Monday, November 27, 2006

DDLC minutes 11/16/06

Distance and Distributed Learning ASAC Workgroup
November 16, 2006, 10am – 3pm


Meeting called to order at 10:05am

Members present: Rebecca Blankenship (GCC), Susan Beasley (CVCC), Kim Blosser (BRCC), Charles Boling (VHCC), Colleen Kehoe (for John Ambrose - JSRCC), Jeff Burleson (MECC), Joan Trabandt (NVCC), John Zwick (TCC), Kristen Kelly (JTCC), Leslie Smith (RCC), Adam Bryant (for Linda Clausson – NRCC), Carrie (for Coveny – VWCC), Reo McBride (DLCC), Ron Wilt (ESCC), Ruth Smith (TNCC), Stacy Harris (SWCC), Joan Tuck (SVCC), Jamie Shetrone (WCC), Bill Day (DCC), Inez Farrell (AS&R), Matt Lawson (AS&R)

Members absent: Shelia Hobbs (PDCCC), Mark Nelson (PHCC), Lori Ledford (PVCC), George Hoffman (LFCC)

Action Items:

Action Item 1: VDEN document review

ASAC has requested that the DDLC review the documentation and make further recommendations.

  • Should the VDEN documents be abolished or revised and updated?
  • What parts of the document should be kept either in policy or revised?
  • What parts of the document are already included in policy manual?

After much discussion, it was decided that some clear, easy to find guidelines were needed in addition to the hard-to-read official policy manual.

Issues were noted such as the difficulty in meeting the VDEN standards for compressed video and the need for possible additions to the standards such as integration of VITA and accessibility standards. For now, it was agreed that the focus needs to be on revision or deletion of items from the present documentation with recommendation for additional items to follow.

The committee broke into five groups to take a preliminary look at the different sections of the document and recommend changes. The resulting edited document will be compiled and sent back out to the committee for further work and discussion.

Action recommendation: Inez will report to ASAC that work has begun and that a recommendation will be available for their March meeting.

Jamie Shetrone made the motion as stated above and Leslie Smith seconded it. It passed unanimously.

Action Item 2: Integration of PS and Bb

A workgroup was formed at the last DDLC meeting to address the integration of PS and Bb.

This workgroup met twice and the minutes from those meetings were distributed. As a result of the workgroups recommendation to the entire DDLC, the group recommended that ASAC support the integration with the attached guidelines.

Discussion followed on a number of points including how to opt out of the integration and who has access to the flags to flag courses for integration. A major issue was the Blackboard administrator’s access to control the flagging of course in a timely manner. This item was added to the guidelines listed to go forward to ASAC. Inez requested that the wording be simplified.

Matt Lawson stated that the integration would be implemented in the summer along with the version upgrade.

Action Recommended: The DDLC recommends the integration of PS and BB course creation and student enrollment with the attached guidelines.

Motion was made by Leslie Smith and seconded by Reo McBride. The motion was passed.

Discussion Items:

Discussion Item 1: Automation of VCCSOnline

The process of listing online courses in the VCCSOnline system is a manual process. It was discussed that this process is time-consuming. At least one college has developed a process to pull the courses directly from Peoplesoft. It was generally agreed that integration would be beneficial if individual colleges have the ability to remove a course if the college did not want a course listed.

Action Recommended: Action was recommended on this item due to the general agreement by all that it would be of great benefit.

A motion was made that the DDLC recommend that the resources be provide so that the system office staff can create a process to automate pulling online courses into the VCCSOnline system. The motion was passed.

Discussion Item 2: Biweekly audio conferencing

Discussion was held on the possibility of having biweekly audio conferences where college distance learning and instructional technology staff could ask questions and receive updates on the system office’s initiatives. This had occurred in the past with previous AS&R staff. It was stated that the meetings would not involve policy decisions but would just be a chance to ask questions and receive update information on initiatives of individual colleges as well as the system office.

Inez Farrell, AS&R’s Director of Instructional Technology stated that she would be willing to hold informal, monthly audio meetings. The group decided on the second Monday of each month from 2-3 pm with the first session on December 11th. Further details would follow.

Discussion Item 3: Backpack in Blackboard Version 7 (Leslie)

The need for our students to be able to access materials in Blackboard despite the issue of low bandwidth and large downloads was discussed. The pervasive nature of this issue was highlighted in that we still have many areas where dial-up is the only option or the only affordable option. Technology to assist in providing equal access to all students is a continuing need and one of the Chancellor’s 2009 goals.

