Welcome to the Blackboard Learning System

New WebCT (DeadCT) logoFrom the September 2006 Edition of the Blackboard Academic Bulletin, Blackboard has officially announced the renaming of the Suite of WebCT products to become the Blackboard Learning System. They now have logos (see right).


This change was hinted at during the WebCT IMPACT! Conference

More specifically...

Before After
WebCT Vista Blackboard Learning System Vista Enterprise License
WebCT Campus Edition (Institution License) Blackboard Learning System CE Enterprise Ltd License
WebCT Campus Edition (Focus License) Blackboard Learning System CE Basic License

In addition a new product will be coming called Blackboard Learning System CE Enterprise License


As promised, these changes will take effect after upgrading to Service Pack 1 for Application Pack 1

More detailed information can be found here (PDF).

Great WebCT CE6 SQL commands

Returns: All courses a student is enrolled in, their status and instructor
Input: webct_id

select p.webct_id,lc.id,lc.name,lc.description,lc.source_id,rd.name,m.status_flag,m.delete_status,p2.webct_id
from webct.learning_context lc, webct.PERSON p, webct.member m, webct.role r, webct.role_definition rd,
webct.learning_context lc2, webct.PERSON p2, webct.member m2, webct.role r2, webct.role_definition rd2
where lc.id = m.learning_context_id
and m.person_id = p.id
and r.member_id = m.id
and rd.id = r.role_definition_id
and p.webct_id = 'username'
and lc.id = lc2.id
and lc2.id = m2.learning_context_id
and m2.person_id = p2.id
and r2.member_id = m2.id
and rd2.id = r2.role_definition_id
and rd2.name = 'SINS'
order by lc.source_id;

-----------------------------------------------------------

Returns: All enrollments in a class for all roles
Input: source_id

select p.webct_id,lc.id,lc.name,lc.description,lc.source_id,rd.name,m.status_flag,m.delete_status,p2.webct_id
from webct.learning_context lc, webct.PERSON p, webct.member m, webct.role r, webct.role_definition rd,
webct.learning_context lc2, webct.PERSON p2, webct.member m2, webct.role r2, webct.role_definition rd2
where m.person_id = p.id
and lc.id = m.learning_context_id
and r.member_id = m.id
and rd.id = r.role_definition_id
and lc.source_id = 'source_id'
and lc.id = lc2.id
and lc2.id = m2.learning_context_id
and m2.person_id = p2.id
and r2.member_id = m2.id
and rd2.id = r2.role_definition_id
and rd2.name = 'SINS'
and p.webct_id not like '%webct_demo%'
order by rd.name, p.webct_id;

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Returns: All enrollments in a class for all roles
Input: course name (AB-1234-01); term code

select p.webct_id,lc.id,lc.name,lc.description,lc.source_id,rd.name,m.status_flag,m.delete_status,p2.webct_id
from webct.learning_context lc, webct.PERSON p, webct.member m, webct.role r, webct.role_definition rd,
webct.learning_context lc2, webct.PERSON p2, webct.member m2, webct.role r2, webct.role_definition rd2
where m.person_id = p.id
and lc.id = m.learning_context_id
and r.member_id = m.id
and rd.id = r.role_definition_id
and lc.name like 'coursename%'
and lc.source_id LIKE '%termcode'
and lc.id = lc2.id
and lc2.id = m2.learning_context_id
and m2.person_id = p2.id
and r2.member_id = m2.id
and rd2.id = r2.role_definition_id
and rd2.name = 'SINS'
and p.webct_id not like '%webct_demo%'
order by rd.name, p.webct_id;

WebCT, Campus Edition 6, CE 6, SQL, enrollments, classes, databases

WebCT CE 6 Service Pack Upgrades!!! Items to consider

A quick warning for anyone who is currently using the Luminis Message Broker as a conduit for getting your Banner SIS data into your CE6 instance...jot down your LMB info as you will not have it after your Service Pack (both 2 and 3) upgrades.

The settings are found on (log in as your institutional administrator):
Administration Tab
Utilities Sub-Tab
Settings Link
SCT Integration - Luminis Message Broker Link

The fields that will clear

  • LMB Server Name
  • LMB user name
  • LMB password

Likely you have these fields memorized, but you should look at them after your service pack upgrades to ensure they are set accurately and that you are still connected.

8/9/06 SP3 upgrade also changed/reset perm's on siapi.sh, a powerful command used oftentimes by more than root (which is who likely owns it in your instance). If you were used to having non-root access to the siapi.sh command, then someone with root access will need to set it back.

