Last Updated: Mar 28th, 2013 - 15:54:01
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Pilot project on new learning management system begins in March

By Cliff Foster

Twenty faculty members from all three schools will receive training beginning next month on a new Blackboard learning management system and test the updated LMS in classes this summer�a major step in the rollout of the learning environment next year.

That pilot project will be followed by another in the fall involving 40 to 50 faculty members in preparation for a University-wide launch of Blackboard Learn 9.1 in spring 2014, says Ben Zastrocky, Educational Technology Center director and co-chair of the Learning Management System Migration Task Force.

Those test runs are part of a much larger training component in connection with the changeover to Blackboard Learn 9.1, which will also require the migration of massive quantities of academic and other content into the new LMS.

Last fall, the University leadership approved the implementation of Blackboard Learn 9.1, endorsing the recommendation of the task force, which weighed the pros and cons of several learning management systems.

The University currently uses a version of Blackboard called Vista to deliver and support online and hybrid courses, as well as provide tools for face-to-face classes that use e-learning functions such as assessments, discussion forums and interactive multimedia components. However, Blackboard will no longer continue development of the Vista platform after this year, requiring adoption of a new system.

Many of the innovations in Blackboard Learn 9.1 were suggested by faculty and students in surveys and campus forums overseen by the task force. Blackboard Learn 9.1 includes the ability to access course content from mobile devices, integration with the email system, flexibility for faculty to set start and end dates for their classes, an improved grade center and enhanced data collection on student progress.

A 15-member advisory team is overseeing the rollout of the new system and three faculty members have been recruited to help with the migration of content, training, communication strategy and other tasks. They are Jeff Helton, assistant professor of health care management; Joice Gibson, a lecturer in the Department of Music, and Janos Fustos, professor of computer information systems.

The ETC will undertake the mass migration of content to the new system and will do as much of the heavy lifting as possible. That involves 500 online courses, three online degree programs and more than 2,000 classroom courses that use the LMS�a number that �continues to grow every semester,� Zastrocky says.

The ETC also must set up training for faculty members on how to use the new system and handle post-migration cleanup of course content. There will be online training available and open lab sessions every day of the week beginning in the fall so faculty members can work on their courses in the LMS. Student training also begins in earnest this fall.

�We realize there�s going to be some bumps in the road,� Zastrocky says. �But we�ll work through those and do everything we can to support our faculty and students to make it as smooth as possible.�

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