UNCP Faculty Corner

Course Mgmnt System

This page is for discussion of changing UNCP’s Course Management System to Moodle or keeping Blackboard.  The Academic Services Subcommittee of the Academic Affairs Committee of the Faculty Senate is looking into the matter after a Teaching and Learning Center committee recommended changing to Moodle. This conversation may raise awareness of what such a decision could mean to individual faculty members.

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10 Comments »

  1. As you may have heard, the Academic Affairs Committee of the Faculty Senate recently voted to retain Blackboard. This information was shared with the Faculty Senate membership at their Wednesday, December 3rd meeting. Because we are at the end of a semester, the current BB/Moodle environment would be maintained for the spring 2010 semester as there is not enough time to foster an appropriate change.

    To you, who actively participated in this discovery/decision process over the past year, please accept my heartfelt thanks. The Task Force did wonderful work in developing their proposal. Thank you to the Faculty Senate/Committee members who participated in this continuing conversation. Please allow me to also thank all the support staff who donated so much of their time to support this decision-making process. It was truly a team effort.

    Moving forward, a team will begin work early in January to develop a strategy to implement BB version 9 during spring semester with a potential “go live” for the fall 2010 semester. Much information will be shared as the strategy is developed. Allow me to encourage those with courses in Moodle to transition back to Blackboard during this migration to BB version 9 as UNCP’s Moodle services will be discontinued at the end of the spring 2010 semester.

    Best regards and thanks again,
    Bob

    Comment by Robert Orr — December 3, 2009 @ 7:00 pm

  2. Although the various reports seem at odds with each other regarding the actual cost of migration, there does seem to be agreement that migration will be more costly in the near term. Given the budget crisis, is this really a time we should be considering taking on an optional additional expenditure in order to perhaps begin saving money 3-5 years down the road? I know that some people have stated that faculty should not worry about the costs because that is not our business. But it seems obvious that setting aside money for a conversion will have to mean less money is available for other things. Will student computer labs suffer? Tech support for general IT? Faculty office computer replacements? Availability of site licenses for software? Non-IT services? It would seem those issues will affect us and so they are our business. In addition, we’ve been told faculty should expect a higher workload in the near term—-larger classes, more advisees, and so forth. Is this really the time to ask faculty to put extra work into redoing their courses for Moodle? We’ve been told that a decision has to be made now because the Bb contract is expiring. Would it not be possible to consider retaining Bb for another (finite) contract period without deciding we have to commit to it until the end of time? (I understand the irrevocability of a move to Moodle.)

    I am also concerned that too much might be made of the student data Rami sent out with the AA Committee request for input. I realize that not many faculty are using Moodle and I can appreciate the desire to get student input, but only 31 students participated in the survey (less than .005 of our students). We aren’t told how many students were solicited but one student indicated that Moodle was being used in more than 4 of his courses that semester. If that is true, the pool of potential survey participants must have been quite a bit larger than 31. The survey design also makes it hard to interpret the results. On Questions 3-10 which compare Bb and Moodle, students were instructed to mark N/A if they had not used Bb. There are varying numbers of N/A’s (0-4) on these questions which leaves in some doubt exactly what proportion of this extremely small number of students had used Bb. While students could have wanted to mark N/A for other reasons (perhaps they did not know what the word “intuitive” meant in Question 4 although that doesn’t explain the N/A difference between Moodle and Bb on that particular question), the ambiguities introduced by the survey design obscure the overall meaning of the data. Also, some of the student comments tend to conflate what sound like course design/pedagogical issues under the control of the instructor with platform differences. (At least I hope that getting points for test questions answered incorrectly isn’t an unvarying feature of Moodle!) Finally, I would wonder what these students were told about Moodle when they first discovered it was being used in their classes? For example, were they told it was superior? If so, the way it was introduced to them could have boosted their opinion of it —but even then, the student rating differences between Moodle and Bb are small and are probably not statistically significant with an N of only 31. The faculty report also suffers from interpretative problems given the attrition reported.

