Dev Diaries #7: Digital Campus Roadmap 2019

The Digital Campus is the collection of platforms, tools and services that make up our elearning provision at the University of Dundee. We’ve coined this particular term to reflect our long term goal of moving beyond the simple delivery of disconnected tools to creating a connected environment of digital services for education and related activities across the university.

In the coming year, CTIL will follow an ambitious programme of upgrading existing tools, replacing old ones and filling gaps in provision. We will also improve the way we communicate, connect and support these services for the community. The recent upgrade of My Dundee was the first step in these plans for 2019 and you can read on to learn about some of the key activities for the rest of the year.

Platforms 

Platforms are services that provide online spaces for a range of educational activities across different devices. My Dundee (based on Blackboard Learn) does our heavy lifting,supporting thousands of modules each year. We will be developing it into a cleaner, more efficient solution that emphasises getting the basic right and provides a great experience for instructors and students alike.  Education is diverse, however and there is a need to cater for courses and activities that don’t fit the standard model. This is why we’re introducing a WordPress environment called Learning Spaces that can be connected to or work independently My Dundee to provide more flexible solutions. 
My Dundee
My Dundee is our primary digital education platform (often referred to a virtual learning environment (VLE) or learning management system (LMS)). As we improve the service, we aim to provide a clean, efficient and well supported online education experience for staff and students, delivering the core functionality required for on-campus and distance education. My Dundee is based on Blackboard Learn, but it also integrates a number of connected services such as Turnitin and Tallis reading lists to provide a more complete solution. Our aim for My Dundee is to provide a baseline of quality and functionality that suites most needs.
 

Upgrade to SaaS (complete)

What?
We will kick off the transformation of My Dundee by upgrading our existing Blackboard service to a software as a service (SaaS) delivery (from self-hosted to a cloud service).

 

Why?
  • No more extended downtime for patches/upgrades
  • Benefits of efficient, stable, robust SaaS delivery.
  • Access to the latest improvements immediately on release
  • Access to Ultra UI upgrade and Ally (see below)

 

How?
Comprehensive planning and testing went on throughout Sem 1 18/19 before the live migration was performed over the Christmas break.
 
When?
Sept – Dec ’18:
  • Preparatory work (testing, rehearsing)
Dec ’18 – Jan ’19
  • Migration
 
 

Clean Up 

What?
My Dundee has years of accumulated data mess (technical term), inefficient processes and poor governance. We will systematically rebuild of administrative process, support mechanisms and data management practices across My Dundee.
Why?
  • Remove waste data and introduce new data management policies.
  • Develop new user account and module life-cycles.
  • Introduce new administrative procedures to make common tasks efficient and transparent.
  • Redesign governance to ensure responsibility for modules, content and users lies with the right people/departments.
How?
We’re establishing an advisory group of school administrators, academics and other related areas to help us identify and prioritise the right areas for improvement and to help us make collective decisions about the way things should be done.
When?
Feb ’19 – June ’20 
  • Module/Organisation life-cycle
  • User life-cycle
  • Data management policies and processes
  • Governance framework
 

Ultra 1 – Enable Ultra Base Navigation

What?
The most common complaint from 2017 VLE Review focused the aged and un-intuitive user interface (UI) in My Dundee (virtually unchanged since 2005). The Blackboard Ultra Experience provides a completely redesigned interface and experience that we will begin introducing at the main navigation level. This will change everything about how you navigate around My Dundee without
Why?
  • Modern, efficient navigation experience.
  • Surfaces critical (and currently under utilised) features such as messaging, calendars, grades an activity logs.
  • Efficiently organises modules and organisation. 
How?
There will be a period of testing and user engagement over Sem 2, 18/19 before we make the leap at the beginning of the summer, after the April/May exams. We don’t anticipate that this initial phase of Ultra will represent a significant change burden on users since it is is at the top level of navigation (modules and functionality remains the same), however we will be making every effort to ensure nothing comes as a surprise and that the change is fully supported.
When?
Feb – Jun ’19
  • Testing and user engagement work.
Early Summer
  • Implement changes on My Dundee (more details to follow)
 

