Friday, November 15, 2013

NexPort Solutions Introduces NexPort Reporting Services

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OKLAHOMA CITY – July 1, 2013 – NexPort Solutions is proud to announce its newest product, NexPort Reporting Services (NRS). NRS offers fast-loading adhoc and comparison reports with detailed help documentation.

NRS reports load quickly using Solr, a document database, rather than a relational database. The latest release from NRS also presents report data with compact tabular display. The site provides users with step-by-step web-based help guides to assist the user every step of the way.

Adhoc Reports

NRS offers NexPort engineers developed a human-readable filter within the NRS Custom Report Builder, as well as provided the users with the ability to filter and display all mapped student data from NexPort Campus, the corresponding LMS.  Training plan enrollment reporting allows users access to pacing data, with assignment status and transcript reporting also available.

Users are now able to save and share custom reports with permitted users in a group, as well as set reports to send to select users’ email addresses on a schedule. The scheduled report email notifications can be set up using the flexible scheduling interface. Permitted users may also save, view and/or download reports any time. Reports are also auto-saved for each report type within NRS, so even if you forget to save your report, a saved version is available.

NexPort users now also have the capability to convert previously created NexPort Campus reports into an NRS report. This is a simple and painless transition, with NRS being developed to better serve NexPort Campus report users.

Comparison Reports

NRS also provides users with comparison reports, which allow the user to compare pacing, comparison and/or transcript data for members of a group. Comparison reports allow the user to focus on specific student data in the comparison. Users are also able to save a group to their “Favorites” for easy loading of comparison data.

About NexPort Solutions Group
NexPort Solutions Group is a division of Darwin Global, LLC, a systems and software engineering company that provides innovative, cost-effective training solutions and support for federal, state and local government, as well as the private sector.

Media Contact:
Darcy Delaney
Documentation Specialist
Darwin Global Enterprises
405-217-4060
http://www.nexportsolutions.com/
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Friday, September 13, 2013

NexPort Solutions 5.0 Provides Improved Customer Support, Faster Performance, Sleek UI

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OKLAHOMA CITY – September 13, 2013 – NexPort Solutions Group today released NexPort Campus version 5.0, which includes 320 bug fixes and performance improvements, 17 enhancements and a new writing assignment feature. This release features an easy-to-navigate NexPort Campus with faster loading time and new writing assignments UI to make NexPort more user-friendly and intuitive.

Technical Enhancements
NexPort engineers provided an extensive amount of work toward version 5.0 on technical enhancements, with the main enhancement being that of removing the dependency on Castle:ActiveRecord from the data access layer.

"Castle ActiveRecord is an open source Object Relational Mapper (ORM) that has provided a strong and flexible Data Access Layer for NexPort since version 1,” said Dan Pupek, NexPort Solutions Group Chief Systems Architect. “Two factors have driven our decision to no longer use ActiveRecord. First, ActiveRecord has become an obsolete project and is no longer supported by its community. We were not willing to fork our own version. Second, ActiveRecord was merely an abstraction layer on top of a more robust ORM called Nhibernate. Moving forward, NexPort will use Nhibernate directly."

Engineers also made the transition to Couchbase for data caching. This provides a faster loading time for NexPort Campus.

"Since version 3, we have used Memcached to provide a data-caching layer between NexPort and the database server,” Pupek said. “This data caching speeds up the site by relieving the database server of some of its work. As of version 5.0, NexPort will use Couchbase or caching. Couchbase is a modern 64-bit Memchached implementation that supports higher speed access and simplified clustering.

"Both of these moves from ActiveRecord and from Memcached will keep our technology relevant, allow us to expand more quickly and provide additional performance for future capacity requirements," Pupek said.

Performance Enhancements
Version 5.0 provides performance enhancements to force enrollments and user upload, cutting wait time for both the administrator and the student significantly.

This release also sends users with quicker results for force enrollments on groups with a large number of memberships, with administrators providing enrollments to students more quickly than previous versions of NexPort Campus.

A second performance enhancement provides administrators the ability to be more efficient when executing user upload. Bulk user upload is now processed in the background, meaning administrators no longer have to wait for the upload to complete. Instead, they will receive an email notice when the action has been completed.

