2012 – That’s a Wrap

Barry as a young brown manHere’s a look back at some of the things that immediately come to mind as I ponder about what was in 2012 and also take a look ahead at what might be in 2013.

2012 Flashback: As most of the people who would be reading this already know, I started a new job with Desire2Learn back in May, 2012. It’s been just over 7 months now, and I’m still very glad that I made the move to a corporate position after 27 years on the inside of higher ed.

2013 Flashforward: The company (D2L) is doing great. They treat employees exceptionally well, and the future is definitely very bright. I certainly hope that I continue to fit into their plans.  2013 Resolution: do my best to not screw up the great job that dropped into my lap. You can view some of my work at the Desire2Learn Community.

Gray wolf - not dead yet

Public Domain photo by Gary Kramer, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Sad memory of 2012: There are many to choose from, but I’ll go with this one: Minnesotans and Wisconsinites engaged in wolf hunts, with a majority of the wolf “trophies” being taken by leg traps. This previously endangered species was brought back from the edge of extinction so that they can be killed by humans, apparently. Next up? I think we’re seeing a few too many bald eagles around these days – better shoot ’em!

Happy memory of 2012: I developed a passion for growing vegetables, both indoors and out. Right now while it’s below zero (F) outside, I have tomatoes that are ripening in my little indoor greenhouse. I have both hydroponics and soil-based plants growing in what was formerly my tropical fish room. 2013 Resolution: Continue learning more about hydroponics gardening and successfully grow some of the exotic seeds that I am finding online.

2012 Flashback: As a result of taking the job at D2L, I am no longer pursuing any new business with Excellence in e-Education. In fact, the website is being deleted early in January, 2013, so I won’t even bother linking to it. I have saved all webinar recordings from 2011-12 here at barrydahl.com and will continue to make them available as long as possible. I enjoyed the time I spent being self-employed and we were getting by financially; but “getting by” and “putting three kids through college” are two very different things.

2013 Flashforward: I expect to have a slightly higher blogging profile at this site during 2013. Eliminating the Excellence site helps take one thing off my plate. 2013 Resolution: engage in more long posts and less 140-character posts when the long post is more appropriate.

2012 Flashback: A definite highlight of my year was a trip to Australia in September for the first annual Desire2Learn Asia-Pac Teaching and Learning Conference. This was my first trip to Australia and I was able to make the most of it by adding on a few personal days both before and after the conference in Melbourne. Spent two days driving the Great Ocean Road, went to a Footy game in Melbourne, spent two days in Hobart, Tasmania and visited the fine folks at UTAS, and then wrapped up with two days in Sidney.

Collage of photos from Australia trip in September 2012

2013 Flashforward: I’ll probably be travelling quite a bit in 2013 as well, but it’s unlikely that I’ll have the opportunity to go anywhere as exotic as Australia. Still, I generally enjoy travelling and plan to make the most of several trips by mixing in some personal days along with the work days. Currently looking forward to work-related travels to Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, Illinois, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Colorado, California, South Carolina, and probably a few others that I don’t know about just yet.

What end-of-the-year list would be complete without those words/phrases that you would like to see banned? Here’s my list:

  1. Spot on (Ick. Incredibly pretentious. Just say “on the nosey!”)
  2. At the end of the day  (Can anyone sum up anything without using this phrase? What about the end of the week, the month, the season, or whatever?)
  3. No problem (this one’s for me – I’m going to try real hard to say “You’re welcome” after receiving thanks rather than this very stupid phrase.)
  4. Prolly (me again, gotta stop that.)
  5. All the rest of these were cute for about a day, but that was it:
    • chillaxin’
    • bromance
    • pwned
    • just sayin’
    • word
    • anything-izzle

This next one is more for me personally, since I’m more likely to accomplish something that I write down and/or declare to the world.

