Monday, January 28, 2013

Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI)

LTI is a standard that allows third-party tools to securely integrate with Desire2Learn (D2L) and other Learning Management Systems (LMSs).

Why does this matter? 

As an example, integrating a book publisher’s site with D2L would allow students to be able to access e-books and electronic content right through D2L – no additional username or password or external site to bookmark. LTI allows D2L and the external site talk to each other so that each student in the class automatically has an account at the third party vendor's site and then can access it via D2L. 

Faculty report that students frequently express frustration with accessing multiple external sites in addition to D2L. It's unlikely anyone enjoys creating additional usernames and passwords, then having to learn the layout of another site. Some faculty conscientiously limit the number of new logins and sites they require their students to use. Integrating tools with D2L via LTI would eliminate this issue.

In addition, LTI allows the instructor to integrate external tools that require a login like they would any free online resource or D2L tool - they can provide a link on the D2L Content page directly to a page of an e-book, a learning object in a repository, or a discussion forum in Piazza. This provides the students a more user-friendly experience, allowing them to focus on the content - not the technology.

Some vendors provide additional features to benefit instructors when their tool is integrated with the LMS. For instance, integration with McGraw-Hill Connect would allow the scores from learning activities to go into the D2L gradebook, eliminating the need for instructors to manually enter those scores in D2L. In addition, some vendors such as CourseSmart offer instructors access to preview their entire e-text library.

What tools integrate with D2L via LTI?

This site indicates which tools are able to integrate with D2L and other LMSs like Blackboard or Moodle. The list has grown considerably since I first learned about LTI in the spring of 2012. Some samples are CourseSmart, Courseload, Piazza, Wordpress, MyOpenMath, ChemVantage, Barnes and Noble Nook, and VoiceThread.

How do we get LTI?

That's not the right question. LTI is not an additional program to install or anything; it is already built into D2L. It is just the standard that makes integration with these other sites possible securely. (I included this because this was a question I first had when I learned about it)

Ok then, how do we get third-party vendors integrated with D2L via LTI?

It varies depending on the vendor. 

Some vendors such as CourseSmart require a contract and a relationship with the integration team. The verdict seems to be that vendors who require a contract are not an option for UWEC right now due to the legal complexity of signing a contract (regardless of whether a cost is involved).

Many sites such as Piazza and Barnes and Noble have the installation instructions right on their websites and may just require an email with an integration person at the company to get it set up. They say that the installation is simple, but I am not the person to make this judgement! 

Here's what we need to determine at UWEC to move forward:

  • How do we decide which third party vendors integrate? What are our criteria? 
    • Faculty interest - there's no point in putting forth the effort to set up the integration if no one will use it. Are there a certain number of faculty who need to be interested, or is it ok to move forward with one person, try it out, and then promote it to the campus? 
    • No contract required. Nothing to sign. No contingencies. 
    • No cost! At least no up front cost - if we do end up integrating a book publisher, we'd need what they call a student choice model (aka, students pay for their own books). 
    • Security...but doesn't the existence of the LTI standard eliminate security concerns?
    • What else? 
  • Who is involved in making these decisions and then who actually makes the integration happen? 
    • Obviously the D2L admin, security representative, executive director, and CIO need to be involved - I can relay the faculty interest since they will probably ask me about it and research the tool by itself. Who else? 
I'll keep you posted on our progress! 

Caveat: I just want to say that I am not an expert on LTI and my expertise leans a bit more toward the educational side than the technical side, so I may not be 100% on all the technical details. Please comment if you can clarify anything. 

How to Modify your Google Profile

I helped a class with Blogger last week and a few students were wondering how to change their Blogger display name. Unfortunately, it did not seem to be the same for everyone and I'm not sure why. Here is how I can change my blogger profile name - I do not have a Google+ account associated with it. (Oddly enough, I couldn't find these instructions via Google...) If you have insight into why it's different for others and/or how to do the same thing with different views, please comment.

When logged in to Blogger, click the drop down by your name on the top right.

You should then see something like I have below (my email is blocked out in purple).

Click on the words Blogger profile. On the top right, you'll see an orange button that says "Edit Profile." Click on that and then the second category, below Privacy, says Identity. This is where you can change your display name to whatever you want (just make sure your professor can identify you, if you are using it for a class).

Here is how to change your name for all Google products (or change it back if you didn't mean to do it): 

Instead of clicking Blogger profile in the image above, click Account settings. Then you'll see a screen like the one below. I have a profile image in here, I think from when I had Google Plus (that little puppy is now 125 lbs!). Under the image, choose Edit your profile, which is marked with the blue arrow (the purple area is covering up my email).

Then on the next screen, it's kind of tricky because you just click wherever you want to change something. I know it says click on the parts of your profile you want to edit, but it's still odd. When you click on your name, you will get a screen like the one below where you can change your name.

If you change it here, Google will warn you that name changes are infrequent in reality and they restrict the number of times you can change your name.

