Our LMS - Web viewCosts for our LMS were increasing due to the growth in eLearning and the use of...
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To: Bill Randall, Vice-President, North Carolina Community College System Office
From: Amy Brown, Director, eLearning, Guilford Technical Community College
Per your request, I am sending you information about GTCCs journey from Blackboard to Moodle. The following document consists of reasons, timeline, pros and cons and feedback gathered during this process.
GTCC began exploring its LMS options in the summer 2007 in response to a RFP from the system office offering free Moodle training and server space. At that time, we also became a part of the TLT collaborative to take advantage of free Sakai training and access.
Personally, I entered into this process with doubt that GTCC could make this jump from one LMS to another. GTCC has spent over 10 years on Blackboard and our faculty seemed happy with that product. We were doing great things as part of the NCLC Blackboard consortium working with Craven, South Piedmont and Cleveland Community Colleges.
During the 2006-2007, our school began experiencing major problems with Blackboard. Upgrades were failing. Content was lost. Our system was so slow that it often came crashing down weekly. Blackboard sent us a second invoice for over usage with little to no customer service to help us solve our problems. Faculty and students were frustrated.
Our journey consists of the following steps. This is an overview, more detailed in the document that follows.
eLearning explores a variety of systems over summer 2007 for fall pilot including Moodle, Sakai, Angel and Desire 2 Learn.
eLearning suggests Moodle for fall pilot based on faculty feedback from training, presence of stable tools that are used heavily in Blackboard and flexibility with other systems.
During fall 2007 pilot, faculty and students share their feedback on the system. ALL faculty members including adjuncts received access to the system to provide feedback. Our online degree students took classes in both Blackboard and Moodle to give us feedback on the differences of the two systems. Disability services reviewed the LMS for ADA compliance. MIS provides feedback on the functionality of Moodle with other systems.
eLearning presents research and feedback to Academic Leadership Team consisting of curriculum Division Chairs and Vice President of Instruction for final decision. The decision was made to renew Blackboard for one year while purchasing Moodle server to give us time to migrate our content.
eLearning begins massive, on-going re-training program of faculty and staff on Moodle. By the end of spring 2008, almost 300 people at GTCC are Moodle proficient.
During summer 2008, eLearning facilitates the migration of content from Blackboard to Moodle. A team of faculty members are trained by Remote Learner and hired to move content. By the end of the summer, over 300 courses are moved from Blackboard to Moodle.
GTCC is using Moodle for 100% of its courses by spring 2009.
On May 13, 2009, GTCC will have Blackboard erase all of its content off the Blackboard server for it to be resized and upgraded for the consortium.
Overall, we consider the move to Moodle a success. Within one year, we have already created ways for Moodle to work with some of our other systems including iTunes U and the Library databases. When the decision was made to move to Moodle, we did not have 100% favorability from the faculty for the move. No school will achieve a consensus on a project like this. Most of the faculty concerns about the move centered on how migration would be handled and not Moodle itself.
You asked about successes. Here are a few of our successes with Moodle:
Moodle allows us to explore more team teaching than ever before. For instance, in Blackboard if you combined multiple sections of courses together, you would have difficulty keeping the sections apart including the grade book. In Moodle, faculty can work together to create content while keeping their individual sections apart. This allows faculty members to communicate directly with just their students. We just finished our peer review project where online faculty reviewed all of our online courses. Online courses that were team taught received some of the highest scores of our online courses.
One of our best decisions was hiring faculty to move courses. Some other community colleges had their distance learning offices move the content, but we are too big of an institution to do that. Others hired Remote Learner to move the content, but that model proved costly plus it lacked contact between the person moving the course and the person teaching the course. Over a three-month period, six faculty members plus members of the eLearning staff moved the content of the courses. Team members often talked directly to the faculty members about their course and how they wanted the migrated handled. In the end, our faculty felt like we had respected their time since we did not ask them to move their content and gave them time to learn the system.
After using Moodle for a year as a school, many of the faculty members who were negative about the switch have since changed their mind. Knowing the system and having their content intact made them more confident about Moodle. As their peers began to embrace the new system, they fears about the limitations about Moodle were laid to rest.
Spring 2009 was the most calm start of a semester that I have EVER experienced at GTCC. Our phone calls were minimal. I actually called MIS during the first week of school to have them check our phones since I thought something had to be wrong. Moodle was proving to be more student-friendly than we ever imagined. Due to its flexibility, MIS was able to provide us daily updates about registration so that students adding a course would see their Moodle sites within 24 hours. Before, students signing up during drop-add had to wait until the end of drop-add to see their course.
With every system, there are challenges. Here are a few of the challenges that we currently face with Moodle:
Moodle is LDAP ready, but not Datatel friendly. GTCC is slowly moving to LDAP and it may be some time before we can use this system to register students into our LMS. Since we are heavy users of the group feature and a large institution with many students, we hired a part-time programmer to create some in-house solutions for us around enrollment.
Publishers are slowly coming over to Moodle. Some are here, but many are not. Right now, our faculty members create hyperlinks in their classrooms to publisher resources. This is not the ideal. We rather have the content in the online classroom to streamline navigation. Ideally that content should be going into the NCLOR so that we can access it that way and avoid the need to find ways to integrate this content.
Only a handful of community colleges in North Carolina are on Moodle. This limits our number of resources considerably. Before with any Blackboard problem, you can find someone quickly in the state to help you solve an issue.
Our faculty members have specific requests for changes to Moodle that are coming eventually. Some of these faculty members can be vocal about these problems and misinform others that things are not working when really they are not working the way that person wants them to work. We have to stay on top of how faculty members perceive the system and make sure that they know that updates will come. This is common practice whenever you move from one system to another. Its natural human tendency to compare the present with the past and believe that how past systems worked as status quo.
What were our lessons learned and recommendations for other schools considering the jump?
A schools eLearning staff and committee should explore several possible systems and narrow this down to one for a pilot. Faculty members barely have time to explore one system much less several. We did this, but we were not very public about stating this to faculty. In an effort to save time, we talked all about Moodle. Some faculty members believed that we did not review other systems. Make sure that your full evaluation process is as public as possible so that faculty members and others can explore this research if they wish.
The more faculty members you have involved in a pilot from diverse areas, the better. Realize faculty will have a hard time evaluating a new system without some training and some of their content already in the site.
Never stop stating the whys. Be clear about why you are switching. Saving money should not be the primary reason. For GTCC, it was not the primary reason, but we did not vocalize the other reasons enough. Faculty members were always convinced that it was because of the money. You cant change technology just because of the money. It has to enhance learning, be student friendly and allow faculty members to create the resources and assessments that they need. We believe we did this, but we were not vocal enough about these reasons.
While talking to our students about what they liked and did not like about our LMS, I realized that GTCC had to make this leap. If I could go back in time, I would have found more ways to tap our students excitement about Moodle and had them talking directly to faculty and administration about it. Moving to Moodle made us more relevant to many of our students yet faculty members never heard this message directly from our students.
That in a nutshell explains GTCCs journey from Blackboard to Moodle. The pages that follow are the documents used during the presentation to the Academic Leadership Team in fall 2007 to help them make their d