SHSU officials consider eliminating Blackboard and eCollege dual learning management software system
Current Blackboard, eCollege system called into question
Published: Thursday, August 30, 2012
Updated: Thursday, August 30, 2012 01:08
Students returning to Sam Houston State should have noticed dramatic changes to the Blackboard system. That’s because the university is making a concerted effort to go back to just one online learning management system, rather than two.
Blackboard 9, also referred to as “Blackboard Learn,” is not only the newest edition of the online communication system for professors and students in face-to-face courses, but online courses could be moving in that direction as well. The new Blackboard would eventually replace what is known as SHSU Online – product of the university’s business partnership with eCollege – with a more intuitive, user-friendly program.
Distance Education and Learning Technology for Academics (DELTA) was designed to meet the educational technology needs of SHSU faculty and is the home of SHSU Online. But as recently as January of this year, DELTA and the Faculty Senate expressed dissatisfaction with Pearson Education’s eCollege not only for their system failures, but their inability and/or unwillingness to correct the problems.
As early as January 2010, faculty senators showed frustration with replacing Blackboard with eCollege, complaining that it was “unintuitive, difficult to learn and generally inferior,” according to Faculty Senate minutes. Grade book functions and duplication of efforts were among the list of complaints, which led to a collaborated study by DELTA and an academic affairs committee.
“I feel the administration has been very responsive to our concerns with eCollege,” faculty senator and history professor Jeff Crane, Ph.D said. “DELTA has had a very faculty friendly process, allowing us to make the decision for the new LMS (learning management system). I’m very happy with the way that worked out.”
University officials suspect that since the current eCollege system is dated and the company is moving to another one, there is little to no impetus to perfect SHSU Online. That would put the university in an awkward position because their contract with eCollege goes through the 2013 fiscal year, while Blackboard’s annual contract becomes increasingly expensive as licensing fees continue to rise, Faculty Senate minutes indicated.
So the future of how online education at SHSU will be carried out systematically is in question, at least for now. The intention of DELTA associate vice president Bill Angrove, along with the Faculty Senate, is to have just one system for the entire university. That has always been the intention, which is why the use of Blackboard was supposed to be phased out.
But with the early complaints about eCollege, including the lack of faculty involvement in the decision to replace Blackboard, both systems were preserved.
To use both eCollege and Blackboard runs about $42 per student, according to DELTA calculations. Angrove suggested an LMS called Canvas, which is an even newer system than Blackboard 9 and would cost approximately $11 per student.
Another issue in determining the universal LMS is deciding whether to use “cloud” hosting or have the university host the hardware. The Banner Steering Committee made the decision not to host hardware on campus. Advocates of hosting on campus are in favor of that particular method because it provides security within the connection, as opposed to being at the mercy of the vendor in a network.
Blackboard 9 is the same program whether hosted on campus or not. University officials are looking into negotiating a more definitive solution to the two-program LMS system.
Angrove was unavailable for comment when reached by The Houstonian.