Online Learning Fri, 21 Sep 2018 14:25:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 D2L Brightspace 10.8.5 updates for September 2018 Wed, 12 Sep 2018 19:59:05 +0000 This post covers updates from 10.8.3 from July through 10.8.5 for September 2018. There are some good ones to share so buckle up!

HTML Editor adds support for chemistry equations and hand-written equations

This is one I’ve known about and am excited for. The equation editor now supports the Chemistry library and has added support for hand-drawn equations (math too!)

Editor’s Note: Hand-drawn equations have been delayed due to performance issues. We hope to know when they will be added back soon.

Select Chemistry equation as an option

You can now select “Chemistry equation” from the equation action menu to launch the chemistry editor.

The handwriting mode allows you to mouse, touch, etc. to create equations.

Both of these should be improvements for both faculty and students who are teaching math, science, economics, philosophy, etc. online. This feature will be available on September 28th, 2018.

Assignments don’t need an attachment

Do you ever wish students could use the assignment tool but just post their responses in the text submission field? We asked and it’s delivered!

choose text submission as an assignment option.

More Date Change updates

Over the last several updates, there have been multiple improvements to the Manage Dates workflows. Now when you finish importing a course or a course package, you have the ability to immediately go in to the date offset tool.

Quiz experience

For the last several months, you could opt in to the new quiz tool design. Now it defaults to the new quiz experience and you have to opt out. Also, question pools give you a nifty dynamic preview of the quiz while you’re editing. It’s a less complicated interface.

The question pool feature now lets you see a preview

Preview of building a Question Pool. Click to enlarge.


Here are a few other minor updates that may pique your interest.

  • Updated widget styling creates more separation between background and widgets.
  • Removal of “Image and text” quiz question type – it’s redundant since you can add images to any question.
  • New release condition: Released final grade score. This lets you use agents or release content based on the student’s final grade having been published.
  •  The My Courses widget has received some updates as well. One that we haven’t enabled is the ability to group courses by role or by term. We looked at being able to group courses by term but have some concern about the number of quarters that are available. Let us know if you have interest in this.
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Online Learning is piloting proctoring software Tue, 07 Aug 2018 23:26:28 +0000 Over the summer, three instructors in the Chemistry department have paired with Online Learning to pilot Proctorio, a virtual proctoring solution. The software integrates with D2L Brightspace’s quiz tool and Google Chrome to improve the integrity of online exams.

Previously, we have relied on in-person proctoring provided by the instructor, make-up exams in the testing centers, and in some cases, virtual proctoring using the BVirtual service. That service is robust and supports complicated exams like the Computer Science programming competency demonstrations, but is labor intensive to support and too expensive for broad student use. we

Why pilot Proctorio?

We have been monitoring the proctoring marketplace for many years. There are many good products out there that help improve the integrity of exams, but few are as easy to use and cost efficient as Proctorio. We’ve watched as they improved their platform, technology, security, and accessibility and decided it was time to try it out. Proctorio supports a range of security settings that offer from a lenient observation mode to a high degree of scrutiny and should support a broad range of subject area needs at PCC. The variety of settings can be a little overwhelming at first, but the flexibility allows instructors to select a best match for their needs. Here are some of the options that Proctorio supports.
recording options in Proctorio include webcam recording, audio recording, room recording, and desktop recording.

  • Webcam validation: Use the webcam to view the student and their ID to confirm identity.
  • Record room: Student must pan the room with the webcam to see the test taking location.
  • Audio recording: picks up unusual sounds, talking, or sudden changes in noise level.
  • Screen recording: Record what the test taker is doing to make sure they’re following the guidelines for the exam.
  • Disable a variety of functions like disabling the clipboard, disable printing, opening other tabs, limiting the browser to only open links from the quiz and more. Note: we discourage disabling right click because it can cause problems for users of assistive technology.A list of the browser restrictions in Proctorio include no new windows, clear cache, no right click and more.

After the exam, instructors can see a dashboard that highlights all the attempts by students and gives both the grade and suspicion level based on the settings made earlier. This allows the instructor to review any suspicious attempts.