General Enhancements
NexPort Campus version 5.0 now allows more functionality and a modern user interface through enhancements to rich text, writing assignments, customer support and student enrollments.

First, assignment titles now support using rich text with a fully functional rich text editor, with question fields of writing assignments being able to be saved as rich text. Both of these provide versatility for administrators and instructors.

Next, this release implements a new look for writing assignments for students and instructors. NexPort furnishes a more polished version of writing assignment, with the ability for requests for submissions and multiple drafts to be submitted from the student, as well as the system producing and distributing emails. Once the student has completed the draft, the instructor will receive an email notification. When the instructor provides feedback, NexPort Campus will generate an email notice to the student.

“The writing assignment user interface changes were brought about because of two ideas: We wanted to improve usability and streamline the functionality to eventually allow administrators to specify their own look and feel for the site,” said Brette Forinash, NexPort Solutions Software Engineer. “The sleek new interface will allow students to focus on their work without being distracted by coloring schemes or awkward alignment.”

NexPort Campus version 5.0 also provides customers with improved technical support. A template for customer service representatives allows NexPort users with the ability to respond to a customer support message that asks specific questions customized to help specifically with their current issue. Customer service can then reply with a more precise response to the user.

A fourth enhancement allows administrators to enroll students directly into a course from the enrollments tab in the user profile, providing a more streamlined process for administrators and other system operators.

Major Bugs Fixes
NexPort users not only received numerous enhancements with this release, but various bugs were resolved and performance improvements were conducted during this release. In the past, the NexPort server had timed-out when adding more than 380 question banks to a NexPort test. This is no longer the case, allowing NexPort users to upload as many question banks as necessary with no glitch in the system.

Users are also able to access manage groups when preferences are corrupted. This was previously a dilemma for NexPort users. Group management preferences now use two specific tables to keep track of preferences and recent groups. Administrators are also able to use the bulk uploading users feature with welcome letters, CC and BCC emails without receiving an error message.

This release was designed to provide quicker results for administrators, and thus, students. It was centered on supplying backend fixes that users do not necessarily see, but they deal with every day in NexPort. This release presents users with a cleaner version of NexPort Campus that is easier to navigate without error, making our users’ experience effortless.

About NexPort Campus
NexPort Campus is a secure, hosted learning and knowledge management system. NexPort Campus also supports interactive engagement within learning communities through the use of videos, organization-wide calendar, shared documents, organization-wide webpages and threaded discussions. Additional system features include data interoperability with external systems, secure digital libraries with subscriber-only access and an integrated Student Information System (SIS).

NexPort Campus also allows clients to provide their learners with customized, on-demand training and education environment. Clients operate within their own branded portals to deliver their unique content and services independently of each other. Customers may subdivide their portals to establish and manage subordinate secure portals for their customers, subsidiaries or divisions. Each portal provides privacy protection and security. Your custom portal can be setup with Secure Sockets Layer technology (128-bit encryption) and a custom domain.

NexPort Solutions Group enables educators and learners to use NexPort Campus to create, organize and hold webmeetings using NexPort Solutions Group’s own NexMeeting. NexMeeting promotes virtual learning, providing users with the ability to share desktops, hold conversations using headset and telephonic audio, survey meeting participants and share videos, PowerPoint slides, photos and documents using the whiteboard.

About NexPort Solutions Group
NexPort Solutions Group is a division of Darwin Global, LLC, a systems and software engineering company that provides innovative, cost-effective training solutions and support for federal, state and local government, as well as the private sector.

Media Contact:
Darcy Delaney
Documentation Specialist
Darwin Global Enterprises
405-217-4060
http://www.nexportsolutions.com/ 
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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

NexPort Solutions Continues to Provide a Secure, Reliable Learning Management System Through TierPoint, LLC’s Hosting Services

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OKLAHOMA CITY – July 19, 2013 – NexPort Solutions Group is proud to announce its partnership with TierPoint, LLC, a managed services provider. TierPoint is a leading, nationwide provider of cloud, collocation and managed services. Relying upon TierPoint’s extensive network of multi-layered, state-of-the-art data centers in the United States, and backed by the expertise of TierPoint’s industry veterans, NexPort Solutions continues to provide NexPort Campus, NexMeeting and NexPort Reporting Services users with secure, reliable educational services.