The Blackboard Backpack was highlighted as one possible solution to meet these issues and a pilot to test its feasibility was discussed. It was agreed that this item would be reworked by Leslie Smith and a recommendation framed for a pilot. This will be brought back before the DDLC meeting as an action item. (Hand-out attached)

Information Items:

Information Item 1: Update on WIMBA pilot (Inez)

Inez reported a large response on the pilot currently in progress. Arrangements have been made for WIMBA to be turned on for use in the new version of the Blackboard pilot in spring.

Information Item 2: Update on E-Portfolio pilot (Inez)

C.J. Bracken from Germanna Community is working with the college’s Nursing department and the system office on a pilot of the e-Portfolio system for SP06.

Information Item 3: Update on Blackboard upgrade and training (Matt)

Inez Farrell reported on training she is working on providing for Instructional Technologists the week of December 14th. She stated that the training will be to prepare the Technologists for training the faculty. It is not Administrator training. She is also working to access funds for faculty training at New Horizons. Concern over lack of training for administrators was expressed and it was suggested that any funds be used for her December ‘train the trainer’ sessions with the idea that these persons could provide sessions at New Horizons. Matt Lawson advised that Version 7.1 is available now for exploration on the site and that faculty will be asked to pilot Version 7.1 for the spring semester for full implementation for the summer semester. Questions were raised about how faculty could begin preparing for the pilot as soon as possible.

Information Item 4: Blackboard Digital Dropbox (Matt)

It was reported by Matt Lawson that the Digital Dropbox has become a support nightmare for the system office as well as the colleges. Its poor design has caused numerous issues from the beginning. It was brought to the attention of Blackboard and their response is that the Assignment feature should be used as a replacement and the Digital Dropbox disabled. This is what the system office will do in version 7.

There was discussion that at least one college strongly objects to loosing this feature and want it left available. Matt responded that the Digital Dropbox would no longer be supported.

Information Item 5: Atomic Learning (Leslie)

Leslie Smith brought up the continuing question of supporting tutorials for some of the applications that all of us use and must support. Previous efforts to work together to create tutorials have had mixed results and then there is the problem of the need for continuous updates. It is suggested that we discuss the need for system wide purchase of appropriate tutorials such as what is provided by Atomic Learning. These tutorials could be used to support such systems as Blackboard, MS Office, and others. (Hand-out attached)

DDLC Integration Guidelines

  • Colleges will have the option to opt in or out for integration.
  • The courses will be created “unavailable” to students and the availability of the courses will be left up to the discretion of the college.
  • Integrated courses will be assigned a template (optional) through an additional flag in PeopleSoft and by specifying the template ID
  • Integration of a course will not prevent Blackboard Administrators from manually adding additional users to that course.
  • A standard course naming convention will be used that includes: Semester—College—Course ID—Section Number—Course Name.
  • Students will be disabled as a user in a course when they are backed out of PeopleSoft.
  • Staff designation for instructor will be used if there is no instructor assigned to a course.
  • Blackboard administrators will have access to control the flags that set courses for integration.

Proposal for systemwide implementaton of a online tutorial system for software applications

What’s the Need?

Students need assistance with various software packages at all hours of the day or night. One of the Chancellor’s goals for this year in technology is to continue to develop a world-class teaching, learning environment that is sufficiently sustainable and scalable to meet the growing demands of access and operations. To help achieve this goal, an online tutorial program is need system wide.

specific opportunities to be achieved:

  • Economies of scale.
  • Access across all colleges for students that take courses at multiple colleges.
  • Streamlined assistance for students by pointing students to a central repository of helpdesk type tutorials.
  • Systems office and all colleges can point students to one location instead of 23 different instances of support.
  • Tier 1 helpdesk support through 24 x 7 online support when and where needed.


RCC and GCC are owners of site licenses for Atomic Learning. They choose this product for a number of reasons. Those that might be appropriate for this proposal are listed below:

  • Provide both audio and video tutorials
  • Software tutorials are kept up to date
  • Variety of software that is supported
  • Flexible in terms of providing special tutorials, if needed, such tutorials for Mirapoint, PeopleSoft, Blackboard content system, etc.
  • Can connect an objective in Blackboard to a specific tutorial.%
  • Ease of use and timeframe of each tutorial is from less than a minute to a maximum of 3 minutes.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Spring 2007 Blackboard Course Shell Requests

We have batched created SP07 Distance and Hybrid courses. Please check Bb to be sure your course was created. I will begin to process Distributive Spring 2007 course shell requests: November 20, 2006

We no longer combining classes. You must request one shell per class. If you have questions about this please call.

