Archive for September, 2011

Cool things about Moodle – Getting URLs from Blackboard to Moodle – Part 1

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

I got things slightly out of order this post should have come before the last one

  1. Open Excel then go to BB.  In BB click on web links in left hand menu. Make sure all the links are visible on the screen.
  2. Drag to select all files

bb links 1

Right click and Copy
Right click to Paste into Excel

Select ‘Paste Special’

Select ‘Unicode Text’

bb links 2

Click OK
Widen your columns and you will see something like this

bb links 3

There are 2 ways to go from here.  The Manual way and the Macro way.  Go to the previous post for the Macro way.

Here is a rough outline of  the Manual way.

We need to fix up the alignment.

  1. First go to column A and remove every row that has text in column A.
  2. Right click Cell B1.  Select Delete > Shift cells up. Click Ok.
    The Link name and URL are now aligned
  3. Press the F5 (Goto) button.  Click Special. Select Blanks. Click OK
    This will highlight all the blank rows
  4. Delete the highlighted blank rows
  5. Cut and paste the Link Name column (D) into Column A
  6. Insert a new row in row 1 and add the headings e.g. Link Name and URL
  7. Save the file and you’re ready for Moodle.

Cool things about Moodle – Getting URLs from Blackboard to Moodle – Part 2

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

The hardest part of migrating web links is extracting the URLs from Blackboard Vista.  It’s fiddly, laborious, and unless you a have a massive list of links it may be quicker do it manually.  As far as I know this can’t done automatically as part of the BB to Moodle migration (I could be wrong – in fact I would be quite happy to be wrong) .

But if you’re the bunny who has to do this for a truckload of other people I am about to be you’re new BFF.  You do need to know how to insert macros into spreadsheets for this to work.

Using these macros I went from this

BBweb links

To this

BB weblinks converted

In about 25 seconds

If you are a Monash person and need a bit more instruction let me know.

The first stage is to get the links out of BB and into excel.  This is outlined in ‘Getting Blackboard URLs into Moodle – Part 1’

Here are macros I used

Sub DeleteColA()

Dim FoundCell As Range

With Worksheets(“Sheet1”).Range(“A:A”)


Set FoundCell = .Cells.Find(What:=”*”, _

After:=.Cells(.Cells.Count), LookIn:=xlValues, _

LookAt:=xlWhole, SearchOrder:=xlByRows, _

SearchDirection:=xlNext, MatchCase:=False)

If FoundCell Is Nothing Then

Exit Do

End If

FoundCell.Resize(1, 1).EntireRow.Delete


End With

End Sub

Look in Wooksheet1  in column A

If any entry if found in any cell in Column A

Delete the entire row

Sub Tidyup()

‘ Tidyup Macro


Selection.Delete Shift:=xlUp






Selection.Insert Shift:=xlDown, CopyOrigin:=xlFormatFromLeftOrAbove


ActiveCell.FormulaR1C1 = “Link Name”


ActiveCell.FormulaR1C1 = “URL”


‘– delete empty rows

Dim cel As Range, rng As Range

Set rng = Range(“A2”, Range(“A65536”).End(xlUp))

For Each cel In rng

If cel.Value = “” Then

If cel.Offset(, 2).Value = “” Then


End If

End If

Next cel

MsgBox “Task complete!”, vbOKOnly + vbInformation, “Complete!”

End Sub

Delete B2 to align the Name and the URL into the same row

Cut and paste column D into A

Insert a row

Add the heading ‘Link Name’

Add the heading ‘URL’

Delete the empty rows

Cool things about Moodle – importing quizzes from Blackboard

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Figuring this out has been a “not so cool thing about Moodle (although I did find a way).  On the face of it, it would appear that Moodle imports pretty much every type of quiz.  I figured I would export a BB quiz then simply hit the ‘Blackboard V6+’ or ‘WebCT’ option and Bob’s your uncle.

quiz import moodle

Sadly this was not the case.

I scaled back and tried a simpler, 2 question quiz, I tried every Moodle import option – no luck.

