Enterprise Video Content Management – a Confab Higher Ed 2013 proposal

Video screen with fast foward text.I submitted a proposal today for the first Higher Ed Confab conference. Since making the move to the University of Michigan last fall, I’ve been living, eating and breathing video content management (VCM). In a place this big, the scope and reach of video is astounding. I’ve discovered that a lot of higher ed institutions are using VCM in conjunction with their learning management systems and other academic support (we are, too!), but VCM reaches a lot farther. I am really looking forward to discussing these broader implications. If you are a Confab planner, pick me!

Why I love WordPress!

kid with spaghetti all over faceSo in true information technology pro fashion, I’ve rarely labeled a floppy or CD, I save everything on my desktop until it’s too cluttered to find the trash icon, then shove it all into a folder and start over (hey, it makes backup easy, when I get around to it!).  So it’s little surprise that I didn’t update my WordPress site until it’s a least four or five versions behind what’s current. I am happy to report that despite this sorry state of affairs, after just a couple of upgrade passes, this site is current and even my template survived!

On the subject of Fair Use

I first saw this video years ago, and it is a great example of employing Fair Use to create a video mash-up that demonstrates and teaches us all about it

A Fair(y) Use Tale by Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University.

Refrigerator Repair Open Source Style

I called this site Open Source Educator because I wanted a platform to talk and discuss open source, free and nearly free solutions for educational purposes. Well recently my ten year old side-by-side refrigerator stopped cooling on the refrigerator side. Timing for such failures is never good, and a $200 repair visit (that’s what the last one cost) was not in my immediate future.

Since I am constantly (rightly) accused of spending far too much time on my computer, I decided to do a little research. While sitting on my deck on an early Saturday morning I found some really great YouTube videos. Some explained how to install specific parts in specific refrigerators, but one stood out among the rest and had me solving my problem in no time! An hour with the blow dryer $20 later my fridge was back in business – my answer was at the 3 minute point in this video:

More Joomla Fun!

ExitExit, Joomla 1.5 & JMS!

So, a while back I wrote about migrating 83 sites to Joomla and how our Director of Web Services pulled off that trick by using Joomla Multisites (JMS). Well, now it’s time for a migration from Joomla 1.5 to 2.5, applying a new template and reorganizing content.

When we first adopted JMS, it was for the express purpose of giving us a means to manage editor access to each departmental “site.” Joomla 2.5 with it’s nested categories and granular access control system makes JMS no longer relevant for us. In fact, given that we are getting a new look and sharing a lot of content across different parts of the site, it’s time to work on our exit strategy and the migration strategy.  This is sure to be a time consuming and thought provoking venture, so stay tuned!

Google Voice – free calls and more

Google Voice Call Button When I first signed up for Google Voice and got my own Google Voice phone number, I wasn’t sure what to do with it. It was cool to have a local phone number that rings multiple phones at once, but I really couldn’t see the value in it for me. All the folks I converse with already know how to reach me at home, on my cell, or at the office.

Recently, though, I found a new use for my voice account. Where I work everything seems to be a long distance call. Normally, I’d use my cell, but the signal quality in my office (in the basement) is nearly non-existent. While poking around in GV, I discovered that you can tell it to make a call for you using one of the phones attached to your account. So, when I need to make a long distance call from the office I fire up GV, click on the Call button, tell it which phone I want it to use (in this case my office phone), and enter the number I’m calling.  In moments my office phone rings and when I pick it up, my destination is ringing on the other end.

Google Voice Plugin in GmailOf course if you computer is equipped with a mic and speakers (or a headset), you can make phone calls right from your computer. I have the Google Voice plugin installed for my gmail, so I can call a phone right from inside my gmail account. Nifty!

Migrating 83 HTML sites to Joomla CMS, oh my!

So the big Moodle upgrade is behind us and now its almost time to roll out our big upgrade from 110+ static websites containing more than a half million pages into the Joomla content management system – a process that has taken nearly 18 months to complete!