Also, if you are intregrated via the Luminis Message Broker (LMB), then likely your GlcId and username/password fields were cleared or altered at the serveradmin level.

WebCT, Campus Edition 6, CE 6, Service Pack, SP, upgrades, Luminis Message Broker, LMB, issues, GlcId

Don't call me WebCT!

I received an email (as did all WebCT administrators and support personnel) from Michael Chasen, the CEO of Blackboard.

It now appears that WebCT has a much shorter lifespan than one might have originally thought -- at least as a name.

In the next release, you will see new names for the WebCT products. As part of our commitment to fostering a greater shared community of practice, Campus Edition and Vista will become part of the Blackboard Academic Suite line-up. The new product names will be:

The Blackboard Learning SystemTM - Vista Enterprise License
The Blackboard Learning SystemTM - CE Enterprise Ltd License (formerly the Institution License)
The Blackboard Learning SystemTM - CE Basic License (formerly the Focus License)

They show that these name changes will come effective with future Application Pack upgrades...this would mean we will be running Blackboard Campus Edition 6 or BbCE6.

...stay tuned...

WebCT Application Packs: Boiling Frogs?

One of my colleagues attended the 2006 IMPACT conference, the annual WebCT users meeting in Chicago. He posted a great outline of the opening keynote that Blackboard Chairman Matthew Pittinsky and CEO Michael Chasen gave.

While there were many points made, the one that I think stuck with me the most was the following

...As a side note, they currently plan two means by which clients will be able to migrate to the ultimate end product. One is the gradual conversion over time through the use of Application Packs which will evolve and reshape the existing system. The other option is to wait a take a single leap into the new system...

This, if they can pull it off, is a very clever move. Many WebCT institutions will be taking the Blackboard-WebCT buyout as an opportunity to investigate other LMS solutions -- namely ones of the open-source variety. It now sounds like blindly upgrading through the Application Packs will ultimately transform their LMS environment into something very close to the future BlackCT product -- making it more difficult to leap to an open-source solution (or even consider one).

I haven't seen yet if the Application Packs will be mandatory upgrades or if they will be in parallel with the others (i.e., Service Packs). Certainly I would hope the latter. We may ultimately choose to go down this road, but I would like to make that choice, thank you very much.

If you are confused by the boiling frogs remark, I was surprised (well, not really) to find a reference on wikipedia.

webct, blackboard, impact, boiling frogs

WebCT CE 6 and the Yahoo Toolbar (Access problems)

WebCT Campus Edition 6 does not behave very well when the browser you are using has a popup blocker running. Most all browsers today have a popup blocker feature, and you can have a popup blocker installed on your machine AND use WebCT CE 6, but it really seems to be the blockers that come with the 'toolbars' that cause the largest problems.

What kind of problems? Usually they are the kind of problems where at the moment they are trying to do something that requires the popup (like opening the File Browser or creating a message for discussion/email), they will receive a message like 'you have no access or permissions' when all reason suggests that they should.

Toolbars, for those who do not know, are those extra rows of buttons and pictures you may find near (usually directly below) the Address bar in you browser (see example below). There are many of them, but the most popular from my experience appear to by those distributed by Google and Yahoo. For most of you, especially those who have the Yahoo toolbar, you will have absolutely no recollection as to how that 'got there.' Oftentimes it piggybacks on another application or update you DID intend to install.

Toolbars

The most noteworthy offender is Macromedia (or is it Adobe) Flash Player. It is a free download that has [relatively] frequent updates. Each update, if you are not careful, will install the toolbar. Of course if you do not have it already, then you do not receive a second. However, if you have deleted the toolbar program (easy to do), the next update can again put it back.

I use -- and enjoy having -- the Google toolbar. However, the popup blockers always start 'on.' I turn them off, and leave the Internet Explorer one on. I then add the WebCT site (actually I add '*.institution.edu' where the institution is yours) as a trusted site.

browsers, webct, campus edition 6, toolbars, popup blockers

WebCT: The 6 day work week (Part II)

My original posting on this topic has received a lot of attention from many in our ITS department, which has then encouraged more refinement on two fronts.

1) Work a little more indepth with the WebCT login information (more than just April), and
2) Perform similar studies with other Plymouth State University online resources.

I could not do much to accompish #1, as our reports that achive login numbers only extended about a week before April, and our 'standard' usage does not apply after Finals week of the Spring Term -- about three weeks after April -- so I was only able to add about a month to the month I already had. However a deeper study into each day does provid more insight.