Proctorio exam dashboard shows all student attempts

Proctorio exam results dashboard. Click image to enlarge.

When you view the student’s attempt, it highlights why the tool flagged the exam. It can be for a combination of factors, but it lists all of them so you can evaluate if the issues are within your expectations for the exam. In this example, the report shows the 3 websites that the student visited during the exam. Since it’s from a companion website and this is an open-resource exam, this can be dismissed.

Proctorio shows a list of the pages the student visited during the exam.

Pilot assessment

We have nearly completed our own internal evaluation of the technology, accessibility, and security of the platform. However, we are keenly interested in feedback from both instructors and students about their experience with the platform. Virtual proctoring is very personal (invasive, even) and we want to make sure we understand and can respond to concerns before we make any decisions about expanding the pilot or adopting the technology.

We have added a couple more instructors for fall term in different disciplines and will have more information available. Watch here for updates, and don’t hesitate to contact me or Michael Moss if you have any questions.

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D2L Brightspace 10.8.2 updates for June 2018 Wed, 13 Jun 2018 20:52:23 +0000 icon continuous deliveryThe June Continuous Delivery update includes a few updates worth noting for instructors.

Support for Emoticons

Love them or hate them, you can now insert emoticons in the HTML editor. 👍

Quizzes – Question pooling

It’s great to mix up your quiz questions. You used to be able to do this with randomization and question sets. However, the new Question Pooling functionality greatly simplifies the ability to randomize questions. It can pull questions from the question library or other quizzes and should make it easier to give every student a slightly different quiz.

The question pool interface is drastically simpler


There are a few long overdue updates to the Rubrics tool.

  1. You can change the rubric visibility to Always visible to students, Hidden from students until feedback published, or Always hide from students.
  2. Students can access Rubric feedback from the associated activity (e.g. in the Discussion tool) Clicking on the rubric link opens it in a new window where the selected scores are highlighted.
  3. Overall score has been renamed “Total.”
  4. Students can view rubric feedback from the Gradebook as well as the associated tool/activity. This provides access to all feedback from the Gradebook. (this is big)
    You can access rubric from the grade book now
  5. Students (and instructors) can now preview the rubric from the Content tool. Previews will appear the same across all tools and will have a responsive interface for mobile devices.
Promoting Pulse

Did you know there is a mobile app for D2L called Pulse? There is, and it’s pretty nifty for casual use. Students will be able to see notices that Pulse is available. You know, we should probably do more to promote it as well. It’s great for seeing what is happening in the coming week and getting course updates.

Discussion grading improvements

When you’re assessing a discussion, there is now a link to the original post so you can more easily see the context of the post without having to root around yourself.

Annotate non-PDF files in Grader app

If you’re one of the few instructors who has a tablet and uses Assignment Grader, you may be happy to learn that you can add annotations to files other than PDFs. So you can use your annotation features (draw, circle, etc.) on Word docs and other supported file types. Oh, and you no longer need an EduDentity account to use Assignment Grader app.

Preview for July

I’m actually really excited about two updates coming in July.

  1. Support for Chemistry equations in the HTML editor including the ability to hand-write equations!?!?! (pssst… here’s a preview)
  2. You can submit an assignment without needing to attach a file!?!?!
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2017 Faculty Media Use Survey Results Thu, 07 Jun 2018 20:14:34 +0000 Thank you for your participation in the 2017 faculty media use survey. This survey has been conducted twice since 2013 and was distributed to all faculty using D2L Brightspace last spring. Here are the results:

A preview of the faculty media survey.

A preview of the survey results. Click on the image to view the full infographic.

Of note regarding the results of this survey:

  • Since 2013, there has been an increase in the use of captioned media. 46% of faculty indicate that they are using captioned media in their courses.
  • A majority of faculty know they can reach out for proactive help in meeting online accommodation needs.
  • Reported use of publisher content has dropped from 54% to 47%.
  • 46% of faculty indicate that they are using some form of OER in their classes.
  • Faculty indicate that the top two reasons for not adopting media in their courses are time constraints and know-how.

For assistance with integrating media in your courses, please complete the Media Production Request Form. For questions about this survey, please contact Online Learning.

