For the past three years now I’ve been running Google Analytics on Blackboard and compiling a monthly report for senior management and steering groups. A standard was agreed for what this should contain by consensus fairly early on and it has changed little since, until a couple of months ago when, due to the changes in management, I was asked to revamp the report to remove some things which weren’t required any more and to report on anything new which I thought pertinent. The biggest change was the request for a ‘commentary’ on each page explaining some meanings and trends. I have also integrated the PebblePad usage by Faculty report I wrote last month into this, as PebblePad has a tendency to be overlooked and almost forgotten about.
Today I created a Twitter account for the team and styled the pages in line with the University’s new corporate blue and orange style. I got the ball rolling by posting some tweets, following some interesting TEL people and companies we have relationships with, and created a couple of widgets to post our tweets and a list into a Blackboard course site, just as a proof of concept really, to demonstrate that it can be done and looks pretty. In due course the idea is to have a public organisation for the team where we will have a blog and news, and a page for our Twitter feeds.
Our Blackboard help guides have always been hosted on their own little mini-website hosted in a Blackboard organisation, but set to public availability. You can see them here: http://northumbria.ac.uk/elphelp for the student guides, and here: http://northumbria.ac.uk/elphelp for the staff guides. These were created a couple of years ago by the awesome Chris, but with his departure from LTech last year I was tasked with updating or replacing these websites to bring them into line with the university’s new colour scheme and style. I took the originals as a starting point but pared them back to just the essentials (there were lots of extraneous files and code), implemented the new branding, and took the opportunity to make a few improvements.
One of the best improvements I have made is the implementation of media queries in the CSS to automatically adjust the height of the iframe to best match the user’s screen resolution. I did get to a point where I was able to automatically adjust its size to 100%, it worked a treat in Firefox and I was really pleased, until I tested in other browsers and got tiny little windows. I hate iframes. If I had more time I would have created something completely new and truly responsive, but I had to get this done quickly as the eSAF help guides were ready to go live and we have so much other work to do with the upgrade.
The eSAF guides have all now been transferred into this template – http://elp.northumbria.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/orgs/ORG1/help-esaf/index.html* – and the Analytics works as I had hoped allowing us to track which guides are being most read. The template can easily be applied to the student guides now, but the content of those all needs to be revised for Service Pack 16, or ‘April Release’, or whatever Blackboard decide the new naming scheme will be, and that will be a massive task.
Still on my to-do list is getting the nested menu working which will be required for the staff guides.
* I know what you’re thinking, and yup we could use a short URL for this one too.
In preparation for my official* move to TEL Support my two bosses wanted to know more about the quantity and type of customer support Blackboard and PebblePad require, as I will be transferring the bulk of this work to the Senior Helpline to concentrate on technical admin and content development in TEL Support.
Creating a suitable report was an interesting challenge as there was nothing in SupportWorks, our call logging system, that quite did what was required.
The closest was a report on the number of calls resolved by category and person but it was all in code so I had to combine this with data from other sources, using Access and some joins, to turn the username code in an actual person’s name along with the team there were in, and another data set to convert the category code into the actual human-readable category, ‘INCI-BB00-BB01-BB14’ turns into ‘Incident > Blackboard/eLP > System Issues > Site/Module Content’ for example. Finally I turned the data into a pretty pie chart showing number of calls resolved by team.
The results of this exercise were fascinating. I now know that while I resolved 180 calls during February, which feels about right, our front line Helpline combined resolved a massive 481! I had no idea our front line were fielding and resolving so many calls at the first point of contact – it just goes to show what a great service we have.
* Bureaucracy is a magnificent beast is is not? Almost a month since I got the news no-one is sure if my secondment has actually started yet, though the bulk of my time is now spent doing work either directly for TEL Support or preparing documentation for the Senior Helpline. It also means I have two line managers.