Requests will be processed every Friday


  • Distributive (Web Enhanced) Courses use technology in concert with face-to-face classes.

    A course that is based exclusively in a brick-and-mortar classroom (face-to-face), and the instructor supplements face-to-face classroom instruction with valuable online resources supported by Blackboard, the supported course management system or the Web, such as grade book, syllabus, assignment submission, etc.
  • Hybrid (Blended) Courses have a percentage of the content delivered/taught in Blackboard, the supported course management system and a percentage of the content delivered/taught face-to-face.

    A course whose web delivered components meets the same Standards of Good Practice used for online courses and significantly impact learning while reducing the amount of classroom time.

  • Distance (Online) Courses have the content delivered/taught in Blackboard, the supported course management system. Any face-to-face meetings (such as an orientation, exams, or labs) are only held if they appeared in the registration class schedule and notes field of the Student Information System.

    A courses that is based in the Blackboard, the course management system, where students access instructions, instructor’s office, all course materials (lectures, assignments, resources, etc.) and communicate via email, discussions, and/or chats with the instructor and other students.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Wimba Voice Tools for Blackboard - Pilot

Wimaba Voice Tools
Give your online Class a Voice!

To join the pilot and try the Horizon Wimba Building Block for Blackboard:

  1. You will need to register the class that is going to use Wimba with me (that means just give me the course ID). I must send that information to Inez Ferrell,the Director of Instructional Technology, in Richmond.
  2. The instructor will have to give me (to send to Inez) a detailed description of its use within the class instruction (what objectives it will support) the number of students who are in the class and may make use of it
  3. Then an evaluation at the end of the course that illustrates its effectiveness from both the instructor and student point of view.

This may seem like a lot of documentation but it really is not if the students are asked to evaluate Wimba in a discussion board and the instructor can pull the information from both what the purpose of its use was with the objective and the result.

Of course all of this is to help us make a business case for purchasing Wimba on an Enterprise level.

Please call me if you want to join the pilot or have questions.

What is Wimba?


  • Offer live discussions between students and teachers, anytime, anywhere
  • Teach foreign languages by emphasizing speaking and listening
  • Encourage on-going discussions and debates about different subjects and ideas
  • Easily teach pronunciation, rhythm, stress, and emphasis
  • Students learn all aspects of a language through listening, speaking, and writing exercises
  • 24/7 access
  • Seamlessly integrate within Blackboard and WebCT - no new interfaces to configure or commands to learn
  • Instant anytime, anywhere access to language resources as students are no longer constrained by the availability of a physical language lab and/or instructors


  • Live Conversation and/or Voice Coaching
    Practice a language by actually speaking it with someone. This real-time voice conferencing feature allows for live oral language instruction, small group role-plays, and other live, conversation-based tasks. Additionally, instructors can conduct lectures, conferences, discussions and debates, keep virtual office hours for conversations with students, and even record discussions for future playback.
  • Threaded Voice Boards
    Speak and read a language at the same time, or simply create threaded voice discussions about any subject. Great for brainstorming and collaborating on almost any topic in any language, instructors and students can post vocal messages with accompanying text into our voice-based message boards. Discuss multiple subjects at once by dividing new topics into their own threads. This is one of the best ways to practice all aspects of a new language.
  • Embedded Voice within Course Pages
    Easily add listening exercises and voice messages into any CMS course page. Our Voice Tools incorporate a small recorder and playback feature that can be placed within any CMS page allowing instructors to verbally explain complex ideas, post assignments, or simply highlight important ideas that will be discussed in upcoming lessons.
  • Voice-Enabled E-Mail
    Students and instructors can send vocal email messages to anyone, and recipients simply reply by sending their own voice email. Voice emails are particularly useful for role-playing activities and question and answer sessions. And to ensure security, instructors have full control of the distribution of every email.
  • Integrate into your Course Management System
    Our voice tools integrate with course management systems so they have the same look and feel as other tools, significantly reducing barriers of adoption and minimizing learning curves. Our vocal tools appear within your CMS like any other resource; if you know how to use your CMS, you already know how to use Voice Tools.
  • Oral Assessments
    Assess your students 24/7. Enable language instructors to build a wide range of test questions types, such as multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, pairing, voice dialogue, vocal multiple-choice, or vocal pairing multiple-choice. These questions can be associated with a variety of oral, visual, and text-based prompts, requiring oral and text-based responses. Learners simply log into the system and proceed through the test questions, recording their responses as they use Voice Tools.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Minutes- DDLC September 14, 2006

Distance and Distributive Learning Committee Meeting
September 14, 2006

Meeting called to order at 10:00 A.M.

