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Going Green with Affinity Diagrams

3 min read

Most of us, at some point in time, have been put through the process of creating an affinity diagram.  Today, I wanted to see if we can use technology to take this standard meeting technique and use it online and in classrooms.

For those not familiar with the technique (or for those that may have done it without knowing what it is called), affinity diagrams are a way of taking a collection of brainstormed ideas and placing them into groups or similar themes, to sort through large amounts of information or to come to conclusions/solutions.  For a better explanation (by people that explain it much better than I do), see this PDF

In a nutshell:

  1. Throw up a question, problem or issue to your group
  2. Have them brainstorm every idea under the sun they can come up with.  Write each idea on its own piece of paper, index card, or if you have some extra cash to burn, it’s worth it to spurge on some Post-It Notes™
  3. Sort into groups, themes or solutions.  You can then vote as needed.

Affinity diagrams are a great way to quickly compile a large amount of information with active involvement from everyone.  But the purpose of this post is not to convince you to use them in a face to face meeting.  Instead, I want to find out how we can make this work if we are not all in the same space or time.  How do you do this over Skype or Adobe Connect?   Do we use a spreadsheet to tabulate everyone’s results?  Do we have a shared digital whiteboard for people to interact with? Seems inefficient and clunky. What if we want this brainstorm to be an ongoing process? And how do large groups such as school classrooms or online courses make use of the benefits of affinity diagrams?

So a quick Google search lead to a few online applications that seem like they could do the trick.  After looking at a few options, I decided that I wanted to give Murally a shot based on its UI, features and reasonable educational pricing.

I have a feeling that this could be a great way to not only keep my own personal ideas organized (I like the stickies as to do lists), but also for my team to use in many different ways.  I see short-term problem solving to long term planning all having a place here.

Rather than having me post a walkthrough of the site, check out the features here.

Tonight, I’ll be sending out invites to the rest of my team for us to test this tool.  If this tool goes as well as I hope it does, we will send out our feedback, ideas and tips on ways to implement this into your classroom.

If anyone has any experience with these tools, or any general thoughts, please leave them in the comments below.

Updating our eLearn website

2 min read

Our current learning technologies help site ( is currently under redesign.  We wanted to make it easier to find the information you are looking for and give a guided approach to situational help such as “I’m new to D2L”, “I need to set up my grade book” or “I want to do more with my course”.

It’s also amazing to see and hear about the instructors that are taking the initiative to play and explore with other features of D2L, such as Release Conditions, Intelligent Agents and the Discussion boards to gamify or make their course more interactive.  We want to start showcasing these usages so that their students aren’t the only ones that benefit from their hard work. 

We are currently building the new site for preview at and will move it over when it is ready.  Feel free to take a look sneak peak, and pass on any suggestions, comments or questions to us.  We would also welcome information on instructors that you think should be showcased (even if that instructor is you!).  Pass on any feedback to or simply leave a comment below. 

We will post an update when we reach another milestone with the website.

UofC LMS Transition at a Glance - From Blackboard to Desire2Learn (D2L)

2 min read

July 15-17, 2013

- I went to D2L Fusion 2013 (Desire2Learn Users Conference) with a few others from the UofC.  That was my first real exposure to D2L.
Here are some of the sessions I attended:
- Desire2Learn Learning Environment for Administrators/ Instructors
- Desire2Learn Learning Environment Navigation and Theme
- A Quick and Dirty Desire2Learn Implementation

July 23, 2013

- We met with the consultant from D2L to plan our implementation and to begin looking at system configurations.

August 7-9, 2013

- A trainer from D2L visited the UofC and provided a 3-day training for administrators.

September 2013 - Fall semester

- We piloted 40 D2L courses, with over 4000 student enrollments. At the same time, we were still supporting Blackboard 8.

January 2014 - Winter semester

- Four faculties (Werklund School of Education, Science, Social Work and Veterinary Medicine) participated in the second phase of the pilot and were using D2L for all their Winter 2014 courses. Other faculties, including the Haskayne School of Business, Kinesiology and the Schulich School of Engineering also offered some courses in the D2L environment. 

- PeopleSoft (SIS) was successfully integrated with D2L.

February 2014

- A tool was developed in-house to allow instructors to import scantron grades into their D2L courses.

March 2014

- Destiny One (registration system for Continuing Education) was integrated successfully with D2L.
- Course mapping tool was developed in-house, allowing system administrators to combine courses and to create tutorial/ lab sections within existing lecture/ seminar courses.

April 2014

- D2L Grades Export Tool was developed in-house.  This tool allows the instructor to export grades from a D2L course for submission to PeopleSoft.

June 1, 2014

- Blackboard was decommissioned.

September 2014 - Fall semester
- Over 2975 D2L sites were created for this semester. 
- Student Signup Manager was built in-house. See
- Adobe Connect Meeting (webconferencing tool) was successfully integrated with D2L.
- Between August 1 and October 31, 1821 D2L support tickets were resolved.  It was a collaboration between two departments on campus: Information Technologies and the Educational Development Unit, Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning.

We had a very ambitious timeline, but WE DID IT!

Special thanks to these wonderful people on the D2L Project team:
D'Arcy Norman, Heather Weiland, King Huang, Derrick Woo, Patrick Kelly, Lin Yu, Emily Sharpe, Jason Hampton, Irfaan Sorathia, Cindy Dunbar, Ayla Lo, Kevin Saito

Alternate LMS hosting

1 min read

Sometimes, people aren't able to use our D2L environment for a course or project. They have a few choices available:

  1. D2L Open Courses - it's hosted by D2L, using the same LMS software that we use on campus. Course content can be copied/imported between D2L Open Courses and UofC courses in, so that's pretty handy.
  2. Canvas - 2 week trial, or full hosting provided by Instructure.
  3. Blackboard CourseSites - running Blackboard Learn, hosted by Bb. (but it's giving a funky security certificate error at the moment…)
Of course, if they go that route, it's pretty much DIY and self-supporting, and they'll need to watch for copyright issues on their own because our Copyright Office can't provide service outside of our D2L instance.

just pinged one of the developers of Known - looks like it's trivial to get an RSS feed for a hashtag. Ferinstance, here's the RSS feed for the hashtag:

Teaching grants program adds funding for learning technologies projects

1 min read

Back in June, the University of Calgary adopted the Strategic Framework for Learning Technologies. The university’s goal is to be a leader in integrating learning technologies at the post-secondary level, and the report lays out five priorities to reach that goal. One of those priorities is to remove obstacles and provide resources to support innovation, discovery and use of technology-enhanced learning.

Now the university has put money where its mandate is. For 2015-2018, the University of Calgary Teaching and Learning Grants program will have additional, dedicated funding earmarked for projects that use learning technologies to extend teaching and learning.

The grants can’t be used to purchase computer hardware, but they could be used to integrate new software, to develop course materials using learning technologies, to research how learning technologies are used in the classroom and what impact they have…

There are lots of people on campus already experimenting with learning technologies in their courses and classrooms, so I’m interested to see the proposals we get for the grants program.

Apparently incorporates tags as hashtags.

Looks like account invites from this site are getting eaten before hitting campus. I can add people using non-UCalgary emails and we can change it later.

Just updated to the latest Mediawiki 1.23.5. Lots of security updates in it.

The Taylor Institute's webserver is scheduled to get more CPU resources, and will reboot early Thursday morning.