Though you’d never know it to look at it, at Albion College we have about 83 separate websites (down from the original 110) that represent our main campus presence. Even though we are a small school, our website management is like many larger institutions — decentralized. Each department is responsible for updating their own website content and IT and the communications office provides technical support and training.

We sure couldn’t see managing 83 separate Joomla installations (think about updating 83 times each time a new security release comes out), but we needed a way to keep our decentralized editing environment.  Our director of web services discovered Joomla MultiSite.  JMS is a paid component that allows you to have a single Joomla installation that acts as a building block for “slave” sites. Anything you install in the “master” site can be made available to the slaves, yet each slave has its own user management and configuration options after if it were a full Joomla install!

For example, take an Academics master site. It has slave sites for each department: biology, math, theater, etc. The next time an update for the JCE Editor is released, I just update the master site and the slaves automatically inherit the update – bada bing, bada-boom! In the end, our web services director, Nicole, decided to split up the website by top level divisions into separate JMS installations, but 9 is a much more manageable number than 83!

JMS allows you to assign each slave to its own database or share a single MySQL database. Our web services director and I debated at length about which approach to take. In the end we felt that allowing each site to have its own database would give us an exit strategy if JMS doesn’t turn out to be all we hope it will be. If we have to split out the sites, it will be a lot of work but at least the technical aspect of doing so will be easier because the databases. Our advantage in this approach is that we host on site so it doesn’t matter how many databases we have. In a paid hosting environment, that could get expensive!

MOODLE 2.1 Growing Pains – New Workflows

So a very busy summer is almost behind us, our  MOODLE 2.1 installation is up and running and training has begun. We’ve been upgrading the same MOODLE install for something like five or six years (since version 1.3!), so we decided that a new install would probably be a pretty safe bet. No sense rocking the upgrade boat when shifting to a major core re-write.  While we have shiny new template, we chose to keep a lot of the main home page features, include RSS feeds from our campus News and Sports sites.  Turns out that the students and faculty really love this.  We also kept our graphical quick buttons to things like email, our new Atomic Learning subscription, library and login help.

AARRGGHHH!  Where the heck is it?!?

Screenshot of Moodle 2 context menuSo, one of the biggest challenges for our faculty (and for us instructional technologists!) in adopting the new MOODLE is getting used to the new context sensitive menu structure.  Let’s face it, Martin Dougiamas and his developers have trained us for years how to use MOODLE in a certain way, and now its different.  Kind of like how I nearly had a stroke trying to figure how to turn the wipers on in my PT Cruiser (really, you have turn the knob AND push the lever up?!?)

In the past we clicked into a resource or activity to edit it or grade, and found all of its features and options listed in one long page, with maybe a few links or tabs at the top.  Now, many of those options are located in the menu, rather than on the page. We find that we are training ourselves and our users to swallow the panic and remember to shift our eyes a couple of inches to the left (or wherever you positioned your main menu). It’s likely hiding out right there!

MOODLE 2.1 Upgrade – Resource Management

Leveraging Assets and Getting Some Help

I wear a lot of hats at Albion College – technology advocate, web server administrator, content management systems admin (we have big Joomla and WordPress installs, too), trainer, user support specialist, and, oh, yeah, Director of Instructional Technology.  Fortunately, I have a great staff and a student employee, Eddie B, who worked with us this summer to pull all of this off.

Building On Previous Work

We took what we learned from an Apache server upgrade last winter and applied it to our upgrade methodology for the MOODLE server. Eddie worked with us when we did the winter upgrade, and was all over those pesky PHP 5.3 issues for this project -namely the whole VC6/VC9 compiled code conflict with Apache 2.2, and the missing Active Directory (mod_LDAP) library, before school was out in May.

Over the summer Eddie is working remotely for us, creating a new site template  (something else new in MOODLE 2), freeing us up to focus on getting ourselves up to speed with MOODLE 2.1, course creation, and faculty training.

Summer fun, to be sure!