Problems & Solutions in Course
Development Support & Tracking
Steve Gance, Ph.D.
Maria Del Rocio Nava Rodriguez, MS
Nov. 11, 2010 WCET 2
Online Learning Services (OLS) is composed of a group of full-time and
part-time staff and students led by Associate Provost Dr. Mark Jenkins.
OLS provides comprehensive services to departments and faculty
developing online courses. These services include:
• Course and program planning
• Budget planning and analysis for all aspects of course and program
• Curriculum and instructional design consultations
• Project management of course and program development
• Instructional media vetting and production
• Course maintenance and redevelopment
• Configuration, integration and development of technologies used in
teaching, learning and course development.
• Analysis of emerging educational technology
Nov. 11, 2010 WCET 3
• Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Technology
• MA in Software Human Factors, BS in Software Engineering
Steve’s role is to facilitate the design, development and evaluation of
elearning programs and courses implemented, supported and/or managed
by the department. He helps to integrate technologies and to design
supporting systems and processes to make the use of technology efficient
Maria Maria Del Rocio Nava Rodriguez
Maria received her Bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering from the
University of Guadalajara and a Master’s degree in Engineering
Management from Portland State. She has worked as a System Analyst
for Hewlett Packard and has successfully designed and deployed various
database systems. Her interests are in data design and task automation.
Portland State University an urban campus
with ~ 28,000 students.
Partial and fully online courses constitute
about 10% of the total courses offered.
OLS helps build and manage over 250 partial
and fully online courses per term (80% of
partial and full).
OLS services range from building entire
courses to consulting with faculty who build
their own courses. At minimum, we provide
basic configuration and course elements in
every course we support.
Nov. 11, 2010 4WCET
Four years ago: Two IDs
& two student workers
managed 30 courses
# courses managed has
risen almost ten-fold.
Today, three full-time
and a part-time ID track
up to 70 courses each
with 10 student and
Nov. 11, 2010 5WCET
A need for data and analytics on course
Expanded course quality efforts required
closer attention to each course.
Nov. 11, 2010 6WCET
We needed a solution that didn’t require a lot
of overhead to manage, was easy to use for
all IDs and course developers yet would
provide sufficient information to program
managers and IDs about the status of
Search for Solutions
Nov. 11, 2010 7WCET
Should we buy commercial software that might
meet our needs for tracking tasks or should we
build our own solution?
Why not project management software?
Course development has fits and starts,
multiple contingent tasks and missed
deadlines, without dedicated project manager.
Course development projects are often very
similar to each other. In contrast, projects,
by definition, are one-off.
Some course development is simple; didn’t
need overhead of project management.
Any software takes effort to learn; maybe we
could build software that supported our
Nov. 11, 2010 8WCET
What we built: A DB with course info
Online, hybrid and web-supported
Repeat versus new
Course build status
Ability to associate a course with client,
program manager, faculty and lead ID
Flexible search and filtering mechanism
Nov. 11, 2010 9WCET
What worked well
Filter by ID, program manager, client, status
Time tracking in categories
Rich source of data (and the right data)
Nov. 11, 2010 10WCET
What didn’t work so well
Status not sufficiently detailed to track
details of course development
Status cannot indicate breakdowns or cause
Nov. 11, 2010 11WCET
Enhancements to tracking
Developed a specification for a significant
expansion of task tracking. It was brilliant
but we balked at the effort.
Nov. 11, 2010 12WCET
Enhancements to tracking
Teambox selected, representing a return to
the original question “build or buy?” this time
with a different answer
◦ Capture of design conversations,
minimizing reliance on email
◦ File drop box to facilitate exchange of files
◦ Tasks assigned to faculty, IDs & staff
◦ Task reminders
Nov. 11, 2010 13WCET
Nov. 11, 2010 16WCET
Enhancements to the interface to provide
dashboard-based reporting and analytics holds
promise to provide an order of magnitude
improvement in effectiveness for IDs and
university administrators. But severe limitations
on resources continue to hamper progress.
For now, we continue to focus on incremental
improvements to accomplish what we can with
the resources we have.
Nov. 11, 2010 WCET 17
Steve Gance, Ph.D.
Maria Maria Del Rocio Nava Rodriguez, MS
Mark Jenkins, Ph.D.
Online Learning Services
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