Members Present: Inez Farrell (AS&R), Jeff Burleson (MEC), Charles Boling (VH), Jaime Sheltrone (WCC), Kristen Kelly(JT), George Hoffman (LF), Joan Trabandt (NOVA), Lori Ledford (PVCC), Linda Claussen (NRCC), Reo McBride (DSL), Ruth Smith (TNCC), Kim Blosser (BRCC), Leslie Smith (RCC), Rebecca Blankenship (GCC), Ralph Lucia (ITS) , Matt Lawson (AS&R), John Zwick (TCC), Bill Hightower (AS&R), Joan Tuck (SSVCC), Susan Wood (AS&R), Colleen Kehoe (JSR), Monty Sullivan (AS&R), Susan Beasley (CVCC).

Members Absent: William Dey (DCC), Dick Wilt (ESCC), Shelia Hobbs (PDCCC), Mark Nelson (PHCC), Stacy Harris (SWCC), Ramona Coveny (VWCC).

Opening Remarks: Dr. Monty Sullivan

Distance and Distributive Learning Committee (DDLC) has been reconstituted as an advisory workgroup to the Academic and Student Affairs Council (ASAC) subcommittee on Educational Technology (ET)
The committee will make recommendations on policy level decisions to ASAC’s ET. Inez Farrell will be the voice of DDLC to ASAC’s ET.
The committee is now comprised of nuts and bolts personnel including faculty, and structured to improve communication and electronic services to students,
The Educational Technology group has been reconstituted to bring in Vice Presidents who have experience in technology realm; ASAC is to act on issues of concern.
Impact of this committee affects how we function on a campus level and communicate on a system level


Action Item 1: Election of New Chair: Rebecca Blankenship was nominated by Reo McBride and elected by unanimous vote.

Action Item 2: Recommendation of Archiving Courses In Blackboard


ITS initially proposed current semester and two subsequent semesters.
It was proposed to ITS that faculty would not want archiving to take place until early in 4th semester. ITS explained this would be a hardship on the system as the number of courses makes backups take longer, increases the size of the databases and slows performance. Ralph would like a calendar of semester start and end times so scheduling of events such as this could be facilitated. It was asked that a schedule of dates when courses would be removed from production be published. The calendar would be well in advance and notification sent to Blackboard Administrators.

Various suggested processes were discussed to assist individual instructors who want courses to stay on the system for more than three semesters.

*Recommendation for archiving of courses in Blackboard: It is propose to the Educational Technology Committee of ASAC that courses created in Blackboard for specific semester will be retained for three semesters beyond the semester offered and then be removed from the Blackboard server. Additionally, Blackboard administrators will be responsible for polling faculty each semester and deleting unused courses according to local college guidelines.

Action Item 3: Outdated VDEN procedures that exist outside of VCCS policy

*Action Recommended: Recommendation to Educational Technology Committee of ASAC for review of existing VDEN document and eliminate outdated VDEN procedures. Additionally, incorporate revised procedures into VCCS policy manual and eliminate the VDEN document entirely.

(The goal is to pull out what is relevant, reword it appropriately and put the results into the VCCS policy manual, and in the process eliminating the VDEN document.)

Discussion Item 1: Deletion of course records in Bb archived courses

Course syllabi retained until superseded or obsolete and then destroyed
Academic Records – including roster, grades, postings, student information
When are archives deleted – 2 years total at system level (1 year production, 1 year archive)
What policy for colleges to delete Bb archives?
Will individual college policy supersede Library of Virginia recommendations of three years?
Need to find out what home college does in People Soft – gather information

Homework: DDLC members will find out what their home college does for records retention in People Soft and the effect if any on the records kept in Blackboard. Many committee members did not know of this requirement and do not think it is followed on their campuses.

*Discussion Recommendation: Recommend ASAC discuss policy for retention or deletion of Blackboard archives in compliance with Library of Virginia policy GS111.

