MVC Teaching & Learning Center Open House

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During 2017 Spring Return Week, the Teaching & Learning Center held an open house session inviting all employees to this newly redesigned space. The space (W162 in front of the library) is now home to both eLearning and Professional Development staff.

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By consolidating existing staff into a single location (W162), we can begin to provide the institution with a consistent presence and drop‐in support related to the new scope of services under eLearning and Professional Development. Lack of presence and drop‐in support has been a missing element, as noted by faculty during previous return weeks.

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We’ve only just begin to fully operate within our new space and look forward to serving the institution in innovative ways in the future. Currently, the most common use of the space has been by faculty looking to schedule dedicated eCampus support (beyond the introductory sessions offered by the Instructional Support Labs) and employees curious about their Staff Enrichment Reports. We are also collaborating with the 3i Committee (aka the Teaching & Learning Committee) to customize future support models and services within the space. In case you haven’t had a chance to drop by, we highly encourage you to explore this new space!

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eCampus Maintenance in December

December 27-January 2, 2016

eCampus (aka Blackboard) is currently scheduled for a maintenance upgrade December 27-January 2, 2016. While there is no “best” time for such maintenance or scheduled downtime, this was determined to be the most ideal time as recommended  by selected committees (DELT, AVP’s, VP’s, TILT, and LCET) across the district.

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Impact on Wintermester

Enrollment data tells us the dates selected will affect the fewest number of students and faculty.  Unfortunately, for those who teach during wintermester, this down-time will need to be taken into consideration when setting up wintermester courses.  Students and faculty will not have access to eCampus during this period.

Communication and Awareness

At this time, the following recommendations are to take place regarding the maintenance period and eCampus communication:

  • Faculty are being informed via Distance Education and Learning Technologies Council (DELT) representatives, so wintermester courses can be developed with this eCampus “shut down” period in mind
  • Soon, announcements will appear in eCampus login page for students and faculty
  • Soon, announcements will appear in eCampus Faculty Tab
  • Faculty to communicate with students early in wintermester about this (such as adding information in course syllabi for wintermester courses)
  • Completion status posted in eCampus as maintenance period completes

Additional Details from District

TO: ALL FACULTY

Distance Education and Learning Technologies (DELT) Council representatives, Vice Presidents of Instructions and others have been made aware in recent months of a need to make the eCampus (Blackboard) environment unavailable during the forthcoming Wintermester for system upgrade purposes. Originally, the down period was intended to run December 27 to 31. Recent planning and testing for this event has indicated additional time is required and we are asking faculty to make plans that accommodate the system being unavailable from Dec 27 to Jan 2. It is possible that the planned upgrading of the system could be completed before Jan 2.

WHAT?

The eCampus system will be unavailable from December 27th through January 2nd due to an upgrade.  The Blackboard system will undergo two major changes:

  • Move from a Managed Hosting environment to a SaaS environment (Software-as-a-Service)
  • Upgrade from our current release October 2014 CU4 to October 2016 CU2

WHY?

  • SaaS deployment provides a cloud-computing environment with zero to minimal downtime.  The SaaS model allows for faster delivery of maintenance, updates, and fixes, and the cloud platform easily scales during periods of high usage.
  • Other than maintenance releases, our system has not been upgraded in two years.

WHY NOW?

  • eCampus has become a true 365x24x7 system with very little flexibility in scheduling downtime.  Moving to SaaS will eliminate the need to take the system down for standard maintenance and upgrades.
  • Moving to a SaaS environment requires us to be on the most recent release.  Upgrades going forward will be made using the Flexible Deployment Option.  This means we will continue to schedule when we want the new functionality but we should not incur any downtime.
  • We recently signed a new two-year contract with Blackboard that allows us to move to SaaS with the option of deploying their latest offering, ULTRA, at our convenience.  Moving to ULTRA will be a separate project and will not occur until after the Spring semester.

ECAMPUS UPGRADE DETAILS – BACKGROUND & TECHNICAL NOTES FOR THOSE THAT NEED MORE INFORMATION

Over the past several years staff have continued to look for ways to improve system availability and reliability.  In August of 2013, DCCCD moved from a self-hosted environment to a managed hosted environment.  This move helped decrease outage times due to hardware and network related issues.  Over the past three years, the system has been very stable and we have experienced very minimal downtime.  However, due to circumstances such as data center issues, hardware, etc. there were a few instances where service was interrupted.

The next evolution is Software as a Service (SaaS).  This is a software distribution model that is cloud based.  Cloud services such as SaaS provide more on-demand resources and are scalable to meet peak demand.

Our existing contract with Blackboard expired on August 31st, 2016.  In signing a two-year extension with them DCCCD picked up the option to go to the SaaS platform with their latest product offering, ULTRA.  The advantage of this is that implementation can be in stages and not force faculty and students to make any major changes until we have had time to pilot ULTRA and training before implementation.  DCCCD will wait until the product is deemed fully functional before deploying (summer of 2017 at the earliest).  In making this decision DCCCD is positioned for providing the latest technology, the latest software offerings and the best system availability.

New to eCampus (Blackboard)?

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If you’re a brand new faculty member or have yet to utilize eCampus (aka Blackboard) for your courses, then it’s not too late to get up to speed. In fact tutorials and support are always available.

First Step – eCampus Training

Below are steps outlined for just-in-time training related to eCampus. This training can be completed immediately, at your own pace, and prepares you for internet teaching certification.

  1. Visit eConnect: https://econnect.dcccd.edu
    1. Log in with your 3×4 number and windows password
  2. Click on Register for Staff Enrichment Classes
    1. Select current term and “XDLP – Distance Learning” as course before clicking Submit
    2. Select “Ecampus Online Training/Assess” and click Submit

Next Step – Design Consultation

Once you’ve reviewed the training above, please feel free to schedule a one-on-one consultation to answer content-specific questions and help guide your first steps. Your on-campus resource for all things related to eCampus is Steve Sosa (that’s me), Dean of eLearning and Instructional Support. My calendar is populated within Outlook and I’d be glad to meet with you. My first suggestion of course will be to complete the online training so that you have a baseline of understanding with the learning management system.

I look forward to working with you and supporting all eLearning efforts at MVC.