Bb World ’06.001: SQL for Blackboard System Administrators

Continental breakfast at the Manchester Grand Hyatt is $19. $19! I hadn’t yet registered for the conference so I decided to register then check the Marriott’s buffet price. Perhaps I missed it somewhere on the Bb World site, but they’re serving breakfast in the San Diego Conference Center, so my anger with the Hyatt’s pricing actually helped save Richmond a bit of money.

I was a little late getting to the first session of the conference, but I managed to get a seat towards the back of the room. One of the nice things at the conference is that rather than provide just rows of chairs, Blackboard has long tables where you can put out your stuff. I promptly pulled out my PowerBook and looked for the wireless network. There wasn’t any! My only option was to pay $24.00 a day to the convention center. In disbelief I checked the conference program, where I learned that if I sit on the ground within 50 feet of the e-mail stations, I can pick up a small wireless network set up for the conference.

Blackboard, if you’re reading, please fix this for next year. It’s a technology conference, for Pete’s sake. And you have the means to make this happen. This is the first conference I’ve attended in years (more than 3) that didn’t have a wireless network available to all.

Glen Parker’s presentation was a good start. He’d made his presentation slides available before the conference. I shared them with Betsy, who told me she hoped I’d attend his session to hear more. The slides are available online.

Here are some of the things I heard that weren’t on the slides:

  • Glen likes the Activity Accumulator information because it provides a better query interface (SQL) than looking at the system logs. We should understand how this information is stored for those times we want to know what a person was doing in the system when a problem occurred.
  • Gradebook Main stores student attempts on gradebook items. The qti field contains XML information about the attempt.
  • Gradebook scores, along with when they were recorded are kept in the Attempts table, not Gradebook Main.
  • Glen presented four problems in need of a SQL solution. Each of the four examples is a roadmap to most any other query you might want to make against the system. The introductory slide of features you can query is based on version 6.2; for 6.3 it would be a much longer list.
  • His Student Performance Assistant query was used for a Building Block that shows faculty how many times a student has accessed the course over time.
  • USF keeps a year’s worth of data in the Activity Accumulator. I think this is a default. We should check to see how long we keep our data.
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