Discussion Item 2: Integration with People Soft

*Recommendation: Recommend pursuing the integration of People Soft with Blackboard. DDLC workgroup was formed to further discuss the issues and to write a proposal for ASAC ET that will include a rationale, benefits to the colleges, and strategies that may need to be addressed to successfully implement integration.

Work group: Reo, Jaime, Colleen, Ruth, Kim, Kristen, Leslie, Jeff, and Rebecca. This group will be further divided when the issues are determined.

Information Items:
Merger of EMPLIDs to end: Difficult to tie back to individual SIS records at multiple institutions, email problems. ITS can identify who has multiple IDs. Colleges can accept other colleges EMPLID in order to simplify student process. A and R needs to be aware of situation, can merge accounts by agreement. Help Desk also.
Migration to Blackboard 7.1: 6.3 is available, but will not go to it, but to 7.1. Possible migration summer 2007. 7.1 will be put into BBTrain demo environment so people can experience. Timeframe is not yet concrete. Pilot in spring 2007.
Wimba: NOVA and Piedmont currently use. Willing to allow any colleges to test/pilot for free with two stipulations: feedback is provided and online training is required. May be shared cost (template pricing for system/FTE based). Matt will look at Pronto.
Student Email Licenses: Retention of email accounts (current semester minus two plus next semester, change in registration caused current semester minus two plus two) Oversubscribed by over 30,000. Much discussion ensued about the summer semester and add/drop dates. Recommend current semester minus one and up to the second eight week add/drop date. Propose semester plus one with incompletes adding another semester so that any students who did not enroll in a summer course would not lose their college email address at the beginning of the Fall semester.
Definition of hybrid and blended courses: Definition part of Course Coding Document submitted to ASAC.
Meeting Dates:
a) November 16, Thursday, 10 – 3 pm, Central Virginia, Lynchburg
b) February 15, Thursday, via Breeze or compressed video
c) May 24, Thursday, Featherstone
7. Secure Socket Layers – still some technical problems. Work around is putting certificate on feeding site.

Meeting adjourned at 3:00 P.M.

Monday, April 17, 2006

IE6, Bb and Tests

Posted on Monday, April 17, 2006 - 8:08 am:

Another follow-up on this issue. Another college on the ASU list reported at the weekend that a quiz with 25 short answer questions crashed IE if it had this update. This is because there are 25 WYSIWYG editors if the questions are presented all at once, and IE can't cope.

If you run into this problem I would suggest altering the quiz to a one at a time format.


David Carter-Tod
ITS - Client Services
Virginia Community College System

Handout (.pdf) on IE6 issues with Bb

Posted on Friday, April 14, 2006 - 10:26 am:

Towson State has created a very nice two page handout on this issue with regard to Blackboard. The document is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License (, so can be shared.


David Carter-Tod
ITS - Client Services
Virginia Community College System

Microsoft update to IE6 and impact on Blackboard

Microsoft released an update to IE6 on Tuesday, Feb 28

  • This update will change the way IE handles some active content.
  • You can read info from MS at which describes some issues MS is working on.
  • The "mandatory" download went out on April 11.

The following is from Craig Chanoff, Vice President, Support Blackboard Inc.:

Blackboard just sent the following notice regarding this IE Update - the most wide-ranging impact appears to be on the WYSIWYG editor:

On April 11, Microsoft is releasing a critical update in response to patent litigation between Microsoft and Eolas ( The update also includes critical security fixes for Internet Explorer. Most users will receive this update automatically via Windows Update. After the update, users will be required to activate applets, ActiveX controls and other embedded objects and plug-ins before they can interact with them. Activation requires hitting the space bar, pressing the enter key, or using the mouse to click on the item. Users running the Firefox or Safari web browsers will not be affected by this update.

General issues affecting all products

Embedded content (including video, audio, Flash) cannot be controlled until activated. Each item is framed with a window that prompts the user to "Press SPACEBAR or ENTER to activate and use this control." After users follow the instructions or click using their mouse; users can use the controls to start, stop or replay embedded content.

An item that contains an equation, or was created from the Equation Editor, will launch a text window that prompts the user to "Press SPACEBAR or ENTER to activate and use this control." The equation will still render on the page.

In general, our testing has uncovered increased instability with the IE browser after this update has been applied. We are escalating this issue with Microsoft.

Blackboard Academic Suite™ & Blackboard Community System™ (Versions 6 and 7, including Application Packs)

- Each Visual Text Box Editor (commonly known as "WYSIWIG editor") will require activation prior to entering text.
- The Virtual Classroom and Lightweight Chat applets will require activation after a student or instructor joins a chat.
- The Blackboard Content Player (SCORM) feature fails to function after installation of the Microsoft update.