TierPoint was formed through the strategic combination of several leading regional providers: Colo4 in Texas; Perimeter Technology Center in Oklahoma, Baltimore Technology Park in Maryland, Adhost in Washington and TierPoint in Washington. All locations are now operating as TierPoint. NexPort Solutions previously teamed with Perimeter Technology Center.

"I have enjoyed working hand-in-hand with Perimeter Technology Center for the past six years," said Billy Caldwell, NexPort Solutions' KAG Administrator. "They have been more than just a vendor, they have been a partner focused on our mutual growth and success. As PTC joins forces with Tierpoint, LLC, I expect that relationship will continue to flourish. It will open doors that will continue to refine and enhance our infrastructure."

Through TierPoint, NexPort Solutions provides its users with:

  • Performance: Uptime, speed, and power that meet all NexPort users’ needs
  • Scalability: Users receive what they need, when they need it, with a suite of solutions from cloud computing to colocation space 
  • Security: Multi-layered systems to protect the NexPort users’ physical and virtual assets around the clock. 
  • Support: A seasoned team of industry experts dedicated to ensuring every user maintains its unique online presence, 24x7x365, regardless of communications disruptions, weather events or natural disasters.
  • Peace of Mind: TierPoint has owned and operated data centers in key locations across the U.S.

TierPoint supplies its customers with fast and secure service, as well as disaster recovery services that ensure NexPort Solutions’ users will not lose their Internet presence during severe weather or other emergencies that could occur near the data center.

"As a software engineer/architect for more than 12 years, I have seen first-hand the value that a professional, high availability and dedicated team of hardware and network engineers can bring to a software development organization," said Dan Pupek, NexPort Solutions' Chief Systems Architect. "Perimeter Technology Center has been a strong and responsive partner for many years and now, as they merge with Tierpoint, LLC, I envision our partnership strengthening. I look forward to hosting both our production and development environments in their secure cloud infrastructure."

NexPort Campus is a secure, hosted learning and knowledge management system. NexPort Campus also supports interactive engagement within learning communities through the use of videos, organization-wide calendar, shared documents, organization-wide webpages and threaded discussions. Additional system features include data interoperability with external systems, secure digital libraries with subscriber-only access and an integrated Student Information System (SIS).


“NexPort Solutions is a Software as a Service (SaaS) vendor. Its customers include organizations that support online schools, law enforcement organizations, courseware development businesses, and social services organizations.  These customers must have a reliable, secure, and robust Internet presence. If students cannot access their lessons, or if managers cannot access their reports, NexPort Solutions’ customers are in violation of their contracts,” stated Dr Rob Miller, NexPort Solutions’ Chief Knowledge Officer. 

NexPort Campus also allows clients to provide their learners with customized, on-demand training and education environment. Clients operate within their own branded portals to deliver their unique content and services independently of each other. Customers may subdivide their portals to establish and manage subordinate secure portals for their customers, subsidiaries or divisions. Each portal provides privacy protection and security. Your custom portal can be setup with Secure Sockets Layer technology (128-bit encryption) and a custom domain.

Dr. Miller further stated, “Increasingly, NexPort Solutions supports customers that operate online high schools for state correctional facilities.  By contract, those customers must report any service disruption to that state’s department of corrections—the customer wants to know if NexPort solutions is truly delivering the services they pay for.  Therefore, it is imperative that NexPort Solutions have an extremely reliable data center provider.”  

NexPort Solutions Group enables educators and learners to use NexPort Campus to create, organize and hold webmeetings using NexPort Solutions Group’s own NexMeeting. NexMeeting promotes virtual classroom experiences, providing users with the ability to share desktops, hold conversations using headset and telephonic audio, survey meeting participants and share videos, PowerPoint slides, photos and documents using the whiteboard.

About NexPort Solutions Group
NexPort Solutions Group is a division of Darwin Global, LLC, a systems and software engineering company that provides innovative, cost-effective training solutions and support for federal, state and local government, as well as the private sector.


