Friday, April 27, 2007

Article on the Next Generation VLE now definite

It is now finally official: My article on 'The New Generation VLE' has now been made public. This article is based on the findings at the Educause conference in Dallas Texas, last October. The main message is that there are the first beginnings of a new generation of VLE's. They can be characterised by the fact that they are no longer a 'walled garden' dominated by the teacher, but rather a more open environment in which students and teachers can work together with persons, materials and other webservices outside of the classroom or even institution. And of course the VLE can be approached through various devices and allows for modern delivery of media.

Various vendors and institutions are working towards this solution, but none of them are there yet. There are promising developments in the field of Open Source and commercial parties (Blackboard especially) and the adoption of a Service Oriented Architecture could also be very helpful in working towards an integrated VLE with all these functionalities.

The article can be found on the WIKI at:

I am sorry to say that the article is only available in Dutch at present. I am afraid that I will not find time to translate it in the near future. If anybody does require an English translation, please let me know.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Internationalising our education - use of video

We had a seminar on Internationalising our education at Utrecht University last Thursday. It was great to see the efforts being made at the WUN (World Wide Universities Network) and Penn State. We still have a long way to go...

Together with Lex Hermans I gave a presentation on the use of video in distance education both for a-synchronous and synchronous learning. The slideshare is included below.

David Pilsbury also pointed out the Research channel, a collection of high quality videos covering some serious subject matter. This would require a tad more investment than the simple recordings we have being doing of late and would also require some serious commitment at all levels in the university. Great for your public relations though...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Blackboard and Vista

A quick note for my own use, sorry guys ;-) As we had noticed Microsoft Vista and Blackboard do not always work together well. See Willem van Valkenburg's blog for a list of problems acknowledged by Blackboard.

Attending recorded lectures

An article on the Dutch Edusite pointed out that students still attend lectures when they are recorded, although the (notorious) law students do not always comply ;-)

Leidse student laat opgenomen college soms schieten

This is something we must give a try: we are going to record lectures and evaluate attendance anyway. We must see if under comparable circumstances law students show different behaviour to other students...

Friday, April 06, 2007

Presenting away for Weblectures

Yes, I know it is getting a bit boring: this blog is getting filled up with the weblectures project. I suppose this is only a correct representation on how I am spending my working hours at present...
The project is now really underway. The buzz is obviously spreading at Utrecht University. I have given presentations for the ICT in ed representatives of all the faculties and for the Heads of Education at Social Sciences. The university board visited Social Sciences and requested a presentation, so that is what I delivered. You will find the presentation here (long live Slideshare). If the embedded presentation won't load visit

Next week there will be a seminar on internationalising our education and we will be present of course ;-).
It is very interesting to see the interest expressed by different departments within the university. It is also interesting to see the differences in motivation. Chemistry wanted to give some part time students a chance to watch lectures, Social Sciences' Graduate School is collaborating in a distance learning programme and they are creating short lectures specifically for this purpose in our studio. Maths wants to document lectures so students can view whenever they want, at any point in their studies, Studium Generale offers public lectures which they want to be accessible to a wider audience, students are bugging teachers to have their lectures recorded so they can revise before exams, and so on....

Kick off meeting project group Weblectures

We had a kick off meeting for the project group (and a few other interested staff members) of the Weblectures project. Although the project started back in January it was good to take the time to stand back and look at what everybody had accomplished in only a short time. I am extremely chuffed to see how far we have come! Of course we are not there yet and it isn't perfect but we definitely out on the road recording. (A careful estimate is 30 lectures recorded to date).

For more information on the project visit soon to be moved to

Sakai SIG meeting, Oracle gives its views

Last Wednesday the 4th of April we had a meeting of the SAKAI Special interest group at SURF in Utrecht. I couldn't attend the whole meeting but I was glad I could at least listen to the presentation given by Peter Bavinck of Oracle. He gave Oracle's plans on their Academic Enterprise Initiative. This is (my interpretation) an iniative to create a SOA framework which will cooperate with the Sakai framework and which can easily exchange information (for example from the Peoplesoft SIS).

See the blog and website.

Sometimes the smallest titbits of information can be extremely useful. I had been mucking about with the portfolio in Sakai but was stumped by the request for .xsd schema's. In the meeting someone tipped the xsd weaver. It seems brilliant, create your own forms online, save them locally and then add them to Sakai. (I haven't tried the last step out yet, but the rest works!).

The Hogeschool Utrecht is looking for a replacement for their Cascade system. Taking a quick look at their design I was surprised to see that they had not yet looked into LAMS, as they are looking for a system to deliver case based learning through a series of learning activities. And this can be integrated into all sorts of VLEs (not just Sakai ;-)

Blackboard User group meeting on Building Blocks

I attended a very interesting meeting on Blackboard Building Blocks organised by the Dutch Blackboard usergroup. It was held Thursday the 29th of March (yes I have some catching up to do:-).

What struck me most was the amount of initiative being put into the development of Building Blocks. If you see what various institutions are creating it is great. Some building blocks are large and very complex and require separate databases (there is even a 'Setter Getter': a building block which collects the settings you need when updating your building block.) One specific example is the Blackboard Management System which has been created by ROC Midden Nederland and Leiden University (also proudly presented at the Nice conference).

On the other hand this made me wonder why these extensive features are not included in the core code of Blackboard. I am pleased to see that Blackboard attended the meeting and I hope they will take the wishes of the Dutch e-learning market into account. This does pose questions as to who ownes the ideas and the code, would it not be fair to reward/gratify the developers that spent so much time developing the building block.
The Dutch situation:
We are at times decentralised, hence the BMS, have large courses (500 plus students) which we subdivide into groups (requires extensive group management and group grading) and we do a lot of Collaborative Learning in our courses. These are just a few differences which make the features available in Blackboard insufficient at times.