For #2, I collaborated with Zach, our portal administrator, to perform an analysis on the most similar statistic he had -- number of logins in a given hour (remember, the WebCT metric is number of people logged in every ten minutes.) Though the statistics themselves were not identical, they do reflect the same thing, overall use and activity. Actually, these would be the same if you assume that all WebCT sessions last less than an hour, and no one enters WebCT more than once per portal login...its clearly a stretch, but also an indicator that they are similar.

Results (each graph has two lines per day...potal logins and WebCT active sessions).

Overall Trends

Not surprising (though comforting to verify), the usage trend between WebCT and our portal (MyPlymouth) were vary similar, as can be seen from the graph. Each day has a level of significant inactivity from 2:00-3:00AM hour until 6:00AM. After that, activity increases for the day time and stays active for the remainder of the day -- including well into the evening. Portal logins are quite a bit higher in number (these graph are plotted on two vertical axes), and even though the measurements are not the same, this is to be expected as the portal itself serves many more purposes. WebCT trends - each day
All 7 days


Weekdays vs. Weeekends

Clearly, as a traditional academic institution, one would expect that usage numbers are higher during the week, and these to hold true. Remembering that from 2:00-6:00AM are identical regardles of day, what's noteable here between the weekdays and the weekends is how rapidly activity increases immediately after 6:00AM. Also, note another interesting trend...the after dinner check-in. Each day (even on Friday), there is a peak of activity in the evenings after a clear dip during dinnertime. This appears to me more pronounced in WebCT usage, suggesting a higher percentage of WebCT use in the portal at that time.


Saturday vs. Sunday

This might be the most useful comparison. When a picture says a thousand words, then I don't have to type as much. Needless to say, this graph is highly responsible to a potential shift in our ITS weekly downtime window to Saturday. Also, again like the after dinner check-in during the week, the WeCT use is at a higher level with respect ot other times during Sunday evenings. Saturday-Sunday usage
Sat(blk) & Sun(red)



Friday vs. Sunday

This might be the most insteresting comparison, and the one the ultimately spawned this study. My original argument was that the additional activity on Sunday meant that WebCT worked a six day work week. In most repsects, this is still true, but you could also make the argument that the online academic week begins at noon on Sunday, and ends at noon Friday -- the new five day week? Fridays and Sundays
Fri(prpl) & Sun(red)

WebCT: The 6 day work week

Since our WebCT upgrade to Campus Edition 6, I have been looking for ways to learn more about our campus' usage of the software. Without even diving into the deep end, I have found something quite interesting when observing one of the simplest statistics -- session activity.

Using the new WebCT CE6 feature -- Who's Online -- the administrator can get the number of how many users in the institution are logged into WebCT at any given time. Upon tracking this number, I have come to a couple of conclusions.

  • WebCT works 6 days a week (Sunday - Friday)
  • Sundays are at just just as important as Fridays
To look at the first point, take a look at this first picture. It shows quite easily that the activity during an average Sunday is significant, and comparable to the other weekdays, though still a little lighter than Monday through Thursday. April 06 Session Counts
Click image for better view

But notice how Sundays and Fridays looked in April. The following graphs show the daily activity for each of the Sundays and Fridays in April 2006. The left ends of the graphs represent 12:00AM, and the right ends represent 11:59PM, as each line denotes one day's activity from beginning to end.

April 06 Fridays April 06 Sundays
Click above images to enlarge

Note how Fridays get off to a quick start, but by mid-afternoon, session activity falls off much faster than on other weekdays. By comparison, Sundays get off to a slower start, but by 9:00 PM, WebCT is about as active as any other time of the week -- and just as active (if not more) as any Friday.

Does this mean that Sundays are more important than Fridays? I think you can make a strong case. At the very least it's similar. More may be made of this, but for now, let this serve as 'food for thought' as we begin to investigate the possibility of expanding our WebCT support into the library as part of our new learning commons. Sundays should not be ignored!

Generic Support Questions for WebCT CE 6

Common litany of questions I ask when I find that someone is having a problem that is presented to me with nebulous descriptions...

What is the problem?
What exactly are you clicking when things stop working correctly?
What happens when you make that click? (Please include exact error messages if possible!)
What class(es) are you having this problem?

If you do not know how to fix the problem at this point, ask on...

Are you on campus or off campus?
If off, are you at home? At work?
What Operating System are you using? (Windows, Mac, Linux, etc.)
What browser(s) and version(s) are you using?
Browsers: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Mozilla
Does this problem occur when you try with a different browser?
Does this problem occur when you try with a different computer?
Does this problem occur when you try with a different computer in more than one place?
Does this problem occur on campus?