D2L crash course – challenges and invective.

“Change is a 4 letter word” said a mentor at my last job.  No matter how good a new Learning Management System (LMS) is – switching to it will provoke animosity.  I also know from my  dissertation research that the average life at a LMS is 4 – 5 years, so teachers  have to expect change and IT support have to expect teacher crankiness.

That said, I’ve decided to record my attempt to understand conceptually the new framework of D2L.  Different terms are used and it’s clear the LMS was designed by people who think  differently from the way we or  the people who designed ANGEL thought.  I need to get a handle on the mindset. I’ve postponed immersion in the new LMS to avoid being the bleeding edge of this tech – but now  it’s trial by fire.

First, I notice the language challenges.  The training videos provided by D2L use computer generated voice – female (designed to be the most tolerant) but impersonal and inhuman. This business decision looked good on paper and the voice generator is good, but I don’t like it. The text the computer generated speech came from was designed – I’m guessing – by a collaboration of engineer developers and marketing – without input from an educator.  I notice  little  use of words teachers would use, like “student,” “teacher,” “lesson,”   “plan,”  “lesson plan” or “learning objective” but a reliance on words and phases like: “content,”  “topic,” “enforce visibility,” “user” etc.

For the most part “content” is equivalent to the lessons tab in ANGEL – but I suspect they mean different things at different times.  In the training video the term “content materials” is used – that may seem like a redundancy.  That happens.  The training videos tend to  end with a text blurb meant to stick with you – and those tend to have extra filler words like “just” or “only” which help sell a product, but make the text less concise and allows for ambiguity.  The messages as well sell the product rather than inform how or why things work the way they do.  We already bought the thing.  Don’t sell past closing – tell us how it works.

I’m not in the mood for ambiguity.

They company supplied training videos also mentions, “what topics have had a lot of success in the classroom.”  Topics can’t have success.  Students can have success.  Topics can be popular.  What do they mean by “topic”?

Also, when reading how to understand the organization I read,

When users access a course’s Content tool for the first time, the first page they land on is the Overview. Use the Overview page to orient users to the course, content materials, and course expectations. (Link)

You know “Content” throws me – but who’s the user?  If it means the student they land on the homepage – is this another example of using 2 different terms for the same thing?  WTF is a content tool?

I notice the use of terms like “widget” and concepts like bookmarks, from which I infer the design team are post web 2.0 internet savvy (maybe STEM majors in college), but I suspect they expect teaching to be data transfer and may not understand skill development or the humanities in general.

So, if anyone reading this has a grasp on how it was designed or how it works – conceptually (I’m talking big picture) – and what new language we have to use, what it means and what words we should avoid (i.e. nuggets), please  reply to this blog post and I’ll catalog it.   I’m going to keep a learning/ teaching with D2L journal here and I’d appreciate other perspectives.

Next I’ll be ranting on the seemingly incomprehensible conceptual tautologies of Discussions in D2L.