District School Board.

The RFP is due in mid-July with a roll-out date of September 2005. I’m still in doubt about this timeline. It seems like a lot to ask for, unless OKNL has someone in mind already and they have started work on it. Of course, this is only a rumor I am starting. I hope that it doen’t come down to which company has the deepest pockets – I hope there are some open source consulting companies taking up this challenge.

(Looks like they took some advice and cleaned their website as well, kudos to you. So maybe OKNL can pull things off quickly – I’ll wait and see.)

Ontario LOR Update

At The Canadian Blackboard User’s conference I was talking with Dawn Mercer, who had a chance to preview the Ontario LOR. It sounds like you will be able to search different LOR’s around the world, but there will not be the ability to do a federated search. The ability to search a set of LOR’s would be a handy tool.

She had also mentioned that the Ministries LOR is PHP based and will be feeding off RSS standards. That is going to knock out a lot of inflexible competitors when an RFP is put out. OKNL has bitten more than they can chew with the LOR and the provincial LMS.

They have not published the long awaited white paper describing their elearning intentions and although they have made a number of public appearances stating that their will be 5+ high school course ready in September. I’m not sure how the plan to prepare and review all the proposals and have a province wide LMS set up in three months. And they haven’t even put out an RFP yet. Not to be a naysayer, but good luck to you OKNL.

Not to add to your workload OKNL, but someone should really update your website – it doesn’t look like you have worked on a project since 2002?

OKNL Survey

I hope you have filled out the eLearning Iniative Stakeholder survey at the Ontario Knowledge Network for Learning (OKNL) website.

Here is a sample of my response to a few of the questions.

What concerns, if any, do you have regarding the quality of education that will be provided by e-learning? Please suggest how these concerns could be addressed. Relate to creators of course and learning object content that are not familiar with today’s classrooms. Do not use developers in isolation, but with connections to the classrooms that will see benefits of eLearning, with direct discussion with the teachers. That northern rural communities will not have the infrastructure to support the use of eLearning technologies because of bandwidth issues. Keep open the idea of using digital TV as a mode of communication be which eLearning might be delivered. Training will not be made available for staff using eLearning technologies. Educators need to be informed about how to best take advantage of eLearning whether as a separate course or in a blended model. And how to effectively use different learning techniques when teaching online, and not replicating what is done in the f2f classroom. Another concern I have is the underutilisation of eLearning courseware because of a lack of knowledge by f2f teachers. Educate – Inform – Train

What pedagogic concerns, if any, do you have with regard to providing quality educational experiences using e-learning? Please suggest how these concerns could be addressed. The pedagogic concerns I have relate to teachers, course and LO developers replicating what they do in a f2f classroom online and not taking advantage of the medium for what it can do. It will be more important in the development of HS online courses than LO because of the time that would be devoted to learning. I fear asynchronous content development will be the norm rather than adding elements of synchronous content created through real-time tools and holding real office hours. Meeting online similar to organizations like Tapped In, Learning Times or even as a Virtual Conference like KnowTips.ca, has real benefits with regards to the development of learning through synchronous methods. Those who have used this technologies (webex, Elluminate) know what it means to connect with someone in Austrailla sharing the same learning goals dicussing a PowerPoint Slide using audio conversations.

Do you believe that having all district school boards use a single development and delivery approach for e-learning would be beneficial? Please explain your answer. I do not believe this to be the case. The eLearning environment needs to be flexible for teachers so that courses can be customized. The ability to move courses easily based on CanCore or Ontario developed standards between LMS’s or CMS’s, should be discussed with major portal/LMS/CMS developers, or look at developing standards through open source community LMS solutions like Drupal or Moodle. AS an aside, it would also be nice to see that the Ontario Government provides technical support to the province’s schools on one Open Source LMS/CMS/Portal (ie Drupal) since this seems to be the stumbling block for implementation of this freely available software in school boards. I also believe that if we lock course content in inflexibly LMS systems like Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Angel etc. We will not allow our teachers to take advantage of loosely connected tools that make up social networks and connect them together to customize elearning experiences for students. (rss through blogs/podcasting/screencasting, delicious, flickr, furl etc.)

Do you believe that having all district school boards use the same computer programs to develop resources and classroom materials would be beneficial? I do believe in standardization that allows the interconnectedness of software and data (i.e. open source) but educators should be able to develop materials in environments in which the feel the most comfortable. If a person has been using MS Word all their life and they like the product and can use it efficiently and effectively, they should be able to develop in that software. It might be wise, if at all possible, to push the software companies in order to make sure WordPerfect files can be read on MS Word and vice versa, rather than forcing a new variation of a tool on someone. I believe that getting software in the hands of teachers, students and even parents can have a profound impact on the general knowledge about the uses and extensibility of a particularly software product. If you want to promote learning web page design give everyone a copy of Macromedia Dreamweaver, but do not force others out of using MS FrontPage.

Would it be useful to store large amounts of curriculum resources in a central location in a board and have these resources identified and searchable by grade level, subject area, expectations, etc., and make them accessible to all teachers in all boards? This is a leading question. In some cases this might be an option when you need to ensure and validate the content that is being shared. Also, if you need to manage DRM and you want to maintain control of the resources. This might not be the best way to ensure pervasive distribution of resources. Putting the responsibility of creation and distribution can be done on in individual level and in fact it has been done for years. It is just repurposing an old tool for distribution – Peer 2 Peer -Kazaa, Napster, BitTorrents… Have creators define the metadata that goes along with their resource initially, but as the information is continually passed on to others new meta-data will be added to the resource as other users pick-up, modify and re-share the resource.

—————— On Search Ability If I was to have searchability I would want it at different levels as the question states, but I would also like to to be an adaptive search that responds to my profiles. If I were a grade 7 math teacher searching for algebra LO’s and I found some LO better than others, another grade 7 math teacher should be able to tap into my expereince and alsi chagne the meta data for a particular learning object. Perhaps having the meta-data of a LO in a sort of Wiki environment.

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