Friday, April 07, 2006

MinutesDDLC Meeting — March 31, 2006

DDLC Meeting — March 31, 2006 PVCC 10:00 a.m.


1. Welcome and Introductions.

The meeting started at 10:11 a.m., John Downey presiding.


John Downey, Laurie Hillstock, Kristen Kelly, Charles Boling, Bob Vawter, susan Kennedy, Kristy Walker, Mike Turner, Linda Capone Claussen, Steve Sachs, Scott Langhorst, Sue Ann Curran, Ralph Lucia, Rebecca Blankenship, Bill Hightower, Sheila Hobbs, Jamie Shetrone, Susan Beasley, Rio McBride, Inez Farrell, Mary Clare DiGiacomo, Ruth Smith, and Rebecca Kittleberger.

2. Update on ASAC actions concerning DDLC Reorganization.
Scott Langhorst read both of the ASAC resolutions to DDLC members which outlined the renaming of the ASAC DDLC to ASAC Educational Technology Committee and which clarified the role of the VCCS DDLC relative to the ASAC Educational Technology Committee.
Some DDLC members expressed concern about the proposed membership of the DDLC as worded. The wording left the appointment of DDLC members up to each College president, which is the current appointment structure a well. However, John and Scott pointed out that the CFAC representative to ASAC requested that faculty members also be appointed to the DDLC and noted that Vice Presidents were supportive of that request. Some members were concerned that some presidents might appoint a faculty member to the committee instead of an instructional technology person, who might have a broader knowledge of influencing academic technology issues. DDLC members discussed various options, including expanding the committee to include faculty representatives rather than replacing slots currently occupied by instructional technology personnel. John Downey indicated that he and Steve Sachs (the governance commission chair) would discuss DDLC committee membership with Dr. Sullivan.
Scott Langhorst read and explained the ASAC discussion item on reviewing the “VDEN Academic Standards” as it relates to proctored activities. Scott and Steve Sachs provided a history of the document and indicated that it was approved through the ASAC and ACOP back when distance learning consisted primarily of asynchronous compressed video courses. Scott mentioned that ASAC viewed the issues regarding proctoring to be broader than distance learning alone and requested a joint committee meeting at the next ASAC between the educational concerns and Educational Technology Committees. In the meantime, Scott emphasized that vice presidents were asked to survey faculty to determine the extent that proctored activities are currently happening at each college. He recommended that DDLC members should work with their VPs to ensure faculty are surveyed.
Steve Sachs talked about House Bill HR609 that just passed as part of the federal higher education reauthorization act. The bill requires colleges to verify the identity of each individual registered to take distance learning courses.

3. Update on Enterprise Initiatives.
Sue Ann Curran described current VCCS IT enterprise initiatives. Ralph Lucia then handed out a document updating the committee on ITS’ current and planned tasks that relate to Blackboard. He requested input from the committee on how to prioritize the list of tasks. Ralph Lucia also stated that ITS was still working on the Blackboard 6.3 test environment. Once that testing environment is ready, the Blackboard 6.3 upgrade can be tested to identify any issues that the upgrade may cause in production. In the meantime, Ralph wanted DDLC to provide feedback regarding the priorities of bringing the various building blocks identified at the last DDLC into production.
Ralph explained the two types of Building Blocks: Freeware & Open Source. Freeware comes “as is” at no cost. Since the source code is typically not provided with freeware, those building blocks cannot be altered if they cause any issues in production. Open Source software typically comes with the source code and thus can often be programmed differently if issues arise. Ralph also mentioned that although all of the building blocks requested at the last DDLC meeting come without a cost, ITS staff time devoted to testing and implementing such software should not be overlooked.
John Downey recommended, and the committee agreed, to start with the MERLOT Building Block as a test, since that was the only Open Source software provided by Blackboard that includes support. Once that building block is implemented and tested in the test database, then it could be launched in the production environment. Once that action is taken and the impact on end users is assessed, other building blocks could be tested using the same methodology. John suggested that the DDLC organize itself at the next meeting to develop a procedure for prioritizing additional Building Blocks for ITS. The document provided by Ralph is appended to these minutes.

Break for lunch.

Note: John Downey had to return to BRCC for faculty interviews. He asked Mary Clare DiGiacomo to fill in as chair for the afternoon.