2012 Flashback: After returning from Australia, I took a chance on chiropractic care for the first time in my life. I was having periodic (and worsening) issues with my lower back and finally agreed to have it looked at. The x-rays showed that I have a deteriorating disc at the bottom of my spine, between L5 and S1, in particular. I have a couple of family members who are chiropractors, but still wasn’t sure that this would be the path to improvement. Turns out that it was exactly what I needed. It’s not as if the disc is miraculously growing back (it won’t), but I certainly am living with less pain these days.

2013 Flashforward: Between periodic adjustments, regular stretching, and use of my new inversion table; I plan to stand straighter and be less whiny. 2013 Resolution: I plan to visit the Y at least 100 times in 2013 for stretching and exercise, and to use the inversion table at least 100 times on other days. I’m a numbers person and highly competitive, so having a goal and a calendar taped to my mirror just might be the ticket. In case you haven’t heard this next little tidbit, let me assure you that getting old is indeed a pain in the backside.

Here’s my favorite video from 2012:

My top five (most viewed) posts on this site during 2012:

  1. Invite a Monkey to your Picnik (early review of photo editing site PicMonkey)
  2. ITC09 Grand Debate – a Real Con Job (3 year old post still gets lots of hits)
  3. Public Speaking as an Online Class
  4. Brainstorming a Learner Flexibility Rubric
  5. Fun Facts about the UAE

My personal favorite post from 2012: Replacement Teachers Coming Soon to Wisconsin

Hoping 2013 turns out to be lucky, not yucky, for all of us. As Gomer Pyle would say, “Best of luck to you and yours!”

D2L FUSION12 – Guide for First-Timers

Are you a first-time D2L FUSION attendee? Hang onto your hats. It’s always a blast. But that’s not what this about.

More importantly, are you a first-time visitor to Sun Diego? That was not a typo. Just to get you in the mood, click the play button below.

I lived there for about a year when I was on a bit of a walkabout between high school and college. I’ve visited many times since and it is absolutely one of my favorite cities. San Diego probably has the most stable climate of any place I’ve ever lived or visited (okay, in the U.S., that is). Not too hot, not too cold. Want snow? Don’t go there. Want 100 degrees? Don’t go there. According to Wikipedia, San Diego gets an average 41 days per year where some precipitation falls, compared to 110 days for the rest of the United States. Sun Diego gets 267 sunny days per year on average (after the morning fog burns off), compared to 213 elsewhere. In any given year, you can expect 2 or 3 days when the temperature gets above 90 °F (32 °C), which is 36 days below the U.S. average. You can expect zero days below 32 °F (0 °C) in San Diego, while the national average is 88 days per year. Most importantly for FUSION on July 16-20, average high temperatures in July  are 76 °F (24 °C).  One week out from the start of the conference and the forecasted temps are for a high of 70 and a low of 65, with a 10% chance of rain.

The conference hotel is located right by the San Diego harbor, very close to an area known as the Embarcadero. Here’s a few things you might want to check out while you’re there.

For those of you who will be transportation-challenged (no wheels):