How to Delete Google+

I really thought Google+ was going to be the next big thing when it came out, but I was wrong! I actually deleted it because it kept trying to get me to use it and +1 things and integrate everything with it which was annoying. I followed the instructions in this video to delete my Google+ account. Basically, you login to Google+, click the drop down on the top right (as you did above), click on Account settings, click on Account overview, and then choose "Delete profile and remove associated Google+ features." Don't click the next option to delete your entire Google account.

BEWARE (update 8/11/13): I just helped someone set up a Google account and then delete Google+. Because it had somehow linked her YouTube account with Google+, deleting Google+ deactivated her YouTube account and made her videos private. It was easy to fix, but could be confusing. Google is trying really hard to make people keep their Google+ accounts, whether they want to or not.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

YouTube Record Webcam

My favorite tool to share with faculty creating online courses is the YouTube Record Webcam feature. Webcam videos or "talking heads" can be nice for an introduction to a module, an introduction of yourself, telling stories related to the content, course updates for the News area, assignment instructions, or anything else in which it is helpful to see the instructor. It is not necessary to record yourself lecturing about the content for an online class, but it is nice to have a few videos of yourself here and there to add your personality and show your excitement for the content.

The benefit of this option is that you can record directly to YouTube rather than recording a webcam video and saving it to your computer, then uploading it to YouTube. Basically, this is the easiest way to record a webcam video. Even if you use no other technologies to create content for your online course, I recommend considering this one.

1. To get started, to go the address (The space in between "my" and "webcam" is an underscore - one of these things: _  Of course you can just click on the blue link! You may want to bookmark it.

2. Login to YouTube if necessary. Since YouTube is owned by Google, a Google account will work (gmail, Google Docs, etc).
  • Important note: you will need to create a YouTube username the first time you upload a video. When I help people get set up with YouTube, we first go to YouTube directly (, login, and then click Upload. It then will prompt you to create a YouTube username and you can continue. 
  • This also applies if you are sharing a video created on an iPad or if you are uploading directly from a program like Camtasia that has an option to publish directly to YouTube. It's kind of tricky. If you are unable to upload and are new to YouTube, it is likely that this is your problem. 
  • Tip: If you see an email address on the top right corner, that is a sign you probably need to create a YouTube username. 
3. Anyway, when you are logged in to YouTube, you will see something like the image below, except with you in it instead of me! Consider your background - mine is kind of busy.

4. Click the red Start Recording button at the bottom of the screen when you're ready. To ensure you are recording audio, you will see green lines moving on the right side of the screen. Always look for the green lines to be moving! It's really frustrating to record a whole video without any audio.

5. When you're done, you will click in the same area to stop recording. If you do not like what you just recorded, you can click there again to start over. 

6. When you are satisfied, you can click Upload, which will be a blue button to the right of the Start Recording button. 

7. YouTube will then bring you to a screen where you can change the title of your video (by default it will say something like "webcam video" and the date). You can also adjust your settings. 
  • You can set the video privacy to "Unlisted" which means that only people with the link can find the video - it won't come up as a suggestion or in searches. 
  • I don't recommend using "Private" because you'd have to email the link to everyone in the class. It is likely there would be problems accessing it. Private is an ok option if you are just sharing a video with 1 or 2 people. 
  • Then, of course, Public means that anyone can access it and it may come up in searches and suggestions. I set my videos to Public when I think they are something that the world at large may find helpful. I figure that since I get a lot of free help from YouTube, I might as well give back when I can. 

Of course, you need a webcam to do this. Recent laptops will have one built in. If you are UWEC faculty and you need a webcam, you can get one from CETL. You may also want to use a microphone if your audio from the built in microphone on a laptop is not satisfactory. CETL has both headset mics and table mics. I recommend a table mic so you don't look like a dork with a headset on in your videos :) 

Do you have an iPad? 

If you have an iPad, it's even easier! Just go to the Camera app, toggle it to Camcorder to record video, and record away. The iPad does an excellent job of recording video and audio. Then when you're done, click the Share button and you should be able to send it right to YouTube. 

However, you will need to have created a YouTube username before doing this. (We recently learned that the hard way - if it won't let you upload to YouTube, follow the instructions in the bullets under #2 above). 

Then what do I do with the video? 

It's ideal if you embed the video into D2L so that the students can view it right there rather than clicking on a link to go to YouTube. Going to YouTube is not a horrible option, but it is really professional to be able to play the video right in D2L. It is also nice to avoid all the distractions on YouTube by not even going there. I don't know about you, but I'm always logged into Google on my computer and YouTube tries to tempt me with videos it thinks I will like (often successfully). 

I recommend using the "Insert Stuff" function in D2L to embed the video. Here is a blog post showing how to do this. 

I'm happy to help UWEC faculty with this. If you're new to YouTube, it can be kind of a pain the first time, but then it's much easier when everything is set up.