Administration said convenience, necessity is behind system switch
SIU will be switching out Blackboard by fall 2012 for a new learning management system called Desire2Learn, intended to modernize the way instructors and students connect.
Desire2Learn is a more modern systen that includes components for in-house and online classes, said JP Dunn, the Learning Management System administrator for the Center for Teaching Excellence.
The Blackboard product used by SIU is in the process of being discontinued, he said. After looking at the needs of the university, he said Desire2Learn was the product that best suited those needs.
Dunn said one of the biggest changes is that Desire2Learn is connected to the student information system, which controls student enrollment and keeps the new LMS system up to date.
“Within two minutes of a student enrolling in a course, they’re in the system and the course displays on their page,” he said.
Courses are also automatically added on Desire2Learn, unlike in Blackboard, which required the instructors to manually add their courses, Dunn said. The only thing instructors will have to do with Desire2Learn is turn on the course with three mouse clicks, he said.
Convenience could be the catalyst in making the switch from old technology to new.
“Several of the things that I think students will find most useful is that 90 percent of (Desire2Learn) right now is mobile compatible,” Dunn said.
Dunn said this means any mobile device can log into the courses and perform most of the functions. He said the rest of the site should catch up by the fall semester when the total transition is taking place.
Desire2Learn has a cleaner interface than Blackboard and provides a mechanism for distributing content and the advantage of password-protecting it to protect copyright and intellectual property rights, Dunn said.
It allows for the control of the flow of content, provides testing and surveys, and has discussion board and chat features, among many others, he said.
Dunn said some features can be used to easily keep students up to date with course materials while others can aid an instructor in analyzing overall student performance.
Professor of paralegal studies Timothy Ting said, “I enjoy using the polling feature and examining the statistics from student submissions. (Desire2Learn) is easier to use than Blackboard with most of its applications.”
Aside from ease-of-use, Desire2Learn appears to deliver a few more benefits than Blackboard.
“So far, it has more tools than Blackboard,” said Austin Mathis, a senior from Du Quoin studying paralegal studies. “It also seems more user-friendly.”
Desire2Learn also has a few advanced features for the technologically inclined.
The portfolio feature allows students to save documents and projects into a special area and give presentations without needing a storage device such as a flash drive, Dunn said. It can be useful in the future for gaining employment or getting into a graduate school because students can show the work they’ve done while at SIU, he said.
In an effort to make the switch an easy one for instructors and students, the Center for Teaching Excellence is offering weekly training sessions and will possibly be visiting classes to inform students, Dunn said. They have also set up a link for instructors to request that their Blackboard content be transferred, he said.
Desire2Learn will use the same usernames and passwords required for Blackboard access.
Many instructors also have separate websites they use for class-related tasks that require another username and password.
“I would like to see everything on one system,” Dunn said. “I think that would be easiest for students, as well as for faculty, to not have multiple systems to have to worry about.”