  1. Petco Park – Padres vs. Astros – Monday night social event for FUSION12! (.3 mile) I’m a huge Padres fan, but I’ve never watched a game from the Western Metal Supply Building in left field. That’s where you’ll find me on Monday night.
  2. Harbor Cruise – (1.4 miles) Tuesday night social event with a Sunset Cruise and dinner!
  3. Tin Fish Restaurant – (.4 mile) Very close to Petco Park and Omni Hotel. Best fish tacos ever!!Tin Fish - tacos
  4. Gaslamp Quarter – (.5 mile to the start – many blocks wide and long) Get insulted at Dick’s Last Resort, or check out House of Blues. I plan to spend some time at The Tilted Kilt just outside the right field entrance to Petco Park (map) – if you go there, you’ll know why it’s my favorite.
  5. Ferry to Coronado and see the Hotel Del. This is also one of the cleanest and most picturesque of the beaches in the area. Take the 15-minute ferry ride from landing behind  the Convention Ctr (.2 mile from hotel to ferry landing) and then in Coronado take the trolley (or a cab) from the ferry landing to the beach and hotel all the way cross town. If you have wheels it’s only 4-5 miles over the Coronado Bridge and then explore on your own.Hotel Del
  6. USS Midway Aircraft Carrier – (1.3 miles) Remember the Tar Heels vs. Spartans basketball game? This is the place. Take a tour and you have a good chance of having a docent who actually served his country on the Midway.
  7. Martime Museum and Star of India sailboat – (2 miles) I’m not a big museum guy, but this could be right up your alley.
  8. Tool box skyline – You’ll see this from the harbor cruise, or just by walking around. Flat head screwdriver, Phillips, hex-shaped Allen wrenches, maybe a chisel, maybe some Vice Grips.
  9. Kansas City Barbeque – (1 mile) This was the setting for sleazy bar scene in the movie Top Gun. Odd place, but fun. Top Gun barbeque
  10. Seaport Village and the Embarcadero – (.4 mile to 1 mile) Still there on Friday, 7/20? If so, the Peking Acrobats perform at 7:30 ($$$) at Marina Park South (Note, the hotel is located very close to the Embarcadero Marina South Park and there is also a North Park very close by (.8 mile). There’s usually interesting things happening there, and several homeless people to dodge. Seaport Village is less sketchy.)

For those with transportation – or willing to just jump in a cab, cost be damned:

  1. San Diego Zoo (3 miles) Yep, still one of the best zoos anywhere.San Diego Zoo koala
  2. Del Mar Race Track – (21 miles) Opening day is Wednesday, July 18. Races start at 2 PM. Attn: Kyle Mackie! The One and Only Truly Fabulous Hat Contest starts 11:30 AM.
  3. San Diego Wild Animal Park (37 miles) Now called the Zoo Safari Park, but I’m staying old school.
  4. La Jolla Beaches– (14 miles) For the rich and famous.
  5. Slater’s 50/50 Burgers by Design – (5 miles) I’ve never been there, but the 50% ground bacon, 50% ground beef burger has captured my attention.
  6. Black’s Beach  – (18 miles) Only for the very adventurous. If you have to ask what that means, don’t go to Black’s Beach!
  7. Balboa Park (2.5 miles) The 2012 Shakespeare Festival runs at Old Globe Theater on Sun, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri nights at 8PM with three choices: Richard III, As You Like It, Inherit the Wind (okay, that’s not by WS).
  8. Mission Beach – (8 miles) This is a very active beach. Lots of people and lots of things going on. Great people watching, too.Stone Brewery
  9. Tijuana – (16 miles) If you have a huge life insurance policy and a death wish, this is a great place to visit. Otherwise, stay away. (Not really joking about this)
  10. Stone Brewery Tour (Escondido – 37 miles) For the beer aficionados, this would be worth the trip. The home of Arrogant Bastard Ale and Ruination IPA.

That should keep you busy. Don’t forget to attend a few sessions at FUSION. Especially mine.

For my last piece of FUSION advice, take your pick from your favorite Sergeant from Hill Street Blues (yes, that was NYC, I know):

  • a) Hey, let’s be careful out there! or
  • b) Let’s do it to them before they do it to us!

NOTE: since no one leaves blog comments any more, I’ve resorted to reposting stuff from other places:

Slideshow on Using D2L Intelligent Agents

This is an update to a slideshow that I did a few years ago about using the Intelligent Agents in Desire2Learn. They have more functionality now than they had then.

I also call them Secret Agents since they seem to be unknown to many people in the D2L User Community.

I think they’re pretty useful. I do recommend that most of the time you have the agent send you (the instructor) an email with a heads up about something, and then you can decide whether to follow-up with the student(s) or not. Direct emails to the students can work, but might not always be the best choice (they don’t come from your email address and can cause “reply to” problems).

Discussion Facilitators Wanted at #FUSION12

Wanted: Discussion Table Facilitators at FUSION12

Added June 21: Thanks to all the volunteers! We are good to go. See you in San Diego.)