Ultra 2: Ultra Module Programme

What?
The next and most significant step for adopting Ultra is to apply the experience at module level. This is a very different challenge from the main interface level because Ultra changes more than just the look of module, it changes how they work both for instructors and students. We will develop an opt-in adoption programme that ensures that instructors can make an informed decision about moving their module(s) to Ultra at the time that suites them. This programme will then guide the process, providing in-context training and support, as well as introducing the baseline standards for online course delivery (currently under development).
Why?
  • Provides completely new experience for instructors and students at module level.
  • Improved workflows for course design and management.
  • Modern, logical structuring of content and activities. 
  • Significantly enhanced experience across different devices and platforms.
How?
We have already begun putting together an advisory panel (Digital Academy Advisory Group) which will allow us to co-create the process, ensuring that adopting Ultra is, first and foremost, a user-led process. We will also be working with early adopters to gain experience of the practical challenges of the process. These activities will aim to have the full programme in place and communicated by the end of the summer so that schools can start discussing their approach. It is important to understand that the when and where of adopting Ultra modules is at the discretion of the 
When?
Feb ’19 – Aug ’19:
  • Co-develop course migration process, baseline standards and early adopters programme.
July ’19 – Sept ’19:
  • Early adopters programme produces first live Ultra Modules
Aug ’19 – Ongoing:
  • Opt-in programme 
 

Ally

What?
Blackboard Ally is a Blackboard plugin that helps instructors deliver more accessible content to their students by providing accessibility ratings, advice for improvement and specific tools to create alternative formats.
Why?
  • Providing accessible content is not simply about conforming to specific legislation, it is about providing for the diversity of our student body. 
  • However it can be difficult for lecturers to keep up with the technical skills or time required to achieve the standards they would wish to deliver – Ally delivers simple tools to help this process.
How?
We will be consulting with the community in the coming months, aiming to introduce the tool over the summer 2019 in a phased manner. This project will be woven into the Ultra module project and introduced in the same way. 
When?
Mar’19 – Aug ’19
  • Testing and user engagement work
  • Accessible content policy creation
Aug ’19 – May ’20
  • Phased introduction (details to be confirmed)
June ’20
  • Universal roll-out (pending approval from L&T committee)
Learning Spaces
Learning Spaces is the service name we have given our new WordPress multi-site environment that is being commissioned to support education activities online. Academics, Researchers and Students will be able to request WordPress sites for a variety of purposes, from traditional blogs to ePortfolios and project sites. This new service is based the popular EduBlogs platform.

Launch of Service

What?
CTIL identified a demand from Schools for flexible online spaces that was not being catered for by the locked-down My Dundee or by other services in the University. Learning Spaces will provide managed WordPress environments for a variety of purposes that balance flexibility of purpose with appropriate levels of security and governance. 
Why?
  • Minimised the need for people to go ‘off-road’ and set up their own un-managed, un-regulated online spaces.
  • Use cases so far include ePortfolios, reflective blogs, group project areas, wikis and research collaboration spaces.
  • Site templates developed for specific use cases will allow educators and students to jump straight into sites designed for their needs.
  • Developing an LTI connection will allow users to like the flexibility of WordPress with their core teaching area in Blackboard.
How?
We have been piloting this service with key partners across the university in order to identify use cases and gain service delivery experience. From this experience, we have started to produce the documentation, support processes and governance ready for a formal service launch before the start of the 2019/20 academic year.
When?
May ’18 – Jul ’19
  • live trials and use-case gathering
Aug ’19 
  • Formal launch

Assessment 

Digitally supported assessment such as formative class quizzes, Turnitin assignments and formal   summative exams in the Tower IT suites, makes up a significant proportion of the total use of educational technology across the institution. Our aim is to provide a range of services that cover this ‘spectrum’ of assessment, providing the stability and reliability this area needs as well as the reliability to support new and innovative assessment approaches. 
Online exam review
 
What?
The highly successful Online Exam Service has been supporting digitally supported summative exams for over 13 years. Demand for this service has grown in quantity, complexity and now spans the full calendar year, irrespective of the formal exam diets. An academically led review of this area has been commissioned to address the immediate pressures on the service and to look at how to sustain it’s success in future years.
Why?
  • Increasing demand and complexity of online exams has put increasing pressure on resource.
  • We can capitalise on past success in delivering online exams and continue to improve the student experience.
How?
A short term working group has been formed, tasked with reviewing immediate and long term challenges to delivering this service. This review is not CTIL led since the delivery of exams is a complex cross-departmental challenge. Our roll will be to support it and deliver on it’s findings.
When?
Jan ’19 – Summer ’19
Questionmark OnDemand

