New Connections andSpaces:Developing a Data ExchangeSystem to Support Innovationswithin BlackboardJim Turner & Jack Butter...
About Us~25,000 students (FTE: ~20,000)~2,500 full time staff.~5000 student/staff PCsPrimarily a Microsoft site, at le...
Data Exchange System (DES)Project started in 1999 as a tool to manage the creation of users accounts.Went on to automate...
What Does It Solve?Meanwhile, the number of systems within the University was growing, and these systems all needed infor...
What Is It Made Of?Microsoft Active Directory acts as the central hub for DES. We have extended to cope with or needs and...
1000 Words…                           Active Directory                                                Blackboard  Source S...
ExtensibilityThe systems are loosely coupled.Data contracts are drawn up by the integration team and the target system’s...
Blackboard: What We MaintainUsers   Account details (41,000);   Enrolments (current/past and their states);   Certain ...
Blackboard: How We CommunicateThrough various versions of Blackboard we have had to revise how we interact with it:  Bat...
Additional Benefits Within BlackboardQueuing the messages means that new data is always received in order (FIFO).Process...
Programme Community SitesGist: Allow a space to create a sense of community shared between all levels of a programme.No ...
Programme Community Sites (cont.)Modify DES to allow programme creates/modifies/deletes to be collected.Modify the integ...
Aims       13
Factors identified as most likely to allow the successful transition and retention of astudent into this new learning cult...
Process          15
Existing Practice Online induction                    Induction  Jan 2012                                Jan 2013         ...
Sites were           created with             content                          InductionJan 2012                          ...
Level 4 induction           Merging programmes           Automated induction                                 InductionJan ...
Jan 2012      Induction     Jan 201319
Outcomes 100.00% 90.00% 80.00% 70.00% 60.00% 50.00% 40.00% 30.00% 20.00% 10.00%  0.00%           20
Did you login to Blackboard before arriving? Yes    No    Can’t                                                          r...
45%I had a good understanding of what    40%to expect during my induction and     35%first few weeks at LJMU              ...
14Some sites having a higher        12percentage of percentage of       10cohort logging on and frequency    8of times acc...
Architecture               24
Architecture               Student N = 307               Students visited = 61%               Student logins = 6 per stude...
Architecture                                     Student N = 307                                     Students visited = 61...
Architecture                                     Student N = 307                                     Students visited = 61...
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Turner butterworth new connections and spaces3

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Here are the slides from the blackboard conference session. New connections and spaces, developing a data exchange system to support innovations in blackboard.

This session showed the details of how data is kept up to date and exchanged from the student information system into blackboard. This allows us to make accessible the blackboard community sites 4 weeks prior to students arriving on their course. I discussed the impact of the blackboard programme sites and Jack Butterworth provided the details of the process.


There were many questions, and people were interested in the efforts these sites might have on retention. Many of those who came to the session were in developer roles. They also commented that many of the presentations at the conference lacked a technical system wide detail.

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Turner butterworth new connections and spaces3

