Bye-Bye, Blackboard

Melissa Brand

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Blackboard

Courtesy of Blackboard

 

[post-date]  –

 

After years of using Blackboard (Bb) as the main online tool for classes, students and faculty of NEIU will be switching to Desire2Learn (D2L) once the spring 2013 semester ends. The contract for Bb, which has been the learning management system (LMS) for the university since 2001, expires in June 2013, which means all summer classes will start on D2L.

Dr. Thomas Tobin, Coordinator of Learning Technologies in the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), said a lot went into picking the new LMS. Tobin said, “We went through that process, we got six different vendors and at that point, we created review boards of 24 faculty from throughout the university. There were also technical review committees from our university technology service areas.”

According to Tobin, some of the key features they looked for were: the ability to have discussions with students, options to post files such as a syllabus, receive files from students, access for mobile devices, ways to showcase student work outside of the class and how many clicks is it to perform certain functions.

“Of the six vendors we looked at, D2L constantly came up to the top and received the highest marks from all of the different sub-teams,” said Tobin.

During the fall 2012 semester, a select group of classes were part of a pilot program to test D2L. Margaret Rios, a CMT major said, “The only problem I encountered with D2L is that it was difficult to find all of the tabs. What I mean by that is that the site is not as organized as Blackboard would be.” An issue that Tobin said is easily fixable as D2L is much more customizable than Bb. “The one thing that I do like, is that when writing in a discussion board, there were never any glitches,” said Rios. “The opposite goes with Blackboard. When writing on a Blackboard discussion board, there were times where I would be kicked off or the whole post would delete itself before I had a chance to post it.”

Dr. Shane Pepper from the CMT department was also part of the pilot program. He used D2L for one class in fall 2012 and is using it again this semester. “I did not have any issues and I did not hear any substantial concerns from students,” said Pepper. “Any new system has quirks, but we worked through them easily.”

One of the many new features of D2L that Bb did not have, is the ability to block discussion board posts from other students’ view until they have posted their own response. Rios said, “This is good because you know that those that did not study or read, could not slack off and take your work.” This feature is liked not only by students, but by professors too. “I’ve noticed that the posts are much more thorough, as students are not able to just draw upon the responses of their classmates,” said Pepper. “Instead, they are engaging with the readings and providing their unique analysis. This has even led to a higher response rate when it comes to comments, as students seem to go and read the other posts to find out if they were on the right track with their own.”

Dr. Gerardo Moreno, from the Special Education Department, said there were no negative issues with D2L encountered by him or students. “Quite the opposite,” said Moreno. “I have had a couple of email messages from students praising D2L and the course, and were inquiring if all SPED online courses would be offered in this manner.” Moreno also prefers the new interface and praised D2L for being, “Truly optimized for mobile computing as opposed to Bb, which the latest iteration still relies on a full computer setup for the complete user experience.”

Currently a handful of faculty uses D2L as well as the entire College of Business and Management. Tobin said, “The next thing students and professors should look for is starting in late February, we will be offering training for professors and instructors throughout the rest of the university.” Students already have access to login with their NetID, and can get familiar with the new system.

The CTL works directly with faculty and instructors to help them create their course materials. However, they have provided links on their website to help students with the transition from Bb to D2L. The main link for students is: http://www.neiu.edu/~ctL/D2L.html#student. This section provides seven topics students can get information on to learn D2L. Just like in Bb, if you have questions or need technical support in D2L, you would contact the student helpdesk at Ext. 4357 (HELP).

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