Ah, it’s that time of year. We’re renegotiating contracts, purchasing software, setting up pilot programs to test potential purchases. For your Friday Fluff, here’s what it looks like when you try that stuff elsewhere. (Thanks, Kirk!)
I love that stanza from The Walrus and the Carpenter by Lewis Carroll. It almost always trips through my mind when I have to tell someone something they don’t want to hear. I’ve had to do that several times over the past couple of weeks, as we’ve upgraded to Blackboard 9. Probably the most troublesome news for many has been that Bb9 and certain browsers, including Internet Explorer, do not play well together.
The answer has been to use a different browser, which can be daunting. If you’ve always used Explorer or Safari, for example, you may be suspicious of attempts to switch you to some other software. We do get set in our ways: I started off with Netscape Navigator/Communicator “back in the day” and I swore I’d never switch to Internet Explorer. Now I’m entrenched in “IE” and have been reluctant to try FireFox, which I’m told by so many people is “better.”
And, indeed, Firefox is the browser that Bb9 seems to work with the best. Using Firefox rather than IE or Safari fixes problems such as file and media access. And, I must admit, it certainly runs faster and smoother than IE on my computer. I’m still grumpy about that, though.
Although we’re working with Bb to find out what’s being done on the browser front, the time has come to seriously consider downloading and using Firefox, even if only for Bb9 interface for the immediate future. (If you decide to do it, download here).
For those who have never used Firefox, I really do kind of hate to tell someone to download new software so that they can use other new software. I will tell you, though, that I’ve done it myself, and it didn’t take up loads of space or cause me to have to take a course in browser utility. And I can still make choices about which browser I want to use for what. I prefer to still have some choices left to me. Hey, if I’m going to cry, I’d rather be the Walrus than the oysters.“I weep for you,” the Walrus said. “I deeply sympathize.” With sobs and tears he sorted out those of the largest size, holding his pocket handkerchief before his streaming eyes.
Office Communicator (OCS) is now available on UK’s campus to all faculty, staff and students. Among other things, having OCS means connecting two or more people in real time through text, audio and/or video (or any combination). Send quick messages back and forth (whether you use a PC or a Mac) for immediate response from others using OCS, or have a video meeting if you can’t make it for a face-to-face. Users will need to have a Link Blue account and download while on campus (best bet for getting everything to go well in setup). PC users can also download and integrate Live Meeting with OCS (a virtual space for meetings and presentations), and they can include people outside UK in those Live Meeting sessions.
Find more information at the UK OCS Wiki. Users in departments with support staff will need to coordinate client software installation with their support staff. Once you’re up, you can add me as a contact to test: Patsy Carruthers.
For a little background, if you are unfamiliar with instant messaging, here’s a Wikipedia article, an Encyclopaedia Britannica article, and an EDUCAUSE article titled 7 Things You Should Know About Instant Messaging.
I read a commentary this morning in The Chronicle of Higher Education that made me literally nod my head, as if I were having a conversation with the author. The column is about the inevitibility of the online course. Love it, hate it, ignore it … it doesn’t matter: it’s here and it’s staying.
The author, Margaret Small, writes: “Within our lifetimes, technology has fundamentally changed the way we get the news, make purchases, and communicate with others. … It’s not just the convenience. It’s the integration of technology within society that’s driving the development of online courses.”
I usually hate to pull out a long quote from someone else’s work, but she put it so well. And it struck a chord with me. I came to the university from the land of media technology and communications - print journalism and educational television (with a stopover as an English and journalism teacher). My roots have always been firmly planted in the written word (that’s why I blog, people) and the newspaper and newsmagazine. That profession is changing daily. My friends still in that profession are learning it every day through changing job descriptions, company makeovers, and, ugh, losing their jobs.
What does this have to do with the online course? I’m glad you asked. It’s a sign of the times. It is what it is. It’s the new reality. [Insert your own cliche here.] Traditional media is struggling with both its delivery and its business model. So is traditional higher education. At the same time both are struggling, two things are happening: 1). they’re being undercut when lower quality offerings take advantage of digital delivery; and 2.) they are being outpaced when high quality offerings come from institutions that have caught on and are off and running in the digital now (it’s not the future anymore).
Instead of complaining about it, we need to assume leadership, develop the tools and set the standards for online learning. If we don’t … well, just look to the newspaper industry to find out what happens next.
Why am I at work today? I certainly am among the minority.
If you’re stuck at work, too, might as well watch some video. (I’m kidding, really.) YouTube has launched a Classic TV Channel - hey, they have to do something about Hulu. Examples include Star Trek, Bewitched, Alfred Hitchcock, the Lone Ranger, TV’s Baseball Hall of Fame, Dragnet and so much more. Click here to see it.
I recently was asked to provide some start-up instructions for using Wet Paint for a wiki. What follows is a brief how-to for getting your Wet Paint page up and running:
Create a Wet Paint wiki or Web page
(Estimated time to complete: approximately 60-90 minutes)
- Go to http://www.wetpaint.com/.
