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Ultraversity is APU/ULTRALAB's radical new online degree course.

Ultraversity Graduates

A wonderful day, celebrating the success of so many Ultraversity graduates which took place today at Chelmsford Cathedral. The setting within the Cathedral is beautiful and memories flooded back of 7 years ago when I was celebrating my own degree in the very same space.

Today will be memorable, not least because I had the opportunity to talk face to face with several graduates after three years of communicating in an online environment. Seeing so many happy faces celebrating their degrees in a formal setting is something I will remember for years to come. Today, brings to a close a very special chapter in my portfolio of work - designing online tools for a degree programme where students built a degree around their practice in the workplace through action research. A fabulous project.

For many, this will be the start of a new chapter in their lives.

Congratulations and best wishes to everyone! Read more on the Ultralab site.

Ultraversity Team Talk

Mark, Greta and I (pictured from left to right) met today to discuss progress with Ultraversity's new Cohort 4 community / portfolio space. This is a new venture using the Plone 2.1 content management framework - configured 'out of the box'. We believe Plone has far more to offer than just managing content. Plone's major strength is the permissions and workflow model which underpins its operation. Understanding this rather complex model is a major feat in itself and probably demands a better user interface to be more useful. I dream of building a permissions model using a drag and drop Flash interface where users are moved into groups structured as Venn diagrams. Do Venn diagrams have any limitations?

Interestingly, Stephen Powell and I reflected on the complexities of Plone, and after some discussion, arrived at the conclusion that you can't have it both ways, simplicity and complexity, which sounds a bit daft. What I mean is - having a tool that can be understood and used by the masses, yet powerful enough to provide a solid set of permissions that is capable of niche and specific demands.

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File cabinet developments

It has been several months since the file cabinet space for the Ultraversity Portfolio tool was developed. The file cabinet allows researchers to upload portfolios of work for assessment by facilitators. Ultraversity researchers and facilitators have lived with a filename length limit of 32 characters for a few months now. This was imposed by FileMaker's poor handling of files, probably inherited from Mac OS 9 days....

Last week, Mark and I configured FileMaker to use the Web Connector tool which allows us to serve all requests through the Apache webserver in Mac OS X Server. This has resulted in removing the 32 character limit for all uploaded files.

Anyone who writes a piece of software with a numerical limit ought to be shot, luckily I escaped the firing line this time around. Maybe I should warn people at FileMaker HQ?

Hotseat tool revisions

The success of the Hotseat tool just makes me want to make it even better. I spent some time last night making some revisions, thanks to Andy Roberts, Linda Hartley, Sarah Hackett and many other people who used the hotseat tool over the past two weeks.

These are the revisions:

  • I have implemented a better hotseat 'page navigation' menu which displays the number of pages depending on the number of questions posted, e.g. page links don't appear until more than 10 questions, then gradually increase with 20, 30, 40 .... questions. The next hotseat, with Maria Phillips was made available this morning to researchers. I can't believe that at the end of the day, 10 (9 actually) questions have been posted already! Come on, I need another one just to see if the new page links work!
  • Many researchers requested that the responses made by the hotseat guest are listed in a colour that will distinguish these from other participants. You should notice that the Hotseat guest now posts responses in a lovely shade of green
  • I have added a note above the 'Add a question' text box, encouraging researches to phrase their question in the first 20 words. This will enable me to build a navigation menu of questions so that you can browse and jump straight to the question and responses. Most people have adhered to this - so be ready for when a summary of questions is available.

Lots more still to do, suggestions on the back of a postcard....alternatively add a comment here.

Ultraversity Hotseat

The first Ultraversity Hotseat using the software I developed late one evening, is coming to a close. I am amazed at it's success, we've had over 50 questions posted, and approximately 200 responses from researchers and the hotseat guest in just two weeks.

There's been a few tweaks and bug fixes since the hotseat began, and more to do before the next hotseat. Hoping I can make these changes before the end of today, the next hotseat starts on Monday, and should be available from tomorrow.

See also...Hotseat feeling the heat

Hotseat Tool development

Ever had that sudden urge to get something done?

I developed a hotseat tool in just a few hours one evening and what's really nice is seeing it in use in such a big way. It went live on Monday, it's now Wednesday and has had well over 100 entries from the Ultraversity Researchers. So cool and hugely rewarding.

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