Thursday, November 5, 2009

Intelligent Agents in D2L

I have been teaching a class in Desire2Learn (MKT 595: Internet Marketing) as part of long-term study and comparison of Learning Management Systems (teaching in Blackboard, D2L and Moodle to explore the respective advantages and disadvantages of each system). My colleagues in SNL, SoE and SPS are doing the same. I had not posted about my experiments here, but have decided that I should.

This week I decided to see how well Intelligent Agents could be put to use. Intelligent Agents are scriptable events that send out e-mails based upon a set of criteria. You could use them to send a gentle nudge to students who had not logged into the course for several days, or who had not completed an assignment before the deadline.

This is a great feature, but I did not want to send students automated e-mails until I had tested things for myself. What I did instead was to create an intelligent agent that sent me e-mail as each of students completed milestone tasks. This highlighted some issues that I would have to work through:

  1. I received some spurious messages with this text:

    {term not found: IntelligentAgents.Shared.emailConfirmationBody}

    I am assuming that this is a mis-configuration on my part. I will investigate further…..
  2. My spam/junk filter quarantined some of the e-mail messages. This happened at two stages; externally from our Postini service, internally from Entourage/Outlook. I had to manually recover the messages.

Based upon this information, I would use this procedure with Intelligent Agents:

  1. Create agents from a tested template.
  2. Ask students to add the Intelligent Agent e-mail address to their whitelist or address book (so that the e-mails would not be stopped by spam filtering).
  3. CC myself on the student e-mail.

Overall, I am impressed with the feature. I just need to experiment with it more.

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