D2L Fusion 2014 conference recap

The University of Calgary was able to send a strong contingent to the annual Desire2Learn Fusion 2014 conference in Nashville. It is the best venue for the D2L user community to come together to learn bout how the tools can best be used to support diverse needs at institutions of all sizes, with representatives from around the world.

(many of) the UCalgary D2L team

D2L made some announcements about the product1 – the biggest ones being that the software itself is being rebranded as “Brightspace by D2L”, (although this won’t change anything in our D2L environment for some time) and that updates will be provided on a continuous cycle (so we won’t see jumps from version 10.4 to 10.5, because we’ll be updated on the fly as updates are made available). The “self directed training” course materials are also now being included in the core product, with updates provided by D2L (this was previously a rather expensive additional licensing cost, but having this level of training materials built into the product will benefit everyone, and save us some money, too).

We will be experimenting with Wiigio, which is a student-centric group collaboration tool that D2L purchased last year. It has been deployed on one of our test D2L servers, and we’ll be checking it out to see how it can help students to work together on projects. It looks like Wiigio could provide some really great tools for students:

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 2.31.02 PM

One thing the team learned as we attended all presentation tracks was that we have developed a truly world-class D2L implementation team here on campus. The change management, support, training, and technical integration has been equal to what has been done any institution. Our Peoplesoft integration is now better than what we had previously with Blackboard 8, and we’ve developed a data workflow that means we are able to repurpose the course and enrolment data in ways that would not have been possible prior to the switch to D2L.

We, as a team, had been so close to the moving parts that we hadn’t seen that, until we were able to collectively take a step back and compare to what has been done elsewhere. We’re extremely fortunate to have had the team, and the resources provided by the university, as we implemented this transition.

Now that we’ve had some time to digest what we learned at the conference, we’ve had a chance to discuss next steps. Perhaps the most important long term steps will involve fostering a community of D2L developers and innovators on campus. We need to connect the different groups that are building tools to integrate into D2L, as well as those who are discovering innovative uses for the tools that are built into the platform.

We are also in the early stages of setting up a Learning Technologies Advisory Group, which will be tasked with making key decisions around the adoption and configuration of tools such as D2L. This new ability to make informed decisions as a group will provide a sustainable level of governance to our implementation, which will serve us well in the long term. That group will be able to help figure out which of the new D2L features will be rolled out, to whom, and how they will be configured.

  1. I’ve posted my thoughts on some of them on my other blog, posted my notes from the conference, and Jon Kruithof at McMaster University has written up some great summaries from the conference []

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