Viewing by month: April 2010

Apr 30 2010

New School Events Ready for Viewing and Listening

Three very interesting sessions, recently recorded at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, have been posted to the Center for Teaching and Learning with Technology’s Web Events page:

  1. Tobacco, Biomedical, and Public Health Services: A Journey from Cells to Society. David Abrams, PhD. Recorded live March 3, 2010.
  2. On Etiology. Constantine Frangakis, PhD. Recorded live March 17, 2010.
  3. The Jacob I. and Irene B. Fabrikant Professor and Chair in Health, Risk and Society Installation. Thomas A. Burke, PhD, MPH.  Recorded live March 23, 2010.

We hope you enjoy these events.

Posted by Kathy Gresh at 11:02 AM - Categories: Web Events | Online Courses

Apr 28 2010

Faculty: Expected to Graduate Indicator Now Displayed on Course Rosters

When the end of the academic year rolls around, faculty who are currently teaching are under a bit of pressure to submit the grades for students who are graduating as quickly as possible. Although this information is available in ISIS, many faculty requested if this information could also be displayed in CoursePlus and online courses. Faculty tend to spend more time in CoursePlus/online courses than ISIS, so this made good sense.

When faculty or TAs view the course roster in either online courses or CoursePlus, they will now see a  indicator next to the names of students who are expected to graduate at the end of the current academic term. This icon appears when a student is expected to graduate in any academic term at the University — not just the end of the academic year at JHSPH.

Only faculty and TAs (or editors, in CoursePlus parlance) can see this information. No student or guest can see this information.

The expected to graduate indicator is currently only displayed on the course roster. It's possible that this indicator may be added to other tools, such as the Gradebook, class email tool, or Quiz Generator at some point in the future.

Posted by Brian Klaas at 8:58 AM - Categories: Online Courses | CoursePlus

Apr 26 2010

A Big, Behind the Scenes Change for Online Courses

For the past year, developers in the Center for Teaching and Learning with Technology have been working on a pretty big change to the systems which support online courses here at the School. Although the changes you'll actually be able to see aren't very big, they're quite big behind the scenes.

In a series of blog posts, I'll be documenting the changes that you will see being a faculty, student, or TA in an online course. What you won't see is the new architecture that powers all the online courses. It's designed to make pages load faster, be easier to recover in the case of disaster, and create an improved experience by sharing more data across the individual tools which make up an online course.

This change won't occur until early this summer, before the start of the summer academic term. We'll be posting very specific details of when this change will occur as we get much closer to the actual changeover date.

Posted by Brian Klaas at 1:24 PM - Categories: Online Courses

Apr 23 2010

What's With All the Site Errors Lately?

In the past couple weeks, you've probably encountered a brief period of time where every single course website that you try to access gives you a "An Error Has Occurred" message. This goes on for anywhere from 10-15 minutes, then it magically goes away and all is well again.

The reason for this is a problem in the database in which all of the information displayed in online courses is stored. The database cluster which powers all the online courses (and CoursePlus, for that matter) is run by the very good team in JHSPH Information Systems. Information Systems is working very hard to resolve this problem. It's a bit tricky, and they've brought in experts from Microsoft's main offices to work on the issue with them.

IS and the Microsoft team have already performed a number of tasks in an attempt to resolve this problem. It's unfortunately more complex than they initially thought, and so the problem still isn't solved. We'll certainly provide you with updates as soon as the situation changes.

In the meantime, if you do run in to this problem and have the time and patience to wait 10-15 minutes, the problem will just go away.

Posted by Brian Klaas at 3:49 PM - Categories: Online Courses

Apr 20 2010

Slowdowns and Problems on CoursePlus

You've probably noticed that CoursePlus has been running slowly in the past couple of days. The site even went offline for a brief period on Monday night around 10:15pm. The reason for this is a problem in the database in which all of the information displayed in CoursePlus is stored. Information Systems is working very hard to resolve this problem. It's a bit tricky, and they've brought in experts from Microsoft's main offices to work on the issue with them.

We understand that you're frustrated by this, and if we could resolve the problem more quickly, we really would. We'll post here when the problems are resolved, which should hopefully be in the next day or so.

UPDATE 2:03PM: Information Systems is going to perform emergency maintenance at 9pm Eastern time today (April 20). This will result in CoursePlus and the online courses being unavailable for approximately 15 minutes. We hope that this maintenance will help resolve the problems that Information Systems has had with the database in the past few days.

UPDATE Wed, April 21: Although the maintenance last night took quite a bit longer than expected, it looks like the problems have been resolved. We'd like to thank you for your patience while these problems were resolved!

Posted by Brian Klaas at 9:19 AM - Categories: CoursePlus

Apr 12 2010

Would You Miss the QuickLinks Feature If It Were Removed?

Here in the Center, we really do listen to the feedback that students, faculty, and staff give us about course Web sites and how they function. Here's another opportunity for you to let us know what you think about, in this case, the main online courses page.

We're considering dropping the "Quick Links" box found on the online courses home page. Here's why: First and foremost, few people actually use this tool. We could then replace the "Quick Links" box with the content from the "Important News" area. This would have the effect of making the online courses home page simpler, cleaner, and would bring the most frequently accessed links on the page (the links in the "My Courses" box) to the top of the page.

With the availability of really good bookmark managers both inside Web browsers and on the Web in general (ie;, the need for something like the "Quick Links" box has faded. As such, we wouldn't move the "Quick Links" tool anywhere else. We'd simply retire it.

What do you think about this? Is this a good idea? Are you a die-hard fan of the "Quick Links" tool who would be sad to see it go away?

Posted by Brian Klaas at 4:29 PM - Categories: Online Courses

Apr 8 2010

What the Heck Happened to the Site on Thursday?

At 2:25pm on Thursday, April 8, 2010, Information Systems began emergency work on the database cluster which powers online courses, CoursePlus, the portal, and a number of other sites at the School. Information Systems began this work in the middle of the day only because it was absolutely necessary. Failure to take action would have resulted in potential data loss in the database cluster, and that would have been a Very Bad Thing.™

We were given no prior warning of this maintenance. That's not surprising given the extreme urgency of the situation. We tried to get word out to all of you as quickly as we could by posting a "This site is currently unavailable" message on the online courses and CoursePlus home page. Information Systems also sent out a brief email message to all students, faculty and staff about the issue at 3:39pm.

All sites were back up and running at 5:30pm. Information Systems worked very hard to resolve the problem as quickly as they could. However, this emergency maintenance not only disrupted access to CoursePlus sites and online courses, but also caused the cancellation of at least one LiveTalk session.

We're very sorry for the inconvenience this outage caused. It certainly wasn't planned and everyone involved worked as hard as they could to restore service as quickly as possible.

Posted by Brian Klaas at 5:39 PM - Categories: Online Courses | CoursePlus

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