eLearning Technology Blog

Maintenance Mechanics: A Course’s Journey

by WSU Online 19. June 2012 15:27

Have you ever wondered how your course goes from the very first steps of cloning to being ready for the start of the semester?

Believe it or not, your course goes on quite the journey. It all starts on an administrative level. Once the respective department decides that a certain course will be offered during the upcoming semester, and the course and instructor information are entered into the WSU systems, the process begins. That information makes its way to IT and an Angel shell is created. The WSU Online registrar adds the course to our task management system. This marks the official creation of the WSU Online course and the beginning of our Course Verification process.

The task then passes to our Production Team who selects which previous course we should clone (copy) into the new course shell thereby filling it with content. We generally choose the most recent offering to ensure that the course includes recent updates. Next, the cloning task is sent to our ITAs (Information Technology Assistants) to do the cloning. ITAs are part-time students, often pursuing degrees in computer-related disciplines, who assist with the production process. The ITAs will clone the course. If the semester we are preparing for and the semester of the cloned course have the same number of weeks, the ITA will apply a calendar converter to the course schedule to update the dates (16 week to 16 week, 12 week to 12 week, etc.). Once the course is completely cloned, an ITA will complete a checklist verifying crucial elements of the course space.

At that point, the process moves back into the hands of the designer. The designer reviews the new version of the course along with the checklist prepared by the ITA. Once the course has been through this preliminary screening, the Cloning Workflow is sent to the instructor. The instructor is notified via an automatic email from the Course Verification System that his/her course is ready for review. (This provides the instructor an opportunity to let us know if there is a better course to have copied.) Once the instructor reviews and confirms their satisfaction with the cloning, the workflow is sent back to the designer.

The designer will review the instructor’s comments and take action if needed. When the instructor says the course is ready, the designer will close the Cloning Workflow. Below is a screen capture of a completed Cloning Workflow within the Course Verification System:

Completing the Cloning Workflow initiates the Textbooks, Media, Exams, and General Maintenance Workflows. This allows multiple specialists to work with the instructor concurrently to confirm details and assist with any changes.

Keep in mind, each time there is something for you to review in course verification, you will receive an email notification. When the Cloning Workflow is completed, you will receive email notifications from each of the remaining workflows at once; each of these processes begins with your review, so you can let us know if anything needs to be modified. All those workflows are vital in verifying the learning materials and requesting changes. Even for items your course does not have, proctored exams for example, we need to know there is no plan to change that aspect of the course. So, communicating your confirmation in each work flow is important. Most of our time in the maintenance and production area is spent working with the General Maintenance Workflows. These workflows are where the majority of changes and updates to the course space are submitted, tracked, and completed. Each workflow can go back and forth from our team to the instructor several times before it’s complete.

Each time an instructor requests an update or change, the request is reviewed, and the ITAs make those updates. Then we review our work internally before requesting that the instructor review it. When the instructor determines that an aspect of the course is complete, they can indicate that there are no more changes to be made in that area, and the workflow will be closed. If further changes are necessary later, the instructor can restart an individual process to communicate directly with those responsible for helping to implement those changes.

It’s fantastic when we can work closely with faculty to get workflows closed quickly and well before the start of the semester, doing so often allows enough time for our team to complete an additional Pre-Semester Check. The Pre-Semester Check is when the WSU Online Maintenance and Production Team checks additional items like the grade book, the assessments, and the assignments. Typically when workflows are confirmed and handled promptly, the course is in excellent shape for the upcoming semester. And then, of course, right about the time we get caught up from the most recent cloning cycle, the journey begins all over again preparing for the next semester.

For more information on Course Verification, please review our Course Verification page.

Jason Mayburry


Reflections & Renewal

by WSU Online 7. June 2012 10:58

wsu campus in summerWhen summer hits the Palouse, a distinct sigh of relief can be heard escaping the WSU campus. The trees finally blossom, instructors hold class outside in the sunshine, and students start stuffing their cars full of over-flowing laundry baskets and heading home for a brief hiatus.

Likewise, it may even feel a bit shocking to see how quiet and peaceful the campus is or how easily one can find a parking space. Summer is, for many faculty, a time for touching base on their research, writing, and other activities. However, it’s also a time for reflection on the past school year.

Take a moment to write some of your thoughts about this last school year, and if possible, discuss them with a colleague or eLearning Consultant at the end of the summer.  Start by answering at least four of the questions below.

  1. Did my students achieve the level of mastery that I expected? Why or why not?
  2. What did my students seem to engage in the most actively and why?
  3. What caused the most questions or confusion in my course?
  4. Did the text enrich the learning experience or put up road blocks?
  5. Did any activities feel redundant, lagging, or repetitive?
  6. What new or relevant information (or text) might be worth adding, mentioning, or replacing existing information with?
  7. How is my field changing, and how should that change be reflected in my courses?
  8. How well does my course prepare students for the expectations of higher level courses?
  9. If I were to think about my course the same way that I think about my research, what evidence did I gather and how can I use that to improve student learning?


Perhaps some of your answers will spur a new idea you’d like to implement in your fall course.  Perhaps answering these questions will simply remind you of what you like about your field, your students, or your truly remarkable profession of teaching the next generation of scholars, artists, surgeons, scientists, inventors, etc…

Here’s to next semester, may it be a smooth and seamless start. May it be a semester filled with stimulating discussion, productive work, and new relationships!  And in the meantime, enjoy the sunshine and a few more fantastic blog posts we’ve got in store for you. 

Rebecca Stull


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