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Loose Change April 4, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Information, Students.
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change   After seven years of using Course Management Systems at The University of Arizona, I have tried four of them. We began with Blackboard, which at the time offered free course creation and hosting until they began to get popular. Then we moved to WebCT, the first full feature CMS that tied into our student database system. The learning curve was steep but manageable. I then modified a course for a CMS called UCompass out of Florida and piloted that for a summer. They were very eager to please and to get out business. I liked their user interface but, alas, the university chose not to go with them.

One afternoon, the director of the Learning Technology Center called all the college CMS coordinators, me included, into a luncheon meeting. It turned out WebCT was too successful for this university. It was taking, according to the director, more than 24 hours to back up the WebCT courses so we would have to go with a different Course Management System entirely. Several of us sat in stunned silence thinking of the huge re-training exercise we would have to engage in to make the change.

We eventually saw the light, sucked it up, dealt with it, soldiered on, and generally put up with the change. I do not mind change. I once planned an entire summer to teach a Grade Ten English Literature course and was told, on the second day of school, numbers of students had shifted and I was to teach Grade Twelve English instead. That was not change; that was abuse. Since it did not kill me it must have made me stronger. It grayed my hair too, but that is another story. In the College, we managed. Several professors new to Course Management Systems put their courses on line for the first time and they picked up the structure of the new system, Desire2Learn, quite quickly.

Today I was part of a meeting with the D2L coordinators for the university. We had the opportunity to share our feelings and experiences about D2L with them in an attempt to make it better. In addition to the great features of the courses, including one feature, the checklist, which I am apparently the only one using, there were some other concerns we all wanted to express. I won’t list them all here but I did mention the 300 pound (136 Kilogram) gorilla in the room was the fact that they changed the CMS on us once before. Will they do it again? It takes a long time to get a faculty up to speed and there is a lot of frustration with change, especially if we do not have any input or warning that they might thrust it upon us.

I left the meeting convinced that the Learning Technologies Center would give adequate warning of any precipitous changes, but on the other hand, change might be what keeps us vibrant and creative.

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