Media Contact:
Darcy Delaney
Documentation Specialist
Darwin Global Enterprises
405-217-4060
http://www.nexportsolutions.com/
[Continue reading...]

Friday, July 12, 2013

Support for Decision-Making with Empirical Data

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Introduction

The previous post mentioned a vision for a family of interoperable products.  Further clarification of that vision seems appropriate.  First, do not assume that this is a pitch for “blended learning” technologies.  It is my opinion (based on more than 30 years of instructional experience) that the “B-word” has become a hackneyed aphorism for throwing instructional products on the wall and hoping they stick.  To quote the late General Norman Schwarzkopf, “Hope is not a plan.”  Neither is it likely to be an effective instructional approach.

Discussion

The NexPort Solutions’ vision for learning support seeks to provide trainers, educators, and learners with capabilities for employing a variety of effective instructional strategies to address learning-related problems and then guide those learning experiences to successful outcomes—success being defined as consistently performing a task to a valid standard (both individually and collectively).
That certainly sounds lofty enough.  But, when it comes to instructional delivery systems, what (or who) governs “effective learning strategies?"  What does that expression really mean?  Unfortunately, it usually means conforming to some system’s hard-wired approach to mediating instructional processes.  These systems attempt to prescribe learning solutions based upon the opinion of a consultant, advisor, a “guru,” or system architect.  In essence, such systems tell customers, “You must conform to my instructional approach because my developers believe that it is best (regardless of YOUR perceptions of what’s necessary).”  Shouldn’t the customer have a say in this process?

This is where NexPort Solutions’ agile philosophy becomes increasingly visible in its product vision.  The NexPort Solutions’ vision supports an empirically-based approach to integrating instructional products.  The vision is for a family of interoperable systems that provides multiple instructional capabilities, seamlessly interfaced, that allow the customer to choose from among them, and then provide systems for feedback that allows the customer to assess learning effectiveness based upon empirical evidence.  The availability of evidence upon which the customer can evaluate the effectiveness of their instructional approach, based upon the customers’ relevant criteria.

Anticipation of change is as relevant to instruction as it is to software development.  Instructional development is an iterative process—that is, the instruction is produced, empirical evidence is collected concerning the instruction’s effectiveness, and the instruction is changed to address deficiencies.  Additionally, instruction often changes over time due to changes in audiences, organizational policies, content, and budgets.

Conclusion 

Meaningful change requires well-informed decisions which requires empirical evidence.  NexPort Solutions envisions a system that allows customers to implement instruction according to their requirements, identify necessary changes, implement them with minimal difficulty, and then assess their effectiveness.


About NexPort Solutions Group 
NexPort Solutions Group is a division of Darwin Global, LLC, a systems and software engineering company that provides innovative, cost-effective training solutions and support for federal, state and local government, as well as the private sector.
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Friday, June 28, 2013

Week in Review

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Partnership with Children's Home Society of Florida

PENSACOLA, FLA. — June 27, 2013 — Smart Horizons Career Online Education (SHCOE) announces its partnership with the Treasure Coast Division of the Children's Home Society of Florida. This partnership enables homeless youth and young adults, ages 18 to 23, to access SHCOE's leading-edge online courses through CHS's transitional living program. Headquartered in Port St. Lucie, Florida, the Treasure Coast CHS serves more than 12,000 youth and their families each year in Okeechobee, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River counties. The SHCOE program is available to the 150-200 young adults who participate annually in the transitional living program.

Treasure Coast CHS's transitional living clients reside in a youth transition center, located in Vero Beach, FL, where they complete their courses in an onsite learning lab. The program is also available to nonresidential clients, who can access their online courses from any computer.

Ascend Career Academy provides Career Training Education Florida high school students, plans to expand nationally, internationally

PENSACOLA, FLA. — June 27, 2013 — Dr. Howard Liebman, CEO and Superintendent of Smart Horizons Career Online Education (SHCOE), and Octavio J. Visiedo, former Superintendent of Schools for Miami-Dade County, announce the launch of Ascend Career Academy.
SHCOE has partnered with a distinguished group of educational professionals based in South Florida to establish Ascend Career Academy, an AdvancED/SACS-accredited, online high school. This unique partnership with SHCOE is a way of creating a pathway of viable academic and career alternatives for students.