I hit the web and it appeared Respondus was the way to go – you can extract a quiz from BB then upload it straight onto the Moodle server.  Unfortunately we are not fully set up yet and so could not upload to the Moodle server, and there is no  ‘Save As’ option to allow you to download the file for manual uploading.

But Respondus allows some other options so I persisted.  I found a reference to IMS QTI in the ‘Blackboard Migration’ doument on the Moodle site.  IMS QTI is supposed to be the standard for moving files across platforms – Respondus can do this conversion .

Quiz questions can be exported as IMS packages by going to Assessments in Bb Vista. They can also be extracted with Respondus and you can create an IMS QTI file to import into Moodle.

In reality it appears Moodle doesn’t support this.

I tried converting to Blackboard 7, then to ‘Platform Neutral’ – none of these would import into Moodle.


Using Respondus I converted my BB quiz into ‘WebCT CE 3x-4x’ format, I then used the WebCT import option in Moodle – and it imported!

Unfortunately it only imports the questions not the quiz setting so I have to re-bulid the quiz.

When we get the connection to the Moodle server set up in Respondus I will be happier.  For now I plug away.

One of greatest men you’ve never heard about has died

Friday, September 16th, 2011

Michael S. Hart (1947-2011): The founder of Project Gutenberg dies at 64.

Alongside Wikipedia, Project Gutenberg (started in 1971) is one of major game changers to come out of digital revolution.  It may not seem so radical now, but the ideas and ideals underlying Project Gutenberg (which pre-dates Wikipedia by 30 years) helped lay the groundwork for how digital information was going to handled in the future.

Project Gutenberg offers over 36,000 free ebooks to download to your PC, Kindle, Android, iOS or other portable device. Choose between ePub, Kindle, HTML and simple text formats.
We carry high quality ebooks: All our ebooks were previously published by bona fide publishers. We digitized and diligently proofed them with the help of thousands of volunteers.

No fee or registration is required, but if you find Project Gutenberg useful, we kindly ask you to donate a small amount so we can buy and digitize more books. Other ways to help include digitizing more booksrecording audio books, or reporting errors.
Over 100,000 free ebooks are available through our Partners, Affiliates and Resources.

Uni actively supports cheaper texts (and a model for free digital texts)

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Many Indiana University (IU) students will see their textbook costs plummet starting in the spring 2012 semester after IU officials agreed to make low-cost electronic textbooks more available on the university’s eight campuses.

Four publishers signed licensing agreements Sept. 6 with IU that will offer eBooks that can read on a laptop or a computer tablet, such as the Apple iPad or Amazon Kindle, and a smartphone. And since college students overwhelmingly prefer traditional hardcover texts, the inexpensive books options can be printed for a small fee.

One of the first thing is this is a university agreement.  I’m not sure what the rules are in Australia but it seems like a smart move.  Lecturers can still choose whatever texts they want but if it’s outside the agreement students will have to pay the regular full price.

The second thing is one of the mobs involved is Flat World Knowledge.  They have looked at the market and the concerns of academics and come up with a “free  for online digital, pay for anything else” strategy.  So while the online texts are free, etexts, mp3s, B&W  or colour printed texts all come at a (generally quite reasonable) cost.  The FWK model also allows academics to customise the texts and make these available to students.  Check the video on the home page

I’m not sure how FWK fits with our equity provisions, the sticking point may be the online provision but I don’t think it would take much work to get it approved.  Any lecturer who cares about the financial load we’re placing on students would do well to at least check this site out.

The more adventurous can type “open text book” into google and go hunting.

If you are a Monash person and you’re using Flat World or open texts can you let me know.

Why Open digital publishing is a good idea (and why Monash ePress is a winner)

Friday, September 9th, 2011

A couple fellows, Rory McGreal and Nian-Shing Chen have published a paper.
A Comparison of an Open Access University Press with Traditional Presses

One of the their conclusions was that,

Even when a book’s content is available for free online, many individual readers still choose to purchase print. In addition, online publications are more readily discoverable, which increases the number of potential customers and thus serves as a marketing tool.