Thanks to Supada and Monica for collecting the results and generating the graphic!

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Beware: Your testbank questions are out there Tue, 05 Jun 2018 19:13:56 +0000 A student cheating on a paper exam by looking at notes on his hand.This is a good thing to keep in mind as we approach finals week. Regardless of the underlying intent, there are plenty of ways for students to share testbank questions. The recent Inside Higher Ed article “Learning Tool or Cheating Aid” highlights how learning tools such as Quizlet can also be used by students to share exam questions. It’s an eye opening article with a different perspective, certainly worth reading. On a related note, have you ever tried a google search for a few of your exam questions? Give it a try sometime. You might be surprised.

The problem is not really with Quizlet and similar tools, which are designed to provide excellent learning aids for students. (See recent blog post by Ron Bekey. Also see the Online Classroom article “Promote active learning with Quizlet” referenced below.) These companies also take steps to promote academic integrity, but their options are limited. Much of it comes down to what we do as instructors, and how we design our assessments. There are a number of important best practices that come out of this, and here are a couple of crucial ones.

Use quizzes more for formative assessments, not summative

Quizzes can make an excellent learning tool for students. When quizzes are designed as a low-stakes self-check tool, students have little reason to search for alternative sources of answers, and they can benefit greatly from the immediate feedback provided. Try to rely on alternate forms of summative assessment when possible.

Change your exam questions

If the quiz tool has to be used for summative assessment, change the exam questions regularly. Even full test banks are out there available for students who are actively searching for that option, so it’s best to include some of your own questions.

Randomize questions and answer choices

If you do have to use some questions from previous exams, at least randomize the questions, and better yet, randomize the answer choices. This is easy to do within Brightspace.

What else?

Set a time limit for exams. Set them up to reveal only one question at a time where students cannot go back. When possible, use essay or short answer type questions. Relate questions to instructor-generated content, even to student-generated content, e.g. from a discussion. When possible, require students to create answers rather than find them. Have students sign or even create an honor code for the class. In another recent article, Brian Udermann points out that “research indicates that students cheat more when they believe that cheating is a student norm. Whatever you can do to make academic honesty a class norm might help reduce the chance of cheating.”

Works Cited

Bekey, Ron, Breaking up boring content with Quizlet, April 2018

McKenzie, Lindsay, Learning Tool or Cheating Aid, Inside Higher Ed, May 14, 2018.

Mullins, Amy, Barthlow-Potkanowicz, Deanna, Tips from the pros: Promote active learning with Quizlet, Online Classroom, Magna Publications, May 1, 2018. (Direct access below)

Udermann, Brian, (Mis) Perceptions about Cheating in Online Classes, Sloan conference presentation, March 2014.

To Access all Online Classroom articles:
  1. Log into D2L Brightspace.
  2. From the drop down “Instructional Resources” link in the navigation bar, select “Access Magna Publications.”
  3. Click on “Newsletter: Online Classroom Archive.” You’ll see the current articles, and you can access the archives as well.
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D2L CD 10.8.1 update for May 2018 Fri, 25 May 2018 15:21:51 +0000 icon continuous deliveryThe May Continuous Delivery update includes a few things that may make life a little easier.

Name column is locked in Gradebook

The gradebook can be an overwhelming place, especially when you lose the name of the students while scrolling around. As of Friday, May 25th, the name column is locked on the left side so you will always see it while scrolling left and right to view different grade columns. Also, the column titles locks when you scroll down so you can see which activity grade you’re seeing.

More manage dates improvements

There have been a number of improvements to the Manage Dates tool in the last 2 releases, but apparently that wasn’t enough. With this release, you’ll see these additional updates.

  • Offset other activity dates – In addition to offsetting start, end, and due dates, instructors have the option to offset other dates associated with activities. Affected dates are: discussion topic and forum locking dates, quiz submission view dates, quiz report dates, and survey report dates.
  • Manual calendar events – Instructors can edit the start and end dates of events that were manually created and not tied to existing activities or content topics. As a result, instructors can manage all course dates from a single location.
  • Improved sorting of items to follow tool sort order – Manage Dates display activities in the order in which an instructor would see them in their respective tools.
  • Display of course start and end date – The course start date and end date appears at the top of the Manage Dates page and acts as a reference for instructors when operating on the dates of the various activities. If instructors have the Manage CoursesChange Start and End Dates permission, they can launch a dialog box and then edit the dates.
  • The Tool column on the Manage Dates page has been removed – You can use the Type column to sort the Manage Dates page based on the tool-specific order.
  • New links to the Manage Dates page – The new Review and Manage Dates button appears at the end of copy course components, course import, and course import advanced.