Going to #D2L #FUSION12 in beautiful Sun Diego this July? Got something you’d like to talk about? I have about a half dozen spots open for Birds of a Feather discussion leaders on Monday morning, the first day of the conference. The rest of the conference kicks off at 12:50 that day (see schedule here), but we’re going to have 25-minute table discussions from 10:00 to 11:30.

If you would like to host/facilitate one of those tables, we’d love to have you join us for the action. Suggest the topic that you’d like to discuss, and tell me a little about your plan for doing so – and we’ll see how good we can make this. We’re planning to have about 15 tables and up to 150 people in attendance.

It’ll go something like this:

  • 10:00-10:25  First discussion
  • 10:25-10:30  Switch tables
  • 10:30-10:55  Second discussion
  • 10:55-11:00  Switch tables
  • 11:00-11:25  Third discussion

Just to be clear, you’ll lead the same discussion topic three times, with different people each time. I’ll come up with some sort of reward for you if you volunteer to be one of the table leaders. Email me to let me know that you’re interested and also give me one or more ideas for discussion topics that you’d be willing to lead. TIA.

Feeling at Home in Kitchener

Queen's Landing in KitchenerWhile getting started in my new job at Desire2Learn, I enjoyed an extended stay in the Kitchener/Waterloo area to get oriented to the company and meet some of the hundreds of new employees (new to me, anyway). Rather than tell you about the great corporate culture that they have developed at D2L (here’s a recent story (May 2012) about that), I want to tell you about where I stayed while I was there. This isn’t the normal kind of post that I make at this site, but it may prove interesting for other remote D2L employees as well as anyone else who might be traveling to Kitchener.

Queen’s Landing Guest House is a great Bed & Breakfast and only about a 20 minute walk from D2L Headquarters in the Tannery Building. Your hosts are Wilma and Brian Skipper. They share their beautiful home with people like me who enjoy a home away from home. This home was built in 1920, and “features ten foot ceilings, large porches, stained glass windows, etched french doors, hardwood floors and walnut trim.”

Read the full post … including the first recipe I’ve ever posted on my blog, along with many more pictures and more info about Queen’s Landing.

Ready to Start at D2L

Just a little recording as I prepare to leave for Kitchener, Ontario to start my new job.

Desire2Work @ Desire2Learn

Let’s say you’ve been dating someone for 8 or 9 years. After all that time, you still get along really well. Maybe it’s time to tie the knot and make your relationship more permanent – or at least as “permanent” as those things can be.

Figuratively speaking, that’s what’s happening with my career in education. I recently signed a job offer sheet and all the other necessary paperwork to tie the knot with a company where I hope to spend the rest of my working years.

I’ve known some of the people in this company for nine years now. They are talented and driven and inspired. There are many other newer employees that I’ve haven’t yet met. I’m looking forward to meeting many of the newer folks during the next couple of months.

It will probably not come as a surprise to many people in the e-learning world that I’ve taken a job with Desire2Learn. I’ve told many people over the years that there was only one company that I’d dealt with while CIO of a college in Minnesota that I would be willing, even anxious, to work for. That company is D2L. Even after a nine year relationship, nothing has happened to change that point of view for me.

Almost every interaction with them has been pleasant, engaging, and positive. I consider many of the D2Lers to be friends of mine. The company is doing great and I look forward to being part of the team that continues to execute on their mission and vision.

John Baker and Barry Dahl at FUSION 2007

My connection with D2L started in the spring of 2003 when I was the chair of the the MnSCU IMS of the Future task force. Desire2Learn submitted a response to our RFP and was selected to be one of the four finalists for the process. In May 2003, I met John Baker and Jeremy Auger for the first time at St. Cloud State University for the day-long demonstration of the D2L platform. Their presentation that day, along with a superior written response to the RFP, elevated D2L to the top of the list of the platforms being considered. Other milestones:

  • My former college started using D2L in place of WebCT in 2004.logo for 2007 FUSION conference in Duluth, Minnesota
  • In 2006, I started Desire2Blog (which I shuttered last month – no new posts).
  • In 2007, we hosted the D2L FUSION Conference in Duluth.
  • In 2011, my job was eliminated at the college. John Baker told me “If you ever need a job …”
  • In April 2012, I signed an offer sheet to become a D2L employee.
  • May 9, 2012 will be my first day on the job as Senior Community Manager for D2L, Ltd.

