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New Connections and Spaces: Developing a Data Exchange System to Support Innovations within Blackboard

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  • 1. New Connections andSpaces:Developing a Data ExchangeSystem to Support Innovationswithin BlackboardNames Jim Turner & Jack ButterworthDate 10th April
  • 2. 2Liverpool John Moores University
  • 3. 3About Us~25,000 students (FTE: ~20,000)~2,500 full time staff.~5000 student/staff PCsPrimarily a Microsoft site, at least studentfacing.Large Linux infrastructure on the businessside.
  • 4. 4Data Exchange System (DES)Project started in 1999 as a tool to manage thecreation of users accounts.Went on to automate, in real time, post-user-creation tasks, previously run as nightly batchjobs.This helped to control workflow: a user musthave an account before a mailbox, and morerecently, an email address before a Blackboardaccount.
  • 5. 5What Does It Solve?Meanwhile, the number of systems within theUniversity was growing, and these systems allneeded information about the users.Keeping these systems up-to-date was rapidlyturning into an unmanageable spider web ofpoint-to-point links, all running jobs at differenttimes.This resulted in data discrepancies betweensystems for, occasionally, up to a month.Centralise synchronisation using DES.
  • 6. 6What Is It Made Of?Microsoft Active Directory acts as the centralhub for DES. We have extended to cope withor needs and use it a full directory service.DES collects these changes, hourly.Source systems must detect changes howeverthey can, and DES is written to understand.Processes and distributes them as necessary.For the distribution we use Microsoft MessageQueuing and XML (at least it does now).
  • 7. 71000 Words…Active DirectoryBlackboardPrint AccountingLibrariesSecurityHome Drives...SISHROtherSISHRDESData FlowTargetSystemsSourceSystems
  • 8. 8ExtensibilityThe systems are loosely coupled.Data contracts are drawn up by the integrationteam and the target system’s custodians.An integration piece is written, whichprocesses the data sent from DES andinteracts as needs be with the target system.DES is updated so that it knows that this newsystem exists, and what it needs to knowabout.
  • 9. 9Blackboard: What We MaintainUsers Account details (41,000); Enrolments (current/past and their states); Certain roles (used to manage access rights for tabsand building blocks);Courses “Master modules” (14,000) “Offering modules” per year / term (71,000)Programme Community Sites (125)Updated hourly
  • 10. 10Blackboard: How We CommunicateThrough various versions of Blackboard wehave had to revise how we interact with it:Batch files and the batch file loader;Using the Blackboard .NET API;Current: almost exclusively using theBlackboard web services API.Though we’ve also written one of our own webservices (using the Blackboard Java API), andstill make the occasional database call.
  • 11. 11Additional Benefits Within BlackboardQueuing the messages means that new datais always received in order (FIFO).Processing stops on serious errors and thequeue is left building up until the issue isresolved.This has proved invaluable during upgrades.Keep multiple instances up-to-date:development, upgrade testing by adding onemore queue pointing at that new instance.
  • 12. 12Programme Community SitesGist: Allow a space to create a sense ofcommunity shared between all levels of aprogramme.No notion of programme within our Blackboardsetup.Programme vs. Plan (Campus Solutions).Consult with programme leaders to mergeprogrammes/plans into communities.
  • 13. 13Programme Community Sites (cont.)Modify DES to allow programmecreates/modifies/deletes to be collected.Modify the integration piece to understand.Create them programmatically, with defaultcontent (and modify / delete).Programme information was already in theDES message, to organise course enrolmentsin the XML, but was never used.Started using it…
  • 14. 14The programme level community sites
  • 15. 15Aims
  • 16. 16Factors identified as most likely to allow the successful transition and retention of astudent into this new learning culture are:Proactive management of student transitionEarly access to information and avoidance of information overloadDeveloping understanding of expectations of university studyA focus on integration and developing a sense of belonging (eg buildingstaff-student / student-student relationships)A supportive climate that focuses on goal-setting and developmentalfeedback in the early stages, but then sustains the focus on developmentand personal growthBetter integration of support services.Curricular structures that increase the likelihood of early academicsuccessStructured opportunities (eg groupwork) to help socialisation and developcritical peer support networksBeing alert and responsive to changing patterns of students’ engagementin higher education
  • 17. 17Process
  • 18. 18InductionJan2012Jan2013Existing PracticeOnline induction
  • 19. 19InductionJan2012Jan2013Sites werecreated withcontent
  • 20. 20InductionJan2012Jan2013Merging programmesAutomated inductionLevel 4 induction
  • 21. 21InductionJan2012Jan2013
  • 22. 22Outcomes0.00%10.00%20.00%30.00%40.00%50.00%60.00%70.00%80.00%90.00%100.00%
  • 23. 23Yes No Can’tremember58% 33% 11%Did you login to Blackboard before arriving?The Programme Handbook gave mea good overview of my course0%5%10%15%20%25%30%35%40%45%50%
  • 24. 240%5%10%15%20%25%30%35%40%45%I had a good understanding of whatto expect during my induction andfirst few weeks at LJMUThe induction timetable providedclear details on where my inductionsessions would be taking place.0%5%10%15%20%25%30%35%40%45%
  • 25. 250%10%20%30%40%50%60%70%80%2/10/201202468101214Some sites having a higherpercentage of percentage ofcohort logging on and frequencyof times accessed (a staticallysignificant correlation).
  • 26. 26Architecture
  • 27. 27ArchitectureStudent N = 307Students visited = 61%Student logins = 6 per student
  • 28. 28ArchitectureStudent N = 307Students visited = 61%Student logins = 6 per student0501001502002503003504004501 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37 39 41Student N = 307Students visited = 61%Student logins = 6 per student
  • 29. 29ArchitectureStudent N = 307Students visited = 61%Student logins = 6 per student0501001502002503003504004501 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37 39 41Student N = 307Students visited = 61%Student logins = 6 per student