    Comment by Libby Denny — April 11, 2009 @ 5:03 pm

  3. Let me begin by saying that I agree with Mario’s earlier email that the larger issue is faculty support, not the platform. I have probably discovered 8-10 things about Blackboard this semester that I think it is essential for all other users to know, but only one of them has been disseminated. We really need a whole different level of faculty support for online courses. At the same time, I disagree with Mario that the platform is insignificant. I do think it makes a tremendous difference.

    Let me begin by saying that I was a very early user of course management software. I believe I had my earliest training about 1992, when there were only text-based systems. Before coming to UNCP 6 years ago I was at University of Maryland University College which is regularly regarded as having one of the highest quality online degree programs. In my first 5 years here as Dean, I only used Blackboard as a course supplement, so I didn’t really get to take it through its paces. This year, I have been an extensive user of Blackboard.

    In short, I don’t think Blackboard is the right software for us for the future. Firstly, I was disappointed to learn that the state of Blackboard today is not as good as what UMUC had 6 years ago. For as many versions of Blackboard that there have been, I am frankly staggered by what it can’t do. I won’t go into detail here, but let me say briefly that it has essentially no decent mechanism for grading online discussions, an essential component of the courses I teach. On the technology end, it doesn’t prompt the user for leading choices, forcing you to slide your mouse all over the place. Nor does the gradebook allow you to see the student’s name and the final grade if you have several scoring opportunities. I could go on and on.

    These issues lead me to believe that Blackboard has become the dinosaur of the field. It certainly has a large user base, but it is slow and plodding. My judgment is that we are far better off cutting our losses with Blackboard at this point, and going with a more upcoming system such as Moodle (although I have no opinion of Moodle versus others (Educator, etc.)).

    Comment by Eric Dent — April 11, 2009 @ 8:49 am

  4. I have read the various reports and attended one of the workshops on the proposed migration from Blackboard to Moodle. I find no compelling reason to support this migration. The advantages listed for Moodle in the report appear relatively minor and there will be only a modest cost reduction. In addition, Dr. Orr has said the decision to migrate is irrevocable. In other words, if the migration is made and faculty find Moodle does not meet their needs, UNC Pembroke can not go back to Blackboard. This is a major issue. More important, however, are the number of courses currently posted on Blackboard. According to the presentations in the workshop, these courses will have to be redesigned and configured if the move to Moodle is made. One of the presenters said he put hours of work into designing his course on Moodle. This is an overwhelming issue. Faculty should not be compelled to spend hours of their time redoing courses that are posted on Blackboard. In short, the benefits of the proposed migration appear minor and the drawbacks are major. Again, I find no compelling reason that justifies this proposed migration.

    If Moodle is truly open source, then those wishing to use it can do so.

    Robert Brown
    Department of History

    Comment by Robert Brown — April 7, 2009 @ 11:41 am

  5. I have read the various reports and attended one of the workshops on the proposed migration from Blackboard to Moodle. I find no compelling reason to support this migration. The advantages listed for Moodle in the report appear relatively minor and there will be only a modest cost reduction. In addition, Dr. Orr has said the decision to migrate is irrevocable. In other words, if the migration is made and faculty find Moodle does not meet their needs, UNC Pembroke can not go back to Blackboard. This is a major issue. More important, however, are the number of courses currently posted on Blackboard. According to the presentations in the workshop, these courses will have to be redesigned and configured if the move to Moodle is made. One of the presenters said he put hours of work into designing his course on Moodle. This is an overwhelming issue. Faculty should not be compelled to spend hours of their time redoing courses that are posted on Blackboard. In short, the benefits of the proposed migration appear minor and the drawbacks are major. Again, I find no compelling reason that justifies this proposed migration.

    If Moodle is truly open source, then those wishing to use it can do so.

