Tuesday, January 8, 2008

D2L and Media

One of my many tasks as a Multimedia Specialist involves integrating net technology such as podcasts, vodcasts, flash etc into Learning Management Systems (LMS).

An LMS is essentially a giant database with an HTML interface. Files are stored and the HTML reader finds the appropriate handler for the file.

To my keen astonishment, Desire to Learn 8.1.3, (our new LMS)does NOT handle M4V or A.

It doesn't even act like those are on the map. Very funny indeed for a software that claims to be cutting edge.

I try not to grump too much---there are some cool things in D2L, however, it is a very unfinished and non intuitive product.

I can train someone in the basics of Blackboard or WebCT or even Moodle in about an hour. D2L--with all its kitchy tools takes at a minimum 5 hours. They trained the trainers in a 3 day session. Yes I was extremely grumpy about that.

One of the first rules of elegant design in any form of design is that it must be intutive. A user should, without ever picking up a manual (because who reads those?) be able to sit down and with in moments understand the basic navigation of the product.

I have been working in media since around 1993. Most technologies have the same sort of icons, functions, etc that are universal even if it is a different brand or as I like to say, flavor.

D2L has 5, yes count them, 5 different buttons to "activate" a choice.
Submit, Apply Changes, Save, Go, and Upload.

BlackBoard uses Submit for EVERYTHING.

WebCT has the same one button activator too.

You see where I am going?

Here is the BEST (note sarcasm) part about the handling of media in D2L. They put a little Object insertion tool on their HTML editor. That sounds wonderful helpful doesnt it?

Sure if you ARE a multimedia specialist. The poor faculty do not know about pixels or file types. In Blackboard or Moodle you upload the file and it takes it from there. No, not in D2L. It wants to know what it is--except that it tells you it only handles MP3, real media, and AVI or Windows Media. You can see where I am going with this I am sure. Most of us don't use these. AVI is such a huge file you would choke the system. Real Media has so many conflicts you hate to put it on any machine. And Windows Media doesn't play on a Macintosh (yes, some people still use them).

Even better? Can you stand it? They assign a default window of 100 x 100 pixels to the media. So when it does play you basically see a 1" x 1" window of the actual file which is typically 3" x 5". You can't access the buttons. You can't do anything. So now as a trainer, you must explain to your already baffled faculty that they have to some how measure what the file size they have displays at and set it appropriately.


To circumvent the supposedly "helpful" technology, one must do a direct hyper link to the media in the Manage Files area and PRAY that the person has that media handler and that the D2L sys doesn't do funny things to it (like the M4V).

Our favorite quote here? That will be fixed in 8.2.

I hope they are planning for the future in 8.2, just getting what we are currently using doesn't do much when a NEW format comes out.

The Six P's are a rule to live by. Let us hope that D2L picks those up for future releases.

Prior Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

If you are trying to hack a system on a regular basis....well, you know what I mean.

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