Here’s an example of that last one.

manage dates can be launched from the Copy Course page


There were some planned updates to the Rubrics tool but those were delayed until 10.8.2 in June.


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Screencasting with My Media’s native CaptureSpace Lite Desktop Recorder. Mon, 21 May 2018 14:12:08 +0000 CaptureSpace Desktop Recorder is great alternative to other screencasting tools such as Camtasia, Jing, Screencast-O-Matic, etc..

  • CaptureSpace Lite is free for all of us using PCC’s  D2L Brightspace 
  • CaptureSpace Lite is integrated into Brightspace through Kaltura’s MyMeda interface. It will upload, store and publish your recordings to any place in the Content area, or Announcements or any other place of your course (where you can find a D2L’s HTML editor with exception of the email).
  • CaptureSpace Lite is very easy to use. It offers basic editing capabilities with Trim or Chop tools. It can help you to add titles or credits for your video.

Please keep in mind that you will need to upload a captioning file (or use the automatic transcription service) along with your recording to provide captions in order to meet accessibility standards for your class.

Here are the basic steps that will get you started with CaptureSpace Lite Recorder:

    1.  Enter MyMedia tool located on D2L Brightspace landing page a.k.a. My Home area.
      MyMedia tool located on Navigation Bar of D2L's My Home area.
    2. Once in MyMedia click on Add New and select CaptureSpace Lite.CapyureSpaceLite
    3. You will be prompted to download the Kaltura CaptureSpace Desktop Recorder.
      Download and Install the app.  (If downloading on your PCC workstation/laptop, then you may need to contact IT helpdesk at x4400 to install.)
      Download CaptureSpace Lite
    4. After installing, go back to the My Media Homepage and click on the Add New button and select CaptureSpace Light again.
    5. Check the box to allow Kaltura CaptureSpace to be open when you click on the link.
      Open Kultura protocol pop-up window
    6.  The Kaltura CaptureSpace Desktop Recorder will launch, providing you with 4 options to make a recording.
      Choose Screen option for a basic screencasting recording.
      You can choose other options too if you want to record with your WebCam or make an audio recording using a microphone or a headset.
      Kultura CaptureScreen starting screen
    7. On the next screen you will have an option to select an area of your screen or choose full screen for the recording.
      Click Record to proceed.
      Window that allows to select a display or area of the screen for recording
    8.  This control panel will pop up, once the recording is in progress, so you can pause, stop, cancel or engage a drawing tool.
      Control screen for the recording operation.
    9.  The drawing tool offers you variety of colors, pencils and highlighters which you can use during the recording to provide some additional annotation for your presentation.
      Draw feature during recording
    10. Click on Done to finish the recording.
      Control window, click On DoneEditing tools window
    11. The Preview screen  will pop up and you can review your work and perform basic editing for your video using Trim, Chop, Titles and Credits controls. Click Done to proceed to the next stepDone Button
    12. Provide and appropriate title and description for your video. If you add the tag “captionasr,” Kaltura will automatically transcribe your media file. Click Upload.   CaptureSpace Lite will start uploading your video to MyMediaIt may take few minutes for the upload to be completed.Upload window
    13. My Media will process your video and soon it will be visible on top of your MyMedia page. Now you can use it in any of your D2L courses.
      Your Recordingin MyMedia
    14. Publishing your screencast in the Content area of your course is easy.
      Just open an HTML editor and use Insert Stuff button.D2L HTML editor Insert Stuff button
    15. Find your video under MyMedia option. Select the video, click Next and preview your screencast embedded in your HTML file.
      Insert Stuff windeow select a video



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Check out your content usage Mon, 14 May 2018 19:52:36 +0000 Let me start with a caveat: web page usage data isn’t perfect. You can’t know if the amount of time listed for a page is accurate, and you certainly can’t guarantee that if someone is viewing the page that they are understanding it. And sometimes students actually download and view content offline, which gives you no idea how much time they have spent with the content. So with that out of the way, I wanted to share how you can take a look at the content usage statics in Brightspace.

