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Thursday, March 17, 2011

  • Desire2Learn will replace ACE software
  • Staff conference less than four weeks away
  • Notes about art and entertainment
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Desire2Learn will replace ACE software

Software from Waterloo spinoff company Desire2Learn Inc. will be the replacement for the university’s current learning management system, UW-ACE, an announcement said yesterday.

[Corner of ACE home page]The word came from Andrea Chappell, director of the Instructional Technologies and Multimedia Services unit in Information Systems and Technology, who said “troubleshooting” of the new system will start in the spring term, and the move from ACE to D2L will be carried out this fall and in winter 2012.

She noted that since June 2009 a team of faculty, students, and people from IST, the Centre for Extended Learning, the Centre for Teaching Excellence, the office for persons with disabilities, and the library has been at work looking for a replacement for ACE.

“The new system,” Chappell said, “needs to address some unique teaching needs of University of Waterloo instructors while having an easy-to-use interface. Pending contract negotiations, the committee has recommended that the University of Waterloo adopt Desire2Learn as the new LMS.”

Why the change? “In May of 2009, Angel Learning Inc., the producer of the software used for UW-ACE, was purchased by a competitor LMS vendor, Blackboard Inc. While moving to Blackboard was one option, it became clear that it would mean a significant change. This was seen as an opportunity to consider the larger LMS market and determine the best fit for the University of Waterloo's next online course system.

“In looking for a replacement, we wanted to offer the same level of functionality and also to expand the LMS capabilities to enhance learning at UW.”

The process, says Chappell, “began by gathering, analyzing and assessing the LMS needs of the campus. Data was gleaned from a just-completed project, the Online Learning Environment Project, that ran faculty focus groups and a student survey. In May 2010 a Request for Information was issued to establish the breadth of responses to expect, followed by a formal Request For Proposals to which LMS vendors could submit their solution proposals. In addition to an in-depth assessment of the RFP submissions, the committee explored Open Source solutions that are not represented as part of the RFP process.

“To ensure that a comprehensive investigation was undertaken for all possible solutions, system sandboxes were created for testing, and reference calls were placed to other institutions for their insight and experience.  Desire2Learn consistently emerged as the most comprehensive and suitable solution for the University of Waterloo's LMS needs.”

Started by a former Waterloo student in 1999, Desire2Learn is a Kitchener-based company that provides LMS solutions internationally and to a number of local universities, including Wilfrid Laurier and Guelph. Says Chappell: “They provide a LMS environment that will make a relatively easy transition for UW-ACE users, and also an environment that allows extensibility and greater mobile connectivity. In addition, Desire2Learn has worked hard to make their system accessible, beyond the requirements of the anticipated Ontario legislation.

“Desire2Learn also offers an ePortfolio system, and a separate project investigating ePortfolios opted to use Desire2Learn's system, as it satisfies their needs and provides useful integrations with the LMS.”

She says that “to provide the most stable system possible and to reduce disruption as much as possible, the move to Desire2Learn will be scaled over the next three terms. Spring 2011 will be the initial procedural and troubleshooting phase, while the Fall 2011 and Winter 2012 will see the migration away from ANGEL.

“Training in a variety of forms (videos, documentation, one-on-one and group sessions) will be provided to our LMS community. The project team will be working to minimize the impact on instructors, including the move of their course materials to the new system. Further details of the transition will be provided in a future email to instructors. An Open House will be announced shortly where representatives from Desire2Learn and the LMS Selection Committee will provide more information and address questions. In the meantime, please feel free to contact lms@ with any questions.”

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Staff conference less than four weeks away

Things are getting into high gear at the office of organizational and human development, which is putting together the Fourth Annual Staff Conference, scheduled for April 6-7, right after the end of winter term classes. That’s less than four weeks away.

“Along with the five outstanding keynotes,” says a reminder issued by OHD this week, “great sessions are being offered for you to explore, engage and help you excel! Sessions fill quickly so register early to ensure you get the session(s) you want. Review your OHD Staff Conference 2011 mail-out invitations, and pick and choose sessions that interest you.  Remember that you can choose one session, all sessions, or as many that is satisfactory to your schedule and your department.” Some of the highlights:

“Continuing on Waterloo’s focus on student success, there are a variety of sessions looking at our students, from ‘Our First-Year Students and Their Transitions’, ‘What Does Student Success Have to do With Me?’, ‘Supervising and Supporting Student Staff’, and ‘Introducing the Student Success Office’. These sessions centre on developing an awareness of our students and how their success translate to success for Waterloo.”

“In the session, ‘Storytelling 101’,  learn why stories are effective, and how to find, and present, the most successful stories about the University of Waterloo and your department, be it for a web page, article,  brochure, or report. As Jeremy Gutsche, last year’s hit keynote on marketing and innovation, stated, you must ‘relentlessly obsess about your story’ to ensure you ‘connect with it’ and get the message across effectively.”

“As well, ‘HR: Plugged In 2.0’ is back demonstrating the new user-friendly tools for retirement planning using myPENSIONinfo, how to post or apply for new positions with myCareer@UWaterloo, and how use the Great West Life website for claims, deposits, and more.”

Registration for the conference runs until March 31.

