After this semester, no longer will students need use the Blackboard learning tool. After careful research and approval, Millersville and the entire Pennsylvania State System for Higher Education system are transitioning to a new learning management system.
Stephen J. Anspacher, director of Distance Learning and Off Campus Programs, has been involved at Millersville and the entire PASSHE system in deciding the options available as the current PASSHE contract with Blackboard expires this summer.
Last year a committee made up primarily of PASSHE faculty members, including some from Millersville, put together a list of things they would like to see from a new system. After they decided what they would like to see, they submitted a Request For Proposals (RFP) to solicit possible vendors. Eight companies responded to the RFP, including Blackboard, and were evaluated by a team including Mr. Anspacher, faculty, and students from all of the PASSHE schools.
“We looked at the new version of Blackboard, a number of other options, including Desire2Learn which really turned out to be everybody’s first choice” Anspacher said. “It wasn’t even close.”
Almost all previous Blackboard courses have been migrated to the new Desire2Learn (D2L) system, and faculty have been given accounts to learn D2L. “Faculty teaching this summer having been working feverishly to make their courses fit in to the new environment,” Anspacher said.
D2L provides more tools and capabilities in addition to a friendlier user interface for both faculty and students. “The fundamental functions among all these programs are essentially the same,” Anspacher said. “It takes about a third of the number of clicks to get to anything [compared to Blackboard],” and also provides students a “locker” feature which will allow students to store files online.
Another neat feature of D2L is a “pager” function, which will allow students to see any classmates currently on the site and be able to chat with them.
Students will be getting accounts soon and will have an easy way to get help for any problems they run into. In addition to online orientation and tutorials available online, D2L will have a built-in help desk.