    Robert Brown
    Department of History

    Comment by Robert Brown — April 3, 2009 @ 11:59 am

  6. I have not had experience with Moodle, beyond a few introductory skirmishes on the main website. I am not fond of Blackboard for the time it takes to backtrack and improvise to correct limitations in function (e.g. students have one chance to submit on an assignment tab. I took an inordinate amount of time to discover a test with file response question would allow multiple uploads in the specified time, thus eliminating a wave of student emails)

    I agree with Mario that the platform we use is not the main issue. In my own work I would rather spend time in the development and evaluation of the learning experience than fighting platform software. To that end I have worked with colleagues in uncovering ways to become more independent of a particular platform or even online access. Powerpoint is an obvious example that we all know. With dual monitor capability in the classroom, I can keep all notes and prompts in the powerpoint file, without the printing of the slide outline or printing of notes that I used in my first three years here.I am looking at adobe captivate for solutions to online testing that can be integrated with powerpoint. This software has carried a recommendation from our folks at GA. Now if there was only a way to keep the grading and documentation. I now depend on Blackboard for this and I am a little nervous about it. I used to keep my own “main” grading files in Excel but grew tired of my own data entry errors and continually matching totals to what students would see in Blackboard.I now download the blackboard grading twice a semester for my own records but if anything happens to system or software in between…well, it would be unfortunate.

    Perhaps, following Mario’s direction, we would need a central sharing of issues and solutions, regardless of which platform we use.

    David Dran
    Dept of Social Work

    Comment by David Dran — March 27, 2009 @ 8:35 am

  7. Colleagues,

    The Committee from the Teaching Center produced an excellent report to support their recommendation. I highly encourage all to read the report and the DoIT Addendum which is offered to further explain what our local migration to Moodle would require.

    Both documents along with the Committee survey are available on the DoIT Website at http://www.uncp.edu/doit/

    Thanks to all who have participated to this point and we look forward to a productive campus conversation leading to a final consensus for the future. Take a few moments also to read the introductory comments on this initiative on the DoIT homepage.

    Best regards,
    Bob

    Comment by Bob Orr — February 13, 2009 @ 4:35 pm

  8. Dr. Wendt posted a great summary of where we are in this. There’s a committee afloat somewhere that’s been working on this. Does the committee read the blog? Dr. Wendt, have your addressed these concerns to that Committee? I think Dr. Normandy is chairing it.

    I know this committee has asked for feedback from faculty in several different ways, including several formal surveys. They held a terrific teleconference with the Appalacian State Moodle implementation IT and Faculty people sometime last sememster.

    All the freedom and the technology/licensing etc for working with Bb and Moodle have been available for this school year. This is the part I appreciate the most from our [DO]IT. Cheers! Fran Fuller

    Comment by Fran Fuller — February 12, 2009 @ 12:22 pm

  9. I am relatively new to using CMS, two years. My only experience with CMs sofware is Blackboard and I use it extensively with all of my courses. I, Like Professor Wendt find Blackboard to be extremely time consuming. In short I love what I can do and provide for my students, but hate how long it takes me to accomplish tasks. I am not familiar with the pro’s and con’s of Moodle, nor have I been able to attend any of the sessions regarding this software. While economics are a serious consideration, I agree that we need to weigh all factors in this decision.

    Comment by Julie Floss — February 12, 2009 @ 11:08 am

  10. I consider this to be critical decision of the university, since online and hybrid teaching is going to do nothing but grow in the future. We need to be prepared to compete as other universities and colleges are moving in this direction, perhaps much faster than we.

    I have been teaching online and hybrid courses now for 8 years and have used the former WEBct, Educator, and the current Blackboard and I have briefly looked at Moodle. My concern is that I see the universities and colleges moving toward Moodle without what I think is a needed detailed review of all of the options. Quite frankly, of the two CMS’s on which I currently teach (Blackboard and Educator) and find Educator to be much more efficient and far better than Blackboard although I have learned to live with Blackboard and to use it in many ways. It is unfair, however, to evaluate even our current version of Blackboard against Moodle as I have no idea what version 8 of Blackboard will do.

    I also understand that there is more than one CMS that operates on the Internet and is basically open-source. This decision of a new CMS is important from a student user standpoint, and from an efficiency standpoint in terms of professional time to develop a course online. I am afraid that perceptions of cost-savings in today’s recession environment have more to do with driving this decision rather than the quality of the software itself. I can say, for instance, that it takes me two to three times as long to conduct my courses in Blackboard than it does on Educator. That is significant but does that get any consideration???

    I could say more but this is enough for the moment. I trust this will be useful to the process.

    Comment by William Wendt — February 12, 2009 @ 8:00 am


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