Meanwhile, OHD is taking registrations for March and April courses in the "Skills for the Electronic Workplace" series. Highlights, says a memo to staff members, include "Introduction to Exchange Calendar", "What's New in Office 2010", and "Effective Web Content Planning".

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[Shepherdess and suitor]

'An Experiment with an Air Pump' is into the last few days of its run in the Theatre of the Arts. Rebecca Steiner and Dave Morgan are among the leads in the drama department's final production for the season (photo by Andy Wright). Performances are tonight through Saturday at 8:00.

Notes about art and entertainment

The "Design at Riverside" gallery in the university's Architecture building, beside the Grand River in Cambridge, is an arm of Cambridge Galleries, which is opening a new exhibition there tonight based on one of the strengths of its collection: textiles. "Cambridge Galleries’ permanent collection of contemporary Canadian fibre art is considered one of the best and most comprehensive in the country," a publicity release says. "The collection was conceived in homage to the region's rich textile manufacturing history and as a means by which to encourage and support outstanding contemporary work in the discipline. This annual exhibition provides an excellent overview of Cambridge Galleries’ collecting activity for 23 years, and demonstrates the diversity and ingenuity of Canadian artists creating textile based work. Works from the collection are frequently loaned to other art galleries across the country and beyond and selected works are exhibited at Design At Riverside on an annual basis. In each subsequent year we build greater awareness of the collection and the artists whose work is represented. The 2011 exhibition includes several recent acquisitions." An opening reception starts at 6:30 this evening; the exhibition will run through April 10.

Back on the Waterloo campus, there's an exhibition on the main floor of the Dana Porter Library featuring work by fourth-year fine arts student Raine Shen. "Raine’s installation 'Stratus' features a selection of paper cuts inspired by clouds, rocks, rivers, and other elements in nature," the library's e-newsletter says. "In her words, the paper cuts 'create organic motion . . . you want to touch them, but they’re very delicate.' Raine’s art is composed of drawings that are extended by tearing or cutting paper through. As described in her artist’s statement, 'the paper cuts hang in space in a persistent rebellion against gravity . . . these suspended bodies and inky channels are intertwined in a motionless dance, silhouetted by shadow and light'."

The UW Recreation Committee always has a lot of things going, from the monthly book club to feng shui workshops and hockey outings. Here's something new: a bus trip to Toronto on Sunday, July 10, to see Donny and Marie Osmond at the Four Seasons Centre. Says a memo this week: "In memory of Ethel Spike, long-time employee of the University of Waterloo and member of the UW Recreation Committee, this bus trip is being organized in her honour. It was her desire to organize a bus trip for employees through the Special Initiatives Fund but she fell ill before this dream was realized."


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Link of the day

St. Patrick

When and where

Waterloo Unlimited enrichment program for grade 11 students, March 14-18. Details.

Engineering Science Quest one-day camps at Stratford (grades 2-4) and Waterloo (grades 1-6) campuses during March break, March 14-18. Details.

Blood donor clinic Thursday 10:00 to 4:00 and Friday 9:00 to 3:00, Student Life Centre. Details.

Fever International Dance Competition Thursday-Sunday, Humanities Theatre (ticketed finals Sunday 3:30).

Career workshops today: “The Power of LinkedIn” 10:30,  Tatham Centre room 2218; “Career Interest Assessment” 2:00, Tatham room 1112.

Library workshop: “Better Searching, Better Marks” 1:30, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

St. Patrick’s Day dinner at Mudie’s cafeteria, Village I, 4:30 to 7:00.

International Spouses tour of K-W Art Gallery, 6:00, meet at Centre in the Square, 101 Queen Street North, free, details e-mail intlspouses@

Fine Arts Film Society showing of “Castaway on the Moon” (South Korea, 2009) 7:00, East Campus Hall room 1220.

Bechtel Lectures in Anabaptist-Mennonite Studies: Roger Epp, University of Alberta, “We Are All Treaty People” Thursday-Friday 7:30 p.m., Conrad Grebel University College chapel.

Architecture student co-op job interviews in Toronto Friday; in Cambridge March 21-23. Rankings open March 24-25, match results March 29.

Pension and benefits committee Friday 8:30 a.m., Needles Hall room 3004.

Wilfrid Laurier University March break open house, Friday at Waterloo campus. Details.

Pilot demonstration of new main website, Friday 9:00, Math and Computer room 5158. Prototype is online.

Library workshop: “Conference Proceedings” Friday 10:00, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

‘Food Justice: Our Food, Our Bodies’ symposium hosted by Waterloo Public Interest Research Group, March 18-20.

Knowledge Integration seminar: Dennis Piechota, University of Massachusetts at Boston, “What We Bring to the Table” Friday 2:30, Rod Coutts Hall room 301.

Philosophy colloquium: Ori Friedman, department of psychology, “Everyday Intuitions about Knowledge” Friday 3:30, Humanities room 373.

Senator Roméo Dallaire, former commanding officer of UN forces in Rwanda, presented by Arts Student Union, Friday 6:30 p.m., Humanities Theatre, tickets $35 (arts students $30) at Humanities box office.

College Royal open house at University of Guelph, Saturday 9 to 5, Sunday 10 to 4. Details.

Free tax clinic for students and others, run by trained students from School of Accounting and Finance, March 19-21, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, Student Life Centre multipurpose room, no appointment necessary. Details.

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