4. Update/discussion on Course Coding for Distance Learning.
Rebecca Kittleberger handed out the “Course Coding in PeopleSoft” 3/30/06 draft and reported that the A&R Peoplesoft workgroup recommended that the document be approved by DDLC and subsequently by ASAC. Some DDLC members suggested that no one in the A&R workgroup has sufficient expertise in distance learning to understand the coding issues involved. DDLC made several suggestions for Rebecca to take back to the A&R workgroup. The major suggestions made by the DDLC included:
-Replace the term “Blended Courses” with “Hybrid/Blended Courses” so that the colleges that have used the term “Hybrid Courses” in publications can still use it.
-The committee suggested developing a category for real-time (synchronous) distance courses, such as those taught using Centra. The term “Virtual-RT” (real time) was suggested.
-DDLC Members discussed whether the term “Compressed Video” be changed to “Interactive Television”?
-If the LMS Panel is going to be used in the future for identifying courses, then should we be telling colleges that they do not have to use it now?

DDLC members discussed the possibility of a joint meeting between DDLC representatives and the A&R Peoplesoft workgroup in order to finalize the document for presentation at ASAC.

5. Blackboard Template Courses: Copy policy recommendation.
Steve Sachs recommended that the VCCS establish a policy in regards to coping courses designed as templates that do not follow the normal naming convention because they are templates and not courses offered in a given semester. Ralph Lucia explained that if a college gives VCCS ITS a course template, and indicates to them the number of courses that the college wants created based on the template, ITS can accommodate that request.

6. Update on the status of the VCCS DL Survey Committee.
Robert Vawter handed out and discussed the March 10, 2006, minutes of the DL Survey meeting.

7. “Refine toolsets in the shared course-management system.”
Robert Vawter asked the committee members to provide responses to Goal #18C, “Refine toolsets in the shared course-management system,” from the 2005-06 Chancellor’s Goals.
He indicated that members would be surveyed on this question after the New Horizons Conference. DDLC members asked for clarification regarding the meaning of “refine toolsets.” The committee was told that upgrading to Blackboard version 6.3 is one example and adding the MERLOT Building Block would be another. Bob also provided members with a list of tools that the VCCS MERLOT Team had identified in the MERLOT collection. The list is available at by clicking on “DL Tools,” which is located under the heading of “Dateline 2009 & MERLOT.”

8. Software titles purchased by the colleges to be run on their computers.
Robert Vawter told the committee that there are many software titles being purchased by multiple colleges without the benefit of pooling their purchases. The committee was told that AS&R is looking into the possibility of putting together a “software menu” of titles owned or being considered by several of our colleges. This menu would contain negotiated software prices that any college could purchase at substantial saving. This does not mean that the software would be enterprise versions but rather that contracts could be negotiated by the system for colleges to opt in or out of. The committee was asked if their colleges would be interested in this possibility, and many stated that they thought it was a good idea.

9. From the floor.
A committee member asked if there was a formal peer review form for distance learning courses. The committee was shown the “Quality Assurance for Asynchronous Distance Learning in the VCCS” plan that was drafted in 2000. This plan is located on the ITDE web site ( under the “For College” menu. Some members of the committee also asked if faculty should be required to receive training on how to teach a distance learning course. Some colleges have an On-line Academy for Distance Learning instructors and PVCC has an online certification program for its DL faculty.

10. Next meeting.
The next DDLC meeting is scheduled for Friday, June 2, 2006. The meeting location will be announced as the date approaches. Mary Clare reminded the group that elections for chairperson would occur at that meeting.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Blackboard & Merlot

From: Ralph Lucia []
Sent: Mon 4/3/2006 4:23 PM
To: John DowneyCc: Neil Matkin; Monty Sullivan;
Subject: Blackboard & Merlot


At the DDLC meeting on Friday, it was my understanding that the group recommended that the Merlot Building Block should be given a high priority. Many Building Blocks (both free and third party commercial varieties) have been suggested for implementation, but a procedure has not yet been established for the DDLC to recommend Blackboard Building Blocks for the VCCS shared Blackboard system. Again, it is my understanding that the deployment of the Merlot Building Block will serve as a starting point, and the DDLC will work to establish criteria and procedures for recommending other Building Blocks for system-wide deployment in the future. I am happy to report that the Merlot Building Block has now been deployed in the training instance of Blackboard. Blackboard Administrators are able to provide access to this instance for those who require it.