  1. 1. New Connections andSpaces:Developing a Data ExchangeSystem to Support Innovationswithin BlackboardJim Turner & Jack ButterworthLiverpool John Moores University10th April
  2. 2. About Us~25,000 students (FTE: ~20,000)~2,500 full time staff.~5000 student/staff PCsPrimarily a Microsoft site, at least student facing.Large Linux infrastructure on the business side. 2
  3. 3. Data Exchange System (DES)Project started in 1999 as a tool to manage the creation of users accounts.Went on to automate, in real time, post-user- creation tasks, previously run as nightly batch jobs.This helped to control workflow: a user must have an account before a mailbox, and more recently, an email address before a Blackboard account. 3
  4. 4. What Does It Solve?Meanwhile, the number of systems within the University was growing, and these systems all needed information about the users.Keeping these systems up-to-date was rapidly turning into an unmanageable spider web of point-to-point links, all running jobs at different times.This resulted in data discrepancies between systems for, occasionally, up to a month.Centralise synchronisation using DES. 4
  5. 5. What Is It Made Of?Microsoft Active Directory acts as the central hub for DES. We have extended to cope with or needs and use it a full directory service.DES collects these changes, hourly.Source systems must detect changes however they can, and DES is written to understand.Processes and distributes them as necessary.For the distribution we use Microsoft Message Queuing and XML (at least it does now). 5
  6. 6. 1000 Words… Active Directory Blackboard Source Systems SIS Print Accounting HR DES Libraries Target Systems Other Security Home Drives ... SIS HR Data Flow 6
  7. 7. ExtensibilityThe systems are loosely coupled.Data contracts are drawn up by the integration team and the target system’s custodians.An integration piece is written, which processes the data sent from DES and interacts as needs be with the target system.DES is updated so that it knows that this new system exists, and what it needs to know about. 7
  8. 8. Blackboard: What We MaintainUsers  Account details (41,000);  Enrolments (current/past and their states);  Certain roles (used to manage access rights for tabs and building blocks);Courses  “Master modules” (14,000)  “Offering modules” per year / term (71,000)Programme Community Sites (125)Updated hourly 8
  9. 9. Blackboard: How We CommunicateThrough various versions of Blackboard we have had to revise how we interact with it: Batch files and the batch file loader; Using the Blackboard .NET API;Current: almost exclusively using the Blackboard web services API.Though we’ve also written one of our own web services (using the Blackboard Java API), and still make the occasional database call. 9
  10. 10. Additional Benefits Within BlackboardQueuing the messages means that new data is always received in order (FIFO).Processing stops on serious errors and the queue is left building up until the issue is resolved. This has proved invaluable during upgrades.Keep multiple instances up-to-date: development, upgrade testing by adding one more queue pointing at that new instance. 10
  11. 11. Programme Community SitesGist: Allow a space to create a sense of community shared between all levels of a programme.No notion of programme within our Blackboard setup.Programme vs. Plan (Campus Solutions).Consult with programme leaders to merge programmes/plans into communities. 11
  12. 12. Programme Community Sites (cont.)Modify DES to allow programme creates/modifies/deletes to be collected.Modify the integration piece to understand.Create them programmatically, with default content (and modify / delete).Programme information was already in the DES message, to organise course enrolments in the XML, but was never used.Started using it… 12
  13. 13. Aims 13
  14. 14. Factors 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.Being alert and responsive to changing patterns of students’ engagementin higher education 14
  15. 15. Process 15
  16. 16. Existing Practice Online induction Induction Jan 2012 Jan 2013 16
  17. 17. Sites were created with content InductionJan 2012 Jan 2013 17
  18. 18. Level 4 induction Merging programmes Automated induction InductionJan 2012 Jan 2013 18
  19. 19. Jan 2012 Induction Jan 201319
  20. 20. Outcomes 100.00% 90.00% 80.00% 70.00% 60.00% 50.00% 40.00% 30.00% 20.00% 10.00% 0.00% 20
  21. 21. Did you login to Blackboard before arriving? Yes No Can’t remember 58% 33% 11%The Programme Handbook gave mea good overview of my course 50% 45% 40% 35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 10% 5% 0% 21
  22. 22. 45%I had a good understanding of what 40%to expect during my induction and 35%first few weeks at LJMU 30% 25% 20% 15% 10% 5% 0% 45%The induction timetable provided 40%clear details on where my induction 35% 30%sessions would be taking place. 25% 20% 15% 10% 5% 0% 22
  23. 23. 14Some sites having a higher 12percentage of percentage of 10cohort logging on and frequency 8of times accessed (a statically 6significant correlation). 4 2 0 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% 2/10/2012 23
  24. 24. Architecture 24
  25. 25. Architecture Student N = 307 Students visited = 61% Student logins = 6 per student 25
  26. 26. Architecture Student N = 307 Students visited = 61% Student logins = 6 per student 450 400 350 300 250 200 150 100 50 0 1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37 39 41 26
  27. 27. Architecture Student N = 307 Students visited = 61% Student logins = 6 per student 450 400 350 300 250 200 150 100 50 0 1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37 39 41 27

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