By Cliff Foster
Metro State will change its e-learning management system by the 2013-14 academic year and is seeking input from faculty members about what features they find beneficial for teaching online.
All faculty members are to receive an email survey this week to help guide the 16-member Learning Management System Task Force. It will recommend the next steps in the search for a system to support the needs of faculty and students and provide innovations such as the ability to access course information from mobile devices.
The College currently uses a version of Blackboard called Vista to deliver and support online courses as well as provide tools for face-to-face classes that use e-learning functions such as assessments, discussion forums and interactive multi-media presentations.
However, staying with Blackboard Vista is not a long-term option.
That’s because Blackboard has developed a new learning management system and will no longer continue development for Vista after 2013. “What it means is we’ll be required to migrate to the newest version of Blackboard or look at alternatives. That’s what we’re assessing right now,” says Ben Zastrocky, director of the Educational Technology Center and co-chair of the task force.
The faculty survey results, combined with open forums, will help the task force weigh the pros and cons of moving to the next version of Blackboard versus going out to bid and possibly awarding a contract to another vendor. The survey will measure faculty satisfaction with Blackboard, their experience, if any, with other systems and what features they would like to have available, among other questions.
“We really want the faculty to drive this process and the students to be involved in determining which direction we go,” Zastrocky says.
Whether the College picks the new Blackboard or goes with another company, the transition will be challenging. “It will likely require not only migration of the nearly 450 course sections in the current system, but also integration with other systems such as Blackboard Outcomes and Sunguard Banner,” the task force noted.
The group will deliver recommendations by May 25 to James Lyall, chief information officer, and Provost Vicki Golich. Depending upon the outcome of the task force’s work, the new system could be tested as early as the spring and summer of 2013 with a launch in fall of that year or spring 2014, Zastrocky says. Faculty training and development will be a major component regardless of which system the College chooses.
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