An esteemed colleague at another Ontario university recently asked colleagues about educational technology policies. “I am curious about the educational technology policies (for students and faculty) that people have in place at your respective institutions. Policies or mechanisms around such things as procurement, tech requirements for students, adoption of new tech, etexts, institutionally supported versus non-supported software, that sort of thing,” wrote Dr. Richard Gorrie, Associate Director of Educational Technology Research, Development & Integration at the University of Guelph.
At the University of Toronto, we have a number of relevant documents and sites, so I thought curating them into a single answer would make for a good blog post, with information that others might find helpful.
Information Technology Services (ITS) is pleased to announce the newest addition to the Office 365 environment: Microsoft Stream (Stream).
Stream allows faculty and staff to easily upload and share video content, such as recordings of classes, meetings, presentations and training sessions. It also works well with other Office 365 applications like Teams, SharePoint, OneNote and Yammer.
To access Stream, simply login to your Office 365 account (similar to how you would access your email through a web browser). This new service is complimentary with the University’s other existing video-hosting service MyMedia.
Over the past year, the University of Toronto, led by our CIO Bo Wandschneider, has been engaged in a deep and meaningful IT strategic planning process. You can read more about that process in this article, “New ITS strategic plan to guide the future of tech at U of T,” but the Vision that we collectively developed really captures a new spirit here at our University:
“IT@UofT provides leadership that enables the University to achieve our mission by fostering an integrated and collaborative community, built on creativity, agility, transparency and trust.”
For us in the Academic & Collaborative Technologies group, this Vision isn’t just a ‘bunch of words’ stuck on a wall. They are ideas we strive to live by.
On June 20th and June 21st, ACT was thrilled to host two days of onsite Quercus (Canvas) professional development at the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation. More than 40 professional expert staff from ALL OVER the university spent time together, creatively building an agile and collaborative community, in a safe (trust) space for learning.
Technologies come, and technologies go, and while it did take a lot of collaborative effort to roll out Quercus as part of our Academic Toolbox Renewal, the greatest outcome has been the reinvigoration of our professional edtech staff community of practice, and we are pleased to support this exceptional and strategic development, enabling our colleagues to provide important and valuable leadership in each of their divisions.
We hope we’ve identified all edtech professionals currently working at the University of Toronto, but if we’ve missed you, please let us know … drop us a quick note to q.help (at) utoronto.ca
As we approach one year on Quercus, we’ve begun to look at the other (other than the LMS) teaching and learning tools in use at our school.
My colleague, Vahideh Rahnama, the project control analyst on our team, has been doing some research – looking at what other universities are doing (particularly other schools who have adopted Canvas). Her methodology is to look on the publicly-visible websites of other schools, to see if she can compile a list of officially supported third-party applications and LMS integrations. There are two reasons for this approach – one, we didn’t want to bother our colleagues for this informal environmental scan, and two, if the information is not publicly available, it raises questions about how much a school really wants to support the use of that tool.
We are happy to share some initial observation’s from Vahideh’s investigations (as of this writing – 30 schools). Her main finding, more than 250 different tools across those 30 schools, but there are really less than a dozen or so tools that are very common. For me, this seems to indicate that we are often subject to the individual aspirations of limited numbers of instructors or departments looking for specific tools that may not have such universal appeal, even within our own institutions. Alternatively, it may speak to certain marketing strategies of product vendors, who picth directly to instructors, who then bring ideas of limited scope forward within their institutions.
Of course, these are only hypotheses, which would require much more (and formal) research to answer.
For now, however, here are the ‘biggies’ that she’s found so far:
Every year around this time, we take stock of the past year’s activities. With that in mind, I thought it would be a good opportunity to have a look at the Portal to Quercus transition by the numbers.
When we set out, our target was to have approximately 5,000 active courses for Fall term and 10,000 by the end of the Winter term, As of March 24, 2019 on Quercus there are:
13,790 published courses
94,214 active students
5,195 active instructors
We also set out to make all previously integrated tools available in Quercus, and as of the end of March we have:
All 21 external tool integrations migrated from Portal to Quercus
3 UT-created applications were re-developed for Quercus (UTAGT, UTOMR, UTGET)
In addition to courses on Quercus, we also set in motion a plan to help with the migration of content.
Eleven Content Migration Assistants were hired during the Toolbox Renewal Project to assist instructors and Divisional staff with training and supporting content migration from Portal to Quercus
After working closely with divisional colleagues, for the vast majority of instructors and departments, course shells were re-built from scratch, rather than using automated or semi-automated migration tools. While those tools remained an option, it was generally felt that, pedagogically, re-building made more sense, and that was consistent with other schools’ experiences. Nonetheless, all courses were archived for cases where an instructor might have missed the deadline to export their content from Portal.
We also put on a number of related events, including Clinics, Sessions, Support Resources and Presentations:
Central Content Migration Clinics offered: 30
Divisional and Departmental Information Sessions: 12
Divisional Migration Clinics: 75
Online guides with step-by-step instructions, matrix, FAQs and an instructional video with 2,251 views as of March 27, 2019 posted on the Toolbox Renewal website and Quercus Support Resources site.
