Landing : Athabascau University

Athabasca Learning Environment Score card.

Last updated December 12, 2013 - 2:41pm by Carrie Anton Comments (3)

This wiki is designed for us to accurately look at and assess our own Learning Environment. I've made a comparison to "Best practices". Even I have trouble understanding how a practice can be the "Best" in any context, but I meant it as a goal. I have seen most (all) of these 'best Practices" used at some postsecondary educational institution delivering at a distance. Or think of these as the competition.

I've seeded the wiki with my first look at these. There are those here who are better able to judge than I - thus the Wiki can be edited, to correct any inaccuracies.  You can also add rows, to add additional components of our teaching/learning environment. There is a comment feature as well, if you wish to leave the table as it is but wanted to add commentary to any of the 'scores'

Note: There is no single AU learning Environment as our system has both continuous enrollment and cohort models as well as large differences between faculties in terms of direct student support. Nonetheless, as a self proclaimed leader in online learning, we should have an accurate assessment of the current state of our Learning Environment.

Please edit this table to reflect your best understanding!!  Comments discussions, arguments at the bottom please!

Component                      Athabasca                     Best Practice                                          
Hardware Good? Excellent
Helpdesk limited hours 24 Hour, text chat, help bot
Online Help OK, no community help Both readily avaiable help and active help community
Student Enrollment Management

Good Plan, no resources yet

**limited not none.

Extensive from first interest (course, transfer, application) to allumni
Learning Analytics primitive **This is a definitional issue. We do not have institutional tracking inside courses.  extensive knowledge of student behaviours and effective interventions
Faculty/Tutor Development

Technical and irregularengagements and presentations. Instructional Designers aviable to course developers.

Tutor development??

Integrate learning activity, pedagogy with affordances of technologies
LMS OK, takes VERY long time for upgrades. Slow process for innovation and plugin support Clear way for innovations to integrate into mainline systems
Social Networks

Landing, world class, suffers from cold start/ adoption and support issues


Easy flow between external networks, semi private and secure contexts
Language/writing support Write Site - good??  **Understaffed ??
Online Library good? **We are building library of the future so where are you coming from? Terry writes: I'm not sure what you mean? So you are saying our online library is great?? if so just edit the entry. ? "library of the Future
Real time conferencing software Adobe Connect - Good? Immersive/text/meeting and class support
Admin Applications

Landing- wikis, files, photos, schedules etc

Grad Studies, still using PDF forms

**There are many shortcomings in the admin systems but no attention is being given to improving processes STRATEGICALLY

Cloud based, mobile ready
Student Records **Banner/SCT and various work arounds.  We meet standards for security.  Exceed them on work-arounds. ?
E-Portfolios Mahara - stable, but "not production" supported **Mahara designed to work with Moodle; all the University has to do is to say yes and the integration will be quick and easy - much of the background work already completed by the e-Lab Integrated with LMS and externally accessible
Aacdemic Computing No designated resources ??** I am pretty sure SCIS has their own servers so that would be Academic Computing along with the Research Servers.  What resources are you looking for??  Terry - I am thinking of research projects (from any faculty) that need a web presence or technical support - often just at incubator stage like the seed funding for Academic research. The kind of thing eLab aspires to.  
Research Computing 1/2 day/ a week for whole university  **You are talking staff... why not find grants to employ grad students like most other science labs in the world... **Terry is talking about tech support for research and development projects; this is a CS issue, not a grad student issue and significantly limits the numbers and kinds of grants that the OVPR can actually support.  
Speed of Course Production/  **How would you measure this...Cost wise we are a lot more expense. **my editor tells me that course production is now the last priority AFTER [1) e-text, 2) Architecture program, 3) online exam project, 4) Moodle maintenance, 5) regular course development]. Most of these tasks fall directly on the Production Group. - good luck, everyone, getting courses up and open!  
Speed of Minor course revisions **unlike the tardy business of getting new or revised courses up and open, PG Group is doing a great job of minor updates to courses at present.  
Continuous Enrollment

 Poor, Monthly Batch processing

**Monthly is light years ahead of one intake a year. If you want paced interactivity you are not going to get every day admissions.  

Terry - I brought people from NKI to Athabasca to demonstrate exactly how they do daily registration. It is the norm in for-profit higher educ world - IF they do continuous enrolment.

 Continous enrolment/tutor assignment etc.
Technological neutrality (capacity to deliver courses in print, digital, and other modes to maximize openness of student access)    
 Learning Outcome Assessment  Base program profiles include completion rates, Preliminary curriculum mapping undertaken. Annual summaries documenting capstone results, employer feedback, and revisions needed.
 Accessibility (WCAG 2.0)

Most CMS (HTML editors) provides facilities to create headings for navigation, alt text for inserted graphics,   styling consistencies, contrasting colours, meaningful link descriptions, and uploading transcripts/captions for multimedia content. However most workflows do not include providing these features which benefit all learners. There is a FREE Moodle Text to Speech plug-in that AU could incorporate to aid any struggling reader. The Moodle Accessibility Page and Moodle Accessibility Bug Tracker are great resources to help anyone interested in keeping accessibility in mind.

evaluating Moodle, D2L, Blakboard, Sakai  (2013, 4 institution collab, US) 

North Carolina State U – Moodle 2 acccessibility review:

Access Distance Llearning, U of Washington DO-IT:

OSU & U of Guelph Common Accessibility Issues:



  • Mark A. McCutcheon December 11, 2013 - 1:55pm

    Not sure whether "technological neutrality" should be a criterion or a best practice to aspire to, but the idea there is that to realize our mission of opening access to education, we should not commit strictly to digital delivery modes as they leave out important groups of students who have no or poor access to digital tools and the Internet (e.g. prison inmates, remote reservations).

  • Terry Anderson December 11, 2013 - 3:11pm

    I've removed a comment from the actual wiki to here for response. Someone wrote:

    **What about us going to where our students actually are on occassion?? We have a step in the right direction with a social media position coming into advancement but we are coming late with some clunky interfaces.

    I guess what this means is using Facebook, LinkedIn etc??  I think we need a thorough discussion of this issue. there are certainly pros and cons, but using facebook for promotions is  a bit different than developing a network enabled teaching and learning context. Can this happen on an American system, with a dubious record for privacy protection and a practice of changing the rules of engagement???

  • Martin Connors December 18, 2013 - 9:34pm

    By coincidence it was just today that I read a mailing from Magna: although unlikely to ever take one of their costly seminars, sometimes the content is of interest. This one tweaked my interest as it reflects thoughts I have had. I suspect the wider study could be looked up (could not find it myself), and as we get a new President (fingers crossed) this is a good time to look up metrics to set us on a new direction (hopefully the right one).

    The seven measurable aspects of an online program (with my rating for AU) are:

    1. Institutional and technical support - poor
    2. Course development - very poor
    3. Teaching and learning - not sure what this means, likely acceptable
    4. Course structure - OK although possibly dated
    5. Student support - OK but under threat with insufficient consultation (tutor model)
    6. Faculty support - poor
    7. Evaluation and assessment - this is an often overlooked aspect internally. Externally our evaluation processes are likely credible and generally accurate (assignments and exams) although maybe behind the times (in light of 1 and 2 we could not expect otherwise). Internally our evaluation processes have become meaningless and now that computerized, basically a joke.

    I think this touches some of the points you also have in your table. I hope the Presidential Selection Committee is considering candidates from the Planet Krypton, much of the mess we are in arose from misdirection from the top and that is likely the only way to get it fixed.