In addition to serving Florida students, Ascend Career Academy will work with legislatures, mid- and large-size school districts, businesses, community organizations, and juvenile justice programs to offer the program nationwide. There are also plans to enroll international students. Ascend Career Academy will make a special effort to reach out to and address the needs of minority students.
Smart Horizons Career Online High School is the leading Internet-based career high school program for correctional institutions in the United States. Since its launch in Florida Department of Corrections prisons, it has proven effective in delivering highly secure, performance-based, teacher-supported instruction to inmates with limited educational backgrounds.

SHCOE asked to participate in Clinton Global Initiative

SHCOE was invited to participate in this year’s Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). The CGI brings together public and private ventures to address issues of social impact—this year’s theme was “re-engaging youth and disenfranchised adults” and “workforce development.” We are delighted to be able to work directly with President Clinton to raise the profile of those at risk, and deliver an AdvancED/SACS accredited high school program that can make a huge difference.

About Smart Horizons Career Online Education
Founded in 2009 and located in Pensacola, Florida, is a private, AdvancED/SACS accredited online school district. AdvancED/SACS District accreditation signifies that SHCOE and all of its schools are fully accredited and that SHCOE is recognized across the nation as a quality school system. Smart Horizons Career Online Education offers 18-credit, career-based high school diploma programs that are designed to prepare students for entrance into the workplace. Career certificate offerings include Childcare Education, Office Management, Protection Services, Homeland Security, Transportation Services, and Professional Skills. For more information, visit our website at www.shcoe.org, call our office at 855-777-4265 or email us at info@shcoe.org

About NexPort Solutions Group
NexPort Solutions Group is a division of Darwin Global, LLC, a systems and software engineering company that provides innovative, cost-effective training solutions and support for federal, state and local government, as well as the private sector.
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Friday, June 21, 2013

NexPort Solutions Blog: Inaugural Post

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NexPort Solutions has come a long way from its rather humble beginnings in 2002.  Back then, it was all we could do to keep the Distributed Content Management System (DCMS) up-and-running, and meeting customer requirements.  However, the insights gained through that experience proved extremely valuable as we progressed from a hybridized platform to a model-view-controller architecture.  With each release, NexPort matured and the NexPort Solutions organization matured with it.  The pending release of NexPort 5.0 positions NexPort for compatibility with emerging technologies (e.g., cloud-based delivery, HTML5). 

Agile Practices

From the beginning, NexPort’s development has been mediated by agile development practices (i.e., build what the customer needs at the moment, get it into users’ hands as soon as possible, gain insight from its use, revise if necessary).  Basing development upon empirical evidence rather than on market hype often distinguishes NexPort from other similar products.


Another agile development practice that has affected NexPort’s development has been anticipation of change.  From the beginning, NexPort Solutions has given sincere thought to what will our customers need in the coming years to stay competitive?  That has led to an emphasis on paying down technology debt and positioning NexPort for compatibility with an ever-changing array of browsers, operating systems, databases, and security requirements.

Supporting Customers' Endeavors in the Corrections Industry

A significant NexPort customer, Smart Horizons Career Online Education (SHCOE) relies upon NexPort to provide an online learning environment that meets the security and reliability requirements of their customers in correctional facilities.  Not only is SHCOE the world’s first fully accredited online private school district, they are also leading the way in providing Internet-based education to correctional facilities throughout the nation.
 
Convincing Governors, State Legislators, Superintendents of Corrections, Wardens, and Correctional Educators to provide inmates with access to the Internet is certainly no easy task.  However, the staff at NexPort Solutions has repeatedly demonstrated to these customers that NexPort is up to the challenge.

What's Next?

In the coming year, NexPort will help SHCOE expand into the correctional education field with more mature capabilities that address increased security requirements, blended delivery modes (i.e., synchronous and asynchronous), delivery on mobile devices (i.e., tablets), adaptive testing, intelligent assignments, and aggregated reporting.

At the same time, NexPort Solutions will continue to grow a family of interoperable products:  NexPort, NexPort Reporting Services, and NexMeeting.  Watch this forum for more discussions on these developments.
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