ITS requests that colleges assist in the testing of this Building Block. Upon completion of testing, ITS will deploy it as soon as feasible. We do, however, reserve the right to temporarily disable any Building Block as a troubleshooting measure should we experience problems in our production system. As I mentioned in the meeting, our sources at Blackboard inform us that Building Blocks are known to occasionally cause problems with Blackboard.

ITS staff requests that the DDLC also examine the features that will be available with the implementation of Version 6.3 and provide recommendations regarding which (if any) optional features should be made available immediately at the upgrade. Please see the attached for a list of 6.3 features. The training system mentioned above has been upgraded to Version 6.3 for colleges to preview these new features.


Student AND Faculty Blackboard Email Problems

Posted by Carol Childress, VCCS Client Services, on Monday, April 03, 2006 - 11:57 am:

The following service interruption notice has just been posted:

Missing Emails sent from Blackboard System

Due to problems last week with our move of Blackboard onto a new load balancing system, the Blackboard send mail function encountered problems trying to send emails from within the Blackboard system to email systems supporting students and faculty. Some emails may have been lost. Impact: Faculty and students who sent emails via Blackboard from last Thursday (Mar. 30) through 10:00 AM this morning (Apr. 3) should assume they did not arrive, and should resend the items.

Estimated Resolution Time:

Contact Information:
VCCS Client Services

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

MERLOT Teaching with Technology Webcast

On Thursday, March 30 at 1 pm EST free webcast, “MERLOT Teaching with Technology Webcast,” sponsored by MERLOT and the TLT Group, will explore how MERLOT’s online learning objects and other resources can assist faculty in teaching with technology. Members of the MERLOT Teaching and Technology discipline board will facilitate this interactive presentation, which will feature UNC faculty actively using MERLOT. The TLT Group, led by Steve Gilbert and Steve Ehrmann, works with institutions around the world to improve teaching and learning by making more appropriate and cost-effective use of information technology. The program will be led by Ray Purdom, UNC Greensboro, and John Prusch, SUNY Learning Network, and will feature Cathy Swift, Editor of Business Editorial Board, and Laura Franklin, Editor of World Languages Editorial Board who will showcase award winning materials from their disciplines. To register for this workshop, please visit:


Robert VawterDirector,
E-learning Delivery System Administrator
Virginia Community College System
804.819.4692 Fax: 804.819.4770

Monday, March 13, 2006

Summer 2006 Bb Requests

Request form:

We are now processing Summer06 *distributive course requests only. We are no longer combining classes. You must request one shell per class. If you have questions about this please call (825-2807).

Distance and hybrid course shells will automatically be created from data in SIS. You will be notified by email when this process is completed.

Requests will be processed every Friday.

*Types of courses:

  • Distance learning courses offer students the flexibility of completing some or all of their coursework and assignments without having to come on campus.
  • Hybrid courses, at TNCC, are defined as courses that meet for at least half the course time in face-to-face (f2f) mode and the remainder of the time online.
  • Distributive (Web enhanced) courses use technology in concert with face-to-face classes.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

New Online Student Orientation

The new online student orientation is now available. There is no on-campus orientation scheduled for Spring 8W2. Please direct your DL students to the following URL:

Friday, January 27, 2006

Spring 2006 Distance and Distributive Learning Blackboard Report

If you still need a distance, hybrid, or distributive course shell or an organization you must call Ruth Smith (825-2807) before requesting a course shell. Shells will be processed every Friday.
Request a New Course Shell
TNCC's Definitions
  • Distance learning courses offer students the flexibility of completing some or all of their coursework and assignments without having to come on campus.
  • Hybrid courses, at TNCC, are defined as courses that meet for at least half the course time in face-to-face (f2f) mode and the remainder of the time online.
  • Distributive (Web enhanced) courses use technology in concert with face-to-face classes.

• 478 Blackboard Course Shells created
• 29 No loads (contract class, cancelled classes, organizations, etc.)
449 Blackboard Shells loaded with students
9253 students loaded

• 33 Distance
• 92 Distributive
• 20 Hybrid
• 1 Other
146 Courses

• 10 Distance
• 89 Distributive
• 1 Organization
100 Courses

• 20 Distance
• 80 Distributive
• 1 Organization
• 1 Other
102 Courses

• 14 Distance
• 103 Distributive
• 2 Organizations
119 Courses

• 10 Distributive
• 1 Other
11 Courses