Viewing Content Reports

You can bring up a report that shows general information about your content, such as how many students have viewed the pages and approximately what the average amount of time spent on each page was. It’s not an exact science, but it can give you some useful insight in to your own course materials.

To access the reports

  1. Log in to your D2L Brightspace Course and click on Content.
  2. If you aren’t already on the Table of Contents, page, click on that the left side.
  3. Click on the Related Tools button and select View Reports.

Select View Reports from Related Tools under Table of Contents

This will bring up a list of modules and content topics with a column for the number of students who have viewed the topics as well as the average amount of time spent on teach topic.  The time is listed in Hours:Minutes:Seconds, but don’t let that precision fool you. Remember that a student can walk away from their computer and that might be counted.

List of all modules and topics with number of views and average view time

What is useful though is the relative amounts of time spent on the topics. You can generally tell which items students spend more time with. And if the students are spending less time that you expect on a topic, it might be worth investigating why. Maybe adding a video would help break up the content. Or maybe splitting the topic in to pieces would make it easier to digest.

Lastly, There’s a tab that lets you view content usage by user (aka student). It gives you a quick look at who many topics each student has viewed. Again, students may access some of these topics via a direct link (e.g. Discussion Posts), so it should be used for a relative sense of access, not a 100% accurate accounting of student activity.

Shows users and the number of topics visited


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Organizing Content in D2L Brightspace Tue, 08 May 2018 18:28:55 +0000 Basic Structure

Note: A student should be able to find all online course materials from the Content area.

D2L Brightspace allows you to organize your content in a modular format. Two of the most common practices is to organize content by week or topic.

Weekly modules are a popular choice for faculty and students as both groups tend to think of the passage of a quarter in terms of weeks. If you have topics that encompass two more weeks, organizing by topic might work better as long as you don’t need sub-modules to break up your content.  

Regardless of the organizational method you use:

  1. List your course materials in the order you would like your students to review them.
  2. Make sure your content item titles are meaningful.
  3. Consider adding descriptions to select items (these act as the “prompt” you might say in class as you pass out the document).an image showing a description added to an assigned reading explaining why it's important.
  4. If you add a video from YouTube, TedTalks, Vimeo, etc, use the option “Video or Audio” from Upload/Create instead of “Create a Link.” This provides a video icon below the title.image showing the video icon below content item title
  5. Make sure to include links to all your course learning activities (i.e. Discussions, Quizzes, Assignments) in appropriate modules.  
  6. If you use a publisher website for activities, include a link to the website in each module and consider using a short description to remind the students what activities must be completed through the platform.
    item description for a publisher homework assignment with date

    • Some instructors choose to add separate link to the platform login page for each activity, so that the due dates can be added to the Brightspace Calendar – something students love to see!
Using sub-modules

Something to be very careful of is the use of sub-modules. These should only be used in specific instances. Before I get to what those are, let me explain what the student experiences when viewing content this way.

When a student clicks on a top level module (i.e. Week 1), the sub-modules visually appear as nice boxes around content (i.e. Readings, Activities).

Illustration of how a first level sub-module visually appears in the content area.

Having this categorization seems like a great way to provide visual interest and focus, but what you might not know is that it adds an additional layer of navigational complexity to your course.  For instance:

  1. Let’s say that the student clicks on the “Readings” sub-module from the Table of Contents, then the student is taken to that sub-module only and can no longer see the items in the Week 1 module or the Due this Week sub-module.illustration of a readings module only view
  2. If you have a sub-module in a sub-module, from the top level module it is denoted by a folder icon before the sub-module title. Students don’t see what is in that module until they go into the sub-module.illustration of how a submodule displays in a submodule in D2L Brigthspace. A folder icon is depicted next to the name of submodule.
  3. In the Table of Contents, there is no way to distinguish a 4th level module from a third level module. (i.e. Test 1 > SB1 > SB2 > SB3). Submodule 2 and submodule 3 look like they are both 3rd level illustration of how D2L Brightspace displays the 3rd and 4th level submodules so that they look like they are at the same level.
  4. Many students navigate content by clicking on the arrow button at the top of the page after clicking on the first content item for the top level module (i.e. in Week 1). When sub-modules are included, clicking the arrow keys does not take the student to the content item in the next sub-module.
    illustration showing the next button when viewing a content item
    Instead, they are taken back to
    Content and into the sub-module only. They then must click on the first item in the sub-module to view. When they have viewed the last item in the sub-module, they are taken back to the top of the “Week 1” module and now must scroll down to the next item below the sub-module.
  5. Instructors who add brief descriptions to content items may be disappointed to know that the only way to view that description is to click on the sub-module first from the Table of Contents. So, if a student navigates from the top level folder only, they will not see the description.

So now you know some reasons why the use of sub-modules can be problematic for navigating content.  When is it a good idea to use sub-modules?

  1. If you have a lot of content in each module. By that I mean more than 12-15 items. (I have that many, about 15 items in my Weekly modules, and it still looks just fine. In these cases, try to limit to one sub-module and place it at the end of your top level content items.
  2. If you have a large group of content items that may not be required, but useful.  For example, I have used a submodule for “Study Aids” with about 5 to 7 items. I place it at the end of my main module content items.
How can I categorize without sub-modules?

Instead of using sub-modules, you can do other practical or creative things to categorize your content.  For instance:

  1. You can create a naming convention:
    • Reading 1: What is economics about?
    • Reading 2: Microeconomics vs. Macroeconomics
    • Reading 3: How Economists Understand Economics IssuesA visual illustration of the use of a naming convention depicted in list above.
  2. You can use icons to accompany descriptions to provide a visual cue as to the content item type. I have created a Google Drive folder that is full of free to use icons!An illustration of the use of icons in the content item descriptions
Need more ideas?

Are you interested in a spring clean? If you are someone who has a large number of content items in each module or uses multiple sub-modules within one top-level module, take advantage of an Instructional Technology Specialist (campus and online courses) or set up an appointment with me (online courses) to brainstorm other options.  There are many ways to consolidate the number of content items you have too!



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Meet the updated Manage Dates tool Mon, 23 Apr 2018 16:11:34 +0000 The Manage Dates tool should be a feature that makes you happy. You should be able to update all your course activity dates in one place. For a while, it let you do some of those updates, but other tool-specific features like Due Dates weren’t visible to change. Fortunately, with the March and April Continuous Delivery updates, the Manage Dates tool is getting some vast improvements.

Now you can edit Due Dates and see other features like if a discussion has a lock date, if the activity is visible, if it is in the calendar and more. It may seem overwhelming at first. Here’s a screenshot of what will be visible with the April Continuous Delivery update coming this Friday (4/27/18).

The new manage dates tool has tons of options

Filter Options

One overlooked function is the filtering tool. It let’s you pick specific course activities to view, which is useful for seeing all the Discussion topics & settings, for example. Filtering becomes even more useful with the updated Manage Dates tool because it reduces the amount of items you see so you can have fairly granular control over what you’re updating.

Filtering lets you select just a couple tools to manage

The filter function lets you select individual tools to update. If you really want to get into the weeds, click on the Show Advanced Filtering Options.

One small suggestion

I probably should have led with this. It helps avoid problems with date issues later on. When you are setting dates for Content, try just setting dates on the module itself, not on every content item in the module. This helps simplify management of the dates, and based on the volume of calls we receive about it, setting dates on individual content items tends to create access issues for students later. It also makes managing dates easier in the future if you’re only changing the dates at the module level instead of individual files.

In Manage Dates, you can filter by tool and select Content, then sort the results by Type to see just the modules. Then you can manage the dates for the modules rather easily.

Sort content by type to see all the Modules first.

One even smaller suggestion

If you make the dates available in the Calendar, students will be able to see the dates in the Pulse mobile app or in their own calendar if they sync with their Google Calendar.

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