Scheduled consultations: approximately 15. Faculty and staff were directed to attend the clinics.
U of T Event Presentations open to the Community (e.g., Quercus Day: all 3 campuses, TKF 2018, CTSI Teaching & Learning Symposium 2019 – Quercus Table)
In addition to courses, we also identified more than 2400 Portal (Blackboard) Organizations or “org” shells being used on Portal (these are similar to course shells, but with a different metaphor and manual creation). A great deal of effort went into identifying the ownership and purposes for those shells, including:
The effort to identify the pedigree of the org shells included exporting and saving the content for the owners when requested. In the end:
74% of Orgs were deleted
10% of Orgs became course shells on Quercus
6% of Orgs became MS Team
10% to other non-enterprise systems (such as divisional SharePoint instances, for example)
_________ Note: MS Teams was rolled out simultaneously as a service for non-group course collaboration.
If you haven’t book-marked the Quercus Student Blog yet, you definitely should – it’s a great sources of information and ideas – ostensibly for and by students – but in actuality, it’s great for everyone at UofT. Check it out here: https://qstudents.utoronto.ca/category/blog/
Our colleagues in our Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering have developed a lovely and helpful document explaining the differences between Pages and Modules in Quercus. As they write, “In Canvas/Quercus, a Module is a way to organize and display course content. They are buckets that hold any number of different types of elements – pages, assignments, files, links, etc. You can have as many modules as you’d like. Most commonly, they are sorted by time (Ex. Week 1, Week 2, Week 3) or by type (ex. Assignments, Readings, Lectures, etc.). There’s no right or wrong way, you get to choose that based on how you run your course. Pages, on the other hand, are more like webpages. They have a WYSIWYG editor that allows you to add text, embed media, and link to other course elements. Often, they are used to provide descriptions and explanations – they are one of the pieces that can be stored in the buckets. ” Please check out this and other helpful hints at http://edtech.engineering.utoronto.ca/blog/q-pages-vs-module-course-organization
by Marco Di Vittorio Manager, Application Administration Academic & Collaborative Technologies (ACT)
Most traffic moves slower during a snow storm. Pedestrian, vehicle and airline routes typically grind to a
halt when large white flakes flood the ground in high volumes. Web traffic on the other hand, can
exhibit a very different pattern during the same extreme events. Over the course of the recent snow
storms that hit Toronto, the University homepage experienced significant spikes in request rates driven
primarily by visits to the campus status page. The charts below tell the story.
Top Referrer URLs: Monday Jan 28 1:00 PM to Tuesday Jan 29 1:00 PM
Beginning on Monday, Jan 28th, as the weather worsened over the course of the afternoon, requests to
the U of T homepage increased and dramatically spiked at approximately 6:00 PM. It’s reasonable to
assume the source was primarily students checking to see whether their evening classes were cancelled
due to the weather. The traffic soon subsided only to spike to an even higher level at 6:30 AM the
following morning as the U of T community woke up and checked the website to find out if campuses
were open for business.
Total HTTP Requests per 5-minute interval: Monday Jan 28 1:00 PM to Tuesday Jan 29 1:00 PM
High traffic alarms were sounding but the hybrid on-prem and cloud infrastructure responded and the
website continued to smoothly serve content during the increased periods of demand. Roughly 200 GB
of data was served over the 24-hour period. Site uptime was 100% and the average page response time
was 431ms (as measured by pingdom.com).
A third event occurred on Wednesday, Feb 6th beginning at 1:40 PM as the campus status page was
updated with information that UTM, UTSC and STG were closing once again due to poor weather. As
demonstrated in the graphs below, by 1:50 PM total request volume over a 5-minute interval peaked at
almost 70,000 and then sharply declined. At the high-water mark, request volume was approximately
20x greater than the 6-month average measure. This data might also serve as a rough indicator that it
took approximately 10 minutes for the closure message to disseminate across a significant portion of
the university community.
Total HTTP Requests per 5-minute interval: 13.7K requests on Feb 6 at 1:40 PM
Total HTTP Requests per 5-minute interval: 68.0K requests on Feb 6 at 1:50 PM
While these metrics reinforce the benefits of the current infrastructure design, the most important
outcome from our perspective is that we were able to reliably and rapidly deliver timely information to
the institution’s students, faculty and staff.
A new semester is upon us, and we now move into our second full semester in our new teaching environment Quercus. As with all new systems, there can be a bit of a learning curve, especially for some of the quirkier parts of the system. We’ve set up a web page where we will be documenting alerts about some of the more challenging things we come across. Please feel free to bookmark Quercus Quirks, which you can also find from the Quercus Support website as well.
Hello again. We are pleased to let faculty and staff know that the Microsoft Teams tool is now available for use at UofT. Check out the Team @ UofT website for more information on this very useful collaboration tool: http://office365.utoronto.ca/about/teams/