Adoption for Summative Exams

What?
Having already made the change from the old Questionmark Perception tool to the new cloud-based Questionmark OnDemand service for formative assessment delivered through My Dundee, it is time to make the move for summative, invigilated exams. 
Why?
  • Questionmark Perception is being discontinued by the vendor.
  • Questionmark OnDemand offers many benefits to the delivery of the complex assessments supported by the Questionmark tool. 
How?
Making this change will be a complex process given the strict levels of quality required for delivering our summative exams. An extended period of testing, live trialling and service re-design will be worked through by the online exam team before making the permanent switch in the summer. The April/May exam diet will be delivered on the old service.
When?
Jan ’19 – May ’19
  • Service redesign and testing
  • Live trials, phasing in new service.
June ’19
  • Full switch to OnDemand.
  • Decommissioning of old Perception service

Participation & Engagement 

Participation & Engagement is a broad category we use for general digital education activities such as online discussions, collaborative activities, class polling and project work. There will be many specific service that fit here including Collaborate Ultra and Turning Point, and our goal is to support a range tools to help educators and students be creative in their courses.
TurningPoint/Class Polling

Scope new Service

What?
Our ageing TurningPoint solution , also known as clickers, is overdue for a refresh. Some schools have already started exploiting simpler, more flexible tools such as Mentimeter to engage their students in simple quizzes and other class interactive activities. We do not have specific funding to replace/update the existing service but will engaging with Schools to perform a review of their needs and help us plan the future development in this area. 
Why?
  • Increasing demand for tools that allow educators to provide polls and pop-quizzes to their students, inside and outwith lectures.
  • The TurningPoint service relies on large numbers of physical ‘clickers’ that are difficult to maintain and a ‘BYOD’ solution may be more flexible.
How?
We have already been testing alternative tools with some Schools and will be preparing a strategy for consultation that will hopefully guide future allocation of budget to this area.
When?
No hard timeline, but we hope to have a strategy blueprint to put to the relevant committees this summer.
Campus Pack

Withdrawal of Service

What?
CampusPack is an expensive service that provides blogs, wikis and other tools within My Dundee. This functionality is either provided by My Dundee iteslf or through WordPress sites on our Learning Spaces service. We will decommission CampusPack this summer and reallocated the budget.
Why?
  • Key functionality is replicated in existing services.

How?

Will will work with the small number of existing users to support a transition to alternative services this semester and over the summer. A project plan will be published in the coming weeks. 

When?

Feb ’19 – May ’19

  • Switch to alternative services

June ’19

  • Decommissioning of Campus Pack service.

Content 

Digital content is everywhere and the materials delivered in our courses is no different. It is probable that this is mostly found in the common form of PowerPoint slides or Word document, but it is becoming increasingly easy for users of all skill levels to produce a wide variety of digital content including video, animation, visualisations and audio as well as the more common fare. CTIL intends to increasingly support the production and delivery of a range of content. 
Video Management

Procurement of Service

What?
There is a growing need to provide a flexible Video Management service that covers a variety of needs, including lecture capture, student project work, online distribution, video assessment, podcasting and more. We have been piloting a tool called Panopto in the last year to ascertain use cases and demand for such a service and following a recent report to the Digital Strategy committee, we will be moving ahead with a procurement exercise in the spring.
Why?
  • Support video capture in a range of educational scenarios from lecture capture using institutional equipment to student projects using the phone in their pockets.
  • Provide a managed video steaming service that ensure control of university owned content and the ability to reach the required audiences at home and internationally.
  • To support the use of video as a medium equal to other digital content irrespective of the skill set of the producer.
How?
We have already started sending out requests for a cross-section of people to form the requirements and procurement working group. This group will review the findings CTIL has made in the course of the Panopto pilot and go out to tender for a long-term solution.
Note that there are currently no plans for a widespread roll-out of lecture capture, only the development the existing provision used in some Schools. This provision is being discussed at the relevant levels.
When?
Sept ’17 – Dec ’18
  • Piloting of Panopto service across range of use cases.
Jan ’19 – Summer ’19
  • Procurement process for long term video management solution.
Sept ’19
  • Target for launch of new service.

We’ll be releasing specific information about each of these projects in the coming months. If you have any questions you can leave a comment below or contact CTIL directly at ctil@dundee.ac.uk.

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