Just a few quickies.

  • I am able to work as a remote employee so my family will not need to relocate. Major kudos to D2L for making these opportunities available. Most of my time will be spent in “the hole” (my basement (dungeon) office) and traveling. I will spend a few weeks each year at D2L headquarters in Kitchener.
  • Although I don’t start until 5/9, I’m already working on some ideas to create a whole new User Community experience for D2L clients and employees.
  • I will no longer be conducting business as Excellence in e-Education. I loved it, but I’m going to love this even more.

    Dinner with D2L friends in Denver for FUSION 2011

    CC-By photo: Terri-Lynn Brown

  • I’ve made so many friends over the years who are in the D2L user community, like those in the photo on the right from FUSION 2011. I’m thrilled that I’ll still have the opportunity to interact with all those friends and with the new friends that I’ll get to meet along the way. Yay!!

Action Analytics at MnSCU

During this academic year I will be working on a project called Action Analytics with the Office of the Chancellor at the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU). I will still retain my position at Lake Superior College, but part of my time will be devoted to this project.

Dr. Linda Baer of MnSCU was a recent guest blogger on Donald Norris’ blog Linking Analytics to Lifting Out of Recession. Dr. Baer described several data analytics initiatives that are ongoing within MnSCU as serving diverse populations and also the underserved populations. As a more recent step, she describes the following: “Linking Activities and Metrics. The second foundation step is to begin to link these many activities. The technology and infrastructure capacity of the system was supporting a large data warehouse with selected data mining capabilities. The dashboard enabled full display of campus and system accomplishments. Yet, the question remained: What activities were contributing to the most student learning and student success?”

Boosting Analytics and Predictive Modeling. Dr Baer continues with the following: “Realizing that the next big step was to develop analytic and predictive modeling capabilities … using national, state and local data, we could develop student information dashboards so each faculty member could review where the student was academically and then advise the best academic choices for ongoing success. Curricular assessment could be made to see what components of course learning worked for students and what needed more emphasis so tutoring and advising could further align best learning experiences to accomplish successful learning.”

The desired end result is to create an informational system that can be used to provide students with timely advice about how best to succeed in their current courses and in their more long-term programs oif study. To that end, I am working as part of a team to create a proof of concept for this project. We are analyzing sudent engagement data harvested from their activities inside Desire2Learn during the spring 2009 semester. Early results have favorable indications that the student engagement data might indeed be useful as a predictor of success in the course, although that analysis is not complete at this time.

Stage one is to create an advising model where advisors would be able to quickly see which of their advisees might be at risk academically and to help make suggestions as to which type of actions (interventions?) might be useful in bringing the student closer to a successful outcome. This work is ongoing and I expect to have much more to report about it over the next weeks and months.

Web 2.0 Inside D2L – Videos Page Added

At the top of the blog page you’ll see a new tab with a link to some of my Web 2.0 materials where I will be adding my content (from old blog) about my Web 2.0 Hall of Fame and other things about the web-based tools that I use every day both professionally and personally. On that page is also a link to another page that contains embedded screencast videos that illustrate some of the things I demonstrate in workshops about using Web 2.0 tools within Desire2Learn. This is mainly an effort to make my stuff more find-able.

Point #1: all of the things illustrated in those videos can also be done outside of Desire2Learn. They are shown inside D2L as way of directing the students to the tools in an easy manner.

Point #2: all of the things that are shown inside D2L should also work in other VLEs if you so desire. I have personanly tested most of these items in both Angel and Moodle without any problems. The same should hold true for other platforms.