SharePoint Learning Kit Meeting
This morning I am on a conference call about the Sharepoint Learning Kit (SLK). This is Microsoft's entry into the course management field. This is the product that Cascadia faculty have been working on over the last year or so.
It is finally done (so much for that February release date). Better yet, it is actually on our campus. IS (did you get the memo that they changed their name? It is Information Services now) is testing it to make sure that it won't break stuff that we already have on campus.
Information Services is planning to have it ready "in time for fall quarter". In my mind, in time for fall is fast passing. I believe they are thinking that having it ready by mid September will give folks time to prepare courses and use it fall quarter. I've expressed that a week or two is generally not enough time to prepare the online components of a course, particularly when one is using something new.
All that aside, let's be clear about what this is - it is the building blocks to assist in the instruction of a class. Out of the box, it is not a course management system. Microsoft sees it as a way to expand the use of SharePoint as a way to enhance teaching and learning. It seems most appropriate to enhanced courses as opposed to fully online courses.
The people on the call have had a chance to play with the tool. Folks have said that it is "counter intuitive". One woman noted that she spent 30 minutes dinking around with it and could not find the gradebook. I have not seen it, so cannot comment. However,we have to remember that this is simply an add on to SharePoint (MyCascadia, Zocalo). If you sometimes found it counter-intuitive, you'll find this counter-intuitive. I admit that I fall soundly in the "don't-really-get-SharePoint" camp. I think solid training is essential.
Also, the presenters are noting that the idea of the SLK is very much like a traditional classroom - teachers giving assignments, students turning in the assignments, faculty grading and returning the assignments. Student collaboration happens via shared documents, for the most part. However, there are SharePoint tools like instant messaging and the ability to see who is online that could compliment it.
Office 14 - they are planning to add another "ribbon" to the new Office which will be specifically to facilitate teaching. For example, a polling feature in Word. As the presenter is explaining this, it is clear that they are thinking about this for traditional face to face instruction, not online. They also plan to build in some ways for SKL to work with other key venders like Blackboard and Angel.
The call has returned to the general idea of SLK and emphasizing again that it is not a course management system. Rather, it is a set of tools, meant to be 30% - 40% of what folks might need. The plan is that an institution would then program in the remaining portions. Microsoft has this available as open source and intends that "partners" would provide some of these add ons. However, the main idea is that an institution would design for itself what ever would work.
The call ended with an agreement that the group would get together every 2 months to give feedback as the next version of the product is prepared - anticipated for 12 - 18 months from now.