Blackboard Online System to be Replaced
New System Moodle More Effective
 

Blackboard may be seeing its final days at SF State, as a new program called Moodle is being tested across the campus as a possible replacement.

Twenty-five instructors and 1,500 students are using Moodle this semester, and university officials said they plan to have 10,000 students using it in the fall.

This comes after glitches in the Blackboard system have left portions of it unusable, with some problems with the system not being repaired for months at a time.

"Moodle is much more efficient than Blackboard,” said Thu Tran, a freshman theatre major who has used both systems. "I actually encounter a lot more frustration trying to look around on Blackboard and I have never actually found Blackboard useful.”

The possible replacement system, Moodle, presents information in an easily accessible format that can be arranged by instructors to meet their specific needs. It includes discussion forums, quizzