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Comment Re:This isn't even funny. (Score 1) 95


Unfortunately, it appears as if our tale is the industry standard. I was at the ITC conference in Long Beach a few weeks ago and had the same discussion with several people. It seems as if we all do our best to escape the clutches of Blackbeard and just about the time we think we're free from their grasp, they suck us in again.

The good news about Instructure is that they seem to be digging in their heels and preparing for the long fight. Here's a most excellent blog post from Josh Coates on the topic. Gotta hand it to him, the fella's got a pair of brass cojones. But, Blackbeard has the cash and he who has the cash makes the rules, and time will tell us whether or not those brass cojones are real or if it's all bluster.

Sorry to hear about your struggles with the IT folks at your school. Fortunately for us, our IT folks are actually a very solid team who are ready to work with us regardless of which direction we choose. But our institution lacks the funds and manpower required to support internal hosting of the LMS, so we're stuck with using an external host.

We've been playing around internally with the new Pearson OpenClass platform, but are VERY hesitant to jump into bed with any publisher to such an extent. (The vile textbook publishers are another topic for another day)...

In the end, my fear is that we're going to end up with an interface and system that makes it more difficult for students to succeed. Students can't master the course content when they're constantly struggling with the LMS and/or publisher resources. As Blackborg continues to assimilate the competition, they stifle the growth and advancement of the LMS as a whole, and instead of simplifying things, they get more complicated which in turn hinders student success.


Comment Re:This isn't even funny. (Score 2) 95


My institution is in the same boat. We were a WebCT school and then moved to ANGEL shortly after Blackbeard conquered, pillaged, and plundered WebCT. We'd been running ANGEL for a couple of years when, out of the blue, we found that ANGEL had been assimilated by Blackborg.

Blackboard has a tendency to buy anything that appears to be making a positive change in the LMS market. Rather than purchasing these competitors and incorporating the innovations and enhancements into new products, they let the old product sit there as is, make money off of it, and provide occasional inconsequential "improvements" semi-annually (at best). Eventually, when they do release a new product, the "new" product is woefully incompatible with current and emerging web technologies. There is no foresight, no innovation, and no significant improvement in the quality of the product or the support services provided.

Case in point, the fall 2011 release of ANGEL 8.0 introduced support for WebKit-based browsers. Prior to this time, students and faculty using Chrome, Safari, or other WebKit based browsers were screwed. It's one thing to force all our users to install IE or Firefox on their computers, but what do we do about mobile devices? Since mobile devices typically run WebKit based browsers, students (and faculty) can't adequately utilize their online courses from most mobile devices. So much for the iPad in the classroom.

Then there's the Blackboard Mobile Learn app. It's free for iOS users (although it's sorely lacking in functionality) but Android users have to use a specific service provider (Sprint) in order to actually use the app.

Combine these issues with Blackboard's propensity to purchase anything that looks anything like viable competition and you'll get a good idea of the state of distance education in the US. Next up, they'll probably purchase Instructure...

Granted, Blackbeard's new acquisitions don't really have anything to do with everything I just said, but it gave me a chance to get up on my soapbox...



Grateful Dead Percussionist Makes Music From Supernovas 57

At the "Cosmology At the Beach" conference earlier this month, Grammy-award winning percussionist Mickey Hart performed a composition inspired by the eruptions of supernovae. "Keith Jackson, a Berkeley Lab computer scientist who is also a musician, lent his talents to the project, starting with gathering data from astrophysicists like those at the Berkeley Lab’s Nearby Supernova Factory, which collects data from telescopes in space and on earth to quickly detect and analyze short-lived supernovas. 'If you think about it, it's all electromagnetic data — but with a very high frequency,' Jackson said of the raw data. "What we did is turn it into sound by slowing down the frequency and "stretching" it into an audio form. Both light and sound are all wave forms — just at different frequencies. Our goal was to turn the electromagnetic data into audio data while still preserving the science.'"

Submission + - Online schools vulnerable to Financial Aid fraud (chronicle.com)

Math.sqrt(-1) writes: Math.sqrt(-1) writes "Verification of student identity in online courses is a major challenge for many colleges and universities. In Arizona, Trenda Halton was able to defraud the federal government of over half a million dollars in financial aid. Halton involved dozens of people who she recruited at "straw" students. Using data collected from her accomplices, Halton would submit admission and financial aid information to Rio Salado College and the U.S. Dept of Education. Then she'd log in to the online courses as the fake student so that the college would see that she had "participated" in class. The college would then process the financial aid request, deduct college expenses and send the remaining balance to the straw students, who would in turn, fork over a chunk to Halton..

This isn't new, and it's not unique. The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 requires schools to provide some means of verifying the identity of online students, but the bill failed to disclose what methods are to be used for said verification. As such, many schools have little or no identity verification procedures in place and a more susceptible to fraud that we'd like to believe."

Comment Re:Better Then CGI (Score 1) 271

Totally agreeing with you there. The thing that made the original Star Wars Trilogy so spectacular was not the special effects, but the story. Sure, the special effects were incredible for the time (and are still pretty damned impressive these 30 years later), but a lot of movies using "state of the art" special effects failed to achieve anything near that status and acclaim of any of the original Trilogy films (think Tron). But now it's worse than ever. These days, with the advent of relatively inexpensive CGI effects, directors and producers can focus more on creating dazzling eye candy without paying much attention to the quality of the script. I'm starting to sound somewhat curmudgeonly now, aren't I?

Submission + - 1977 Star Wars computer graphics (toplessrobot.com)

Noryungi writes: The interestingly named "Topless Robot" has a real trip down memory lane: how the computer graphics of the original Star Wars movie were made. The article points to thisYouTube video of a short documentary made by Larry Cuba, the original artist, explains how he did it. In 1977. Computer graphics and Star Wars: what could be better?

Comment Re:Actually (Score 2, Interesting) 467

I work as a technology specialist for distance learning in a community college, and when instructors want to put their courses online, a good number of them will simply ask us to convert their PPT presentations to a web-ready format, and they'll do a voice-over which consists of little more than a reading of the slides. Then, they'll post an announcement at the beginning of each week saying, "Read Chapter x, watch the PPT, and take the quiz" and think they're done. This happens with some of our finest instructors. What they fail to understand is that a PowerPoint does not a lesson make. While it was once an innovative tool which could be used to enhance a presentation, PowerPoint has turned into a crutch for those who are too lazy to explore new alternatives. Of course, in education, we also find that many of the instructors are Luddites who are reluctant to use PowerPoint in the first place. But once they start using it, it's a real hard sell to get them to use any alternatives.

Save the Planet, Eat Your Dog 942

R3d M3rcury writes "New Zealand's Dominion Post reports on a new book just released, Time to Eat the Dog: The real guide to sustainable living. In this book, they compare the environmental footprint of our housepets to other things that we own. Like that German Shepherd? It consumes more resources than two Toyota SUVs. Cats are a little less than a Volkswagen Golf. Two hamsters are about the same as a plasma TV. Their suggestions? Chickens, rabbits, and pigs. But only if you eat them."
The Internet

Bringing Convenience and Open Source Methods To Higher Education 165

Business Week has a piece discussing the effects internet-based technology and open sharing are having on the standards of higher education. The author says every product's success or failure depends on its fidelity — the overall quality of experience — and convenience. Since the internet has made the sharing of even expert-level knowledge convenient, he wonders how long it will be until some school or company raises the fidelity enough to have their degrees accepted alongside those of professional-grade colleges. Quoting: "Once in a while, a market gets completely out of balance. Forces conspire to prevent either a high-fidelity or high-convenience player from emerging. All the offerings crowd around one end or the other. Eventually, someone nails a disruptive approach. Customers and competitors rush in and the marketplace wonders why that great idea didn't come sooner. The higher education market is a lot like that. For centuries the university model dominated because nothing else worked. No technology existed that might deliver an interactive, engaging educational experience without gathering students and teachers in the same physical space. ... These days broadband Internet, video games, social networks, and other developments could combine to create an online, inexpensive, super-convenient model for higher education. You wouldn't get the sights and sounds of a campus, personal contact with professors, or beer-soaked frat parties, but you'd end up with the knowledge you need and the degree to prove it."
The Internet

AVG Backs Down From Flooding the Internet 297

Simon Wright writes "As a website that is featured heavily in many Google Australia search results, Whirlpool (Australia's largest technology forum) has been particularly affected by AVG's LinkScanner. We've seen a traffic increase as much as 12 hits per second from these bots. So we've actively and loudly campaigned against this move by AVG, encouraging all users of AVG 8.0 to uninstall the product. The discussion starts here. And AVG's backing down is posted here." From that URL:"'As promised, I am letting you know that the latest update for AVG Free edition has addressed and rectified the issue that [Whirlpool] have brought to our attention. This update has now been released to users and has also been built into the latest installation package for AVG Free.' — Peter Cameron, Managing Director, AVG Australia."

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