- Under “Create a free website about anything you love!” there are two lines to type in. Next to Name Your Site, type a name for your wiki. This would be like a title. Example: History Happening… (which would create that title on your wiki page – you can change this later).
- Next to Choose Your URL, type the identifier you want in the URL, or “address” line. Example: sasasianhistory (which would make the URL http://sasasianhistory.wetpaint.com – choose wisely, as you cannot change this).
- Click the big GO button.
- Follow instructions for describing your site and choosing the category. Decide who can see your site and who can edit your site, and then click on the Continue to Step 2 button.
- Choose a style for your site (click on the left and right green arrows to see more choices), and then scroll down and preview. Click on Continue to Step 3 when you are done.
- Fill in the requested information, then click on Next, invite some friends to help out.
- Add readers/editors, or if you do not want to add anyone (you can change this later), click on just create my site (to the right of the Send the invitations button).
- Check the inbox of the email you provided. Save this email! If you think you’ll need it, record your password to save with the email.
- Edit your wiki by using the editing buttons at the top of the page.
Pretty easy! For a video explanation, including more about getting started once you get your own wiki page, click here.
Here’s an entertaining and informational video about Fair Use, along with a code of best practices to accompany it (scroll down beneath the video on the Web page … keep scrolling, it’s there). Bonus: Today’s post is NOT about Blackboard 9.
To view and read, visit the Center for Social Media (American University’s School of Communication). Also, I’ve posted the video in my “pod” (see column at left on this page).
If you have logged in to Blackboard today at the University of Kentucky, you will have found that the gentle yellow reminder box is now a blazing red. We are very serious about the IMPORTANT INFORMATION CLICK this! message. The link takes you to Bb9 start-up reminders and a quick link to known issues and their workarounds in Bb9.
We’re still getting many questions covering the topics included on the known issues page, so I’m trying to put it out in as many forums as possible. In that spirit, see below the currently known issues and workarounds
Known Issues and Problems in Blackboard
- Forum titles (in Discussion Board) appear in alphabetical order instead of the order specified by the instructor. The alphabetizing is a new feature. If you prefer a different order, here’s the workaround: Precede each Forum title with a number (01, 02, 03, etc.) or a letter (A., B., C., etc.).
- If students are having difficulty downloading content (PowerPoints, documents, etc.) using Internet Explorer, they should try using Mozilla Firefox 3 instead (http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/). This appears to be a workable solution until support staff can work with Blackboard to correct the problem.
- Columns in the Grade Center cannot be deleted. Check the Wiki for a workaround by hiding them.
- Grades cannot be saved in the Grade Center. Check the Wiki for the solution.
Saving grades solution
- Web Browsers are getting old and are not supported any more. Go to the Wiki to see the table of Web Browser information.
- Firefox does not play MP3 audio files correctly.
Audio File Aternative
- Internet Explored 8 and Timed Tests.
Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 Important Info
If you’ve never added a post to a blog or wiki in Blackboard before, here are some tips – including how to resize an oversized photo. These instructions were created using Internet Explorer 7, and they also work for Firefox 3. See the Blackboard Wiki (Help Web Site) for a list of certified browsers that work with Bb.
- Go to the blog or wiki in the course where you want to upload a photo.
- In the blog post, click on the insert photo button (there’s an image of a tree on the button).
- In the pop-up box, click the circle next to Upload an image to choose that option.
- Click on Browse.
- Choose a photo from your computer to upload.
- Click on Upload. (Upload will be at the bottom of the pop-up box; if you don’t see it, resize the pop-up box as a little larger).
- Wait. (It took me 10 seconds or so before I saw a result. It could even take longer depending upon how your connection is running today – your Internet provider may have a lot of traffic).
- When presented with the choice, click Insert.
- The photo will insert. If it is huge because you were unable to edit it before inserting it, you can change the size. Do so by right-clicking on the image to get a pop-up menu.
- Click on Image Properties from the pop-up menu.
- Choose the Appearance tab.
- Change the Dimensions to something much smaller (you might be guessing what number to type, but you can play with this until it’s right for you – just keep using that right-click menu). Tip: You only have to change one number for Dimensions; the other number will change to the appropriate proportional number.
- I also recommend that you choose your Alignment (left, middle, etc.) from the drop-down menu, and that you type the number 2 (at least two, maybe more) next to Vertical Space, Horizontal Space and Border, which give syou more space around the image.
- When you are finished, click on Update. (Update will be at the bottom of the pop-up box; if you do not see it, resize the box a little larger.)
If you need to re-adjust, right-click on the photo again to choose Image Properties. Tip: As you save, if you get a message about not having an Image Description, and if you want to add one, you will find it under the General tab in the pop-up box for Image Properties.
We’re starting to crawl out from under the Bb9 upgrade, so I feel good about going back to my usual Friday Fluff posts! Today, you fill in the blank: “________ is like herding cats!” I’m sure you have a good idea of what to put there. Sometimes moving people to a new release of the course management software is very much like herding cats! Enjoy, and happy Friday.