Special Delivery

D2L for Higher Education Cookbook cover

Hot off the press! Copies of my book arrived in the mail today. It’s neat to see months of my work all printed and bound. Plus, it’s very cool to have an ISBN attached to my name. Feeling legit!

My publisher is interested in offering a few free copies of the book to folks willing to post a quick review, blog post, etc. If you’re interested, just let me know.

Smart App Banners in iOS 6

One of the less-discussed new features in iOS 6 is the ability to display Smart App banners in Safari. These banners allow you to provide a link to your iOS app from within the web browser. If visitors to your site already have your app installed, the Install button is replaced by an Open button, which makes it easy to jump from the webs site directly into the app. In addition, you’re able to pass information from your website to your app via a parameter in the Smart App Banner code. Let’s take a look at a quick example.

In the header of your page, simply add the following META tag. Make sure to replace the app ID with the ID for the app you actually want to link to. You can find your app ID using Apple’s iTunes Link Maker.

<meta name="apple-itunes-app" content="app-id=419775687">

That’s all there is to it. With any luck, you can reload the page so see something like the example screenshot below.


Now what if you want to pass information from the browser to the app? For that, you’ll need to use URL schemes. URL Schemes are special URLs that allow you to communicate between apps on iOS devices. You can view information on supported URL schemes in all your favorite apps at this site. Let’s suppose, for example, you want to create a page on your course site for a new reading assignment. In our example, we will display a Smart App Banner for with a link to the iBooks app in the iTunes store. By passing an additional argument, students who already have the iBooks app installed can tap the Open button to be taken instantly to the book’s page in the store. Here’s the code to do just that:

<meta name="apple-itunes-app" content="app-id=364709193,app-argument=itms-books://itunes.apple.com/us/book/amazing-adventures-kavalier/id497278337">

You can do all sorts of neat things with URL schemes and Smart App Banners - post custom tweets, launch specific videos in the TED app, etc. How are you using them?

iOS 6 in Education - Guided Access

Guided Access helps students with disabilities such as autism remain on task and focused on content. It allows a parent, teacher, or administrator to limit an iOS device to one app by disabling the Home button, as well as restrict touch input on certain areas of the screen. - Apple
Guided Access, one of many new features found in iOS 6, allows you to put your device in Kiosk mode, limiting access to other apps on the device. This feature can be useful for secure testing, keeping students on task, and more. In this post, we'll take a look at how to setup and use Guided Access on your device to limit access to a specific book in the iBooks app.

guided access screenshots

  1. Access the Settings app. Then, tap General | Accessibility | Guided Access.
  2. Use the slider at the top of the screen to turn on the service.
  3. Tap Set Passcode. You'll need to remember the passcode you set here to exit Guided Access mode later on.
  4. Launch the iBooks app (or any other app of your choice).
  5. Triple-tap the Home button. Once the Guided Access screen loads, use your finger to draw circles around the parts of the interface that you don't want to students to be able to access. Since we're limiting access to a specific book, we remove access to the Library button.
  6. Tap the Start button to launch Guided Access.
That's all there is to it! Once finished, simply triple-tap the Home button and enter the passcode to exit Guided Access mode. As you can see, there are all sorts of potential use cases for this feature in classrooms and labs.

D2L Edge Challenge

Watchalearning is a native iOS application that uses streaming video and chat functionality to facilitate learning. The main screen of the application shows a title, release date, and thumbnail image for each video in the series. Although the application looks for new content each time it is loaded, users can manually update the feed using pull-to refresh functionality on the main screen.

Main UI for viewing video content

Tapping on a video thumbnail plays the video in a full screen media player.

Users can also collaborate with other classmates using the built-in chat feature. Simply tap the Chat button in the navigation bar to get started. New users are asked to create an account. The account credentials are cached on the device, so users shouldn’t need to login to future sessions. Reload the chat view by tapping and dragging down on the main view.

Chat interface


Participate in the conversation by tapping the Compose button in the navigation bar. Type as much as you’d like in the text field and press Done.

After reloading the view, your message should appear at the top of the list! The rows in the table view automatically resize based on the length of the message.


While work on the Edge Challenge submission is now complete, we plan on continuing development of the app by adding new features such as push notifications, video chatting, and file sharing. We would eventually like to develop a framework that could be used by other educators to create their own mobile apps. If you’re interested in following along, feel free to add this site’s feed to your RSS reader of choice!

2012 D2L Edge Challenge Entry from Brandon Ballentine on Vimeo.