George Seimens, eLearning and Teaching uber guru (who stopped counting when his free digital book Knowing Knowledge, passed the million mark) made this comment about the paper on his blog

Quite simply: if you’re publishing, think beyond the financial impact of a book. Consider peripheral factors such as extending the reach of your work and non-monetary reward factors such as connecting with colleagues in emerging economies, speaking invitations, collaboration opportunities, etc.

You can get a free copy of one of  his other books (Handbook of Emerging Technologies for Learning)  here.

So why is Monash ePress a winner?  Because they have already figured this out.

Open access
Monash University Publishing’s scholarly titles are published online ‘open access’, ensuring that the reach, readership and impact of these works is maximised.

As the digital version is not a replacement for the printed book and performs different functions, print versions of Monash University Publishing titles are also sold through bookstores.

In this way, maximum exposure and readership is brought together with and complements ‘traditional’ circuits and economics of book distribution.
Note that this does not mean this material is in the ‘public domain’.   Copyright laws still apply.

Basically, perhaps fewer bucks (and let’s face it you’re not going to retire on the publishers advance) v.s. wider distribution/recognition/opportunity… oh, and better access for students.

I think the next logical step for Monash ePress is to get our academics to distribute their out of print texts via ePress under a Creative Commons licence.  A sort of digital, second hand, spare parts shop for academics and students to hunt through.

Linking lecture theatres via desktop video – Skype

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

We had some administrative problems with getting Polycom loaded onto our lab PCs, so while we were waiting for the coming of the UberTech I decided to have a look at Skype, which now has a desktop sharing function.  It also allows text chat and multi-point video conferencing, although the desktop sharing only works with point to point video.

skype desktop share

I have used Skype to support interstate and international staff recruitment interviews, with reasonable success.   The audio has been pretty reliable but video on international calls can be patchy.  Normally this would have been enough to rule out Skype, but given the way Skype manages load I figured that point to point video over the same network in the same physical location was likely to be more reliable.

The video was quality was good but there was a very slight audio lag.  The desktop sharing was also very clear but again there was a slight lag.

A good option if you want something simple and don’t have Polycom in your organisation, or if text chat is a must have option.

If you want a simple option for bringing in an external presenter via video I would probably try this first, but it  would  be wise to have a backup plan in case the video drops out.

You do need to take some precautions when using Skype.  Check the university position statement before using it.

Linking lecture theatres via desktop video – Polycom

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

We have a winner.

Polycom runs directly over our system, not out to some server in the US and back, so the video and audio are quick and clear.  And because it’s loaded into our system it also has a local directory of existing Monash Polycom users.

Installation is easy.  Monash people can download it from the “Get Programs” list.


It is very simple to use and allows you to show your desktop although it doesn’t allow you to share control of desktops.  It can be used to call multiple people, but I haven’t tested that myself.

So if you you are a Monash person wanting an easy, simple and reliable video conferencing option I would recommend Polycom.  If you need to share desktop control you’ll need to look elsewhere.

If Polycom hadn’t panned out the next stop would have been Go To Meeting (commercial with 30 day trial), Team Viewer (commercial but with a free option) and Skype.

Linking lecture theatres via desktop video – Brosix

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Next in our attempt to link up our STAR labs we went commercial.

Brosix is highly rated and quite reasonably priced, and it has trial version, so we had a crack at that.

It was simple to use and the desktop sharing was nice and clear, unfortunatly the video was poor even with our HD web cams.

Close, but not close enough.

Linking lecture theatres via desktop video – EVO

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

The next option we looked at in our quest to link our simulation labs was EVO.  EVO is a multi-point PC video conferencing platform that has been set up to support researchers and educators in Australian Higher Ed.

It supports desktop sharing (viewing and remote control) and has a shared whiteboard.   The video quality is good and it is actively supported by our eResearch Centre.


It’s quite powerful but perhaps a bit complicated for the average academic on the run.  Everytime you use it you have to download the client software and set up a virtual room for the meeting to take place.

Check the Monash EVO page for more info and video tutorials

If you need to collaborate in real time with multiple people or need remote desktop control, and you’re comfortable around computers this is good option.

But alas it was not for us.