a blog about technology management

Minnesota Instructional Technologists (MinIT) 2012

I’m just back from the 4th Minnesota Instructional Technologists (MinIT) symposium this time hosted by Carleton College at the Weitz Center for Creativity.  My excellent colleague Barron Koralesky from Macalester College and myself started this group in 2009 (though we had been talking about the idea for two years before that).  It is a gathering of instructional technology professionals from regional Colleges and Universities.  We’ve done various formats over the years and keep on trying new formats — we’re an experimental group!

This year Carleton organized a large group discussion that was centered around topics submitted by the attendees during registration.  The majority of the schools are on moodle so we had much talk about transition to version 2.x.  Hopefully the few that weren’t on moodle yet will join the fun soon – <wink>.  Most of us are opening up our beta sites to faculty before fall so they can get used to the changes.  Early feedback from faculty generally has been good.  Even though moodle 2 has “moved the cheese” faculty are adapting and liking the new features and new user interface standards.

We had some discussion on web video as many of us are adopting a platform.  Kaltura was the most popular choice and I am already in an evaluation of it.  We heard from schools already using it with moodle that it currently has an assignment activity and two resource plug-ins — one for posting a video and one for posting a video presentation which is a combination of a document and video.  One drawback noted was that students cannot add Kaltura assets to the course (beyond an assignment) without going to the external Kaltura interface.  One plus for adopting such a system is that schools are predicting that their course backup sizes will go down as the video assets are moved to the external video site and are no longer in the course.  We talked a bit about Vimeo’s Plus account as an option for a power user faculty if you don’t have Kaltura or something else.  Vimeo is not enterprise though so it’s a good starting place for early adopters.  But until they build an enterprise platform institutions will leave them behind when they need to get serious about web video.

As we moved onto the topic of mobile, the ever-quotable Matt Putz asked the group if we “were making space for mobile or actively fostering its growth?”  Our approaches definitely were mixed.  At my institution we’re making space but aren’t pushing mobile or developing mobile-specific content.  It was amazing to hear all the different uses for iPads at the different schools — Carleton has a lot of innovative uses going on and they even have a blog focused on Apps, An App a Day.  Matt also asked the group “is the pad as a platform for teaching and learning going to be as transformative as the internet was for distance education?”  So far I’m not convinced it will be as transformative.  The internet really made distance education both broadly viable and incredibly more rich and effective (when done right!).  Many of the things you can do on a pad (tablet) you can do with a laptop or tablet computer.  However, the simplicity of the iPad (did I mention how great it is that there are no instructions in the iPad box — just the iPad) and the broad adoption by non-geeks (grandparents are using their iPads like crazy and ditching their PCs) makes it a platform to reach people, a lot of people.  I’m just not seeing a corner being turned in the realm of teaching and learning yet.

ePortfolios were the next topic.  Macalester is using Google sites (they’re a Google campus) for ePortfolios and liking it.  One nice feature is that you can change ownership — like to a personal gmail account — on graduation.  I also heard some good things about TK20 from schools that are using it — we are implementing it this fall.  Also heard many good things about Mahara an open-source platform for ePortfolios.  Its moodle 2 integration is supposed to be very good — you get a button to “send to portfolio” on submitted assignment artifacts and even forum posts and threads.

Lunch came and we had some good small table discussions.  I learned a great tip from Carleton that moodle 2.3′s new assignment module creates some traps to watch out for.  You need to keep the old assignment type active so that imported courses can have their assignments.  There is a conversion tool for converting assignments to the new format however only admins can currently run it — bad.  You also have to make sure you have the old assignments configured to not allow people to create new old assignments, got that?  I also heard that the ability of moodle 2 to “dock” the screen blocks was receiving positive reviews by faculty.  I hadn’t turned that on yet as it seemed like a way to lose things easily.  But I am being swayed to give it another look.  Also heard that Bethel was happy with New School Learning’s customization of the moodle mobile theme for them.

All-in-all it was a great time and a valuable opportunity to share information.  Next up in July is the Minnesota Higher Education Help Desks (MinHEHD) symposium — did I mention that Barron and I got that group rolling too?  It’s so great that higher education has a spirit of collaboration and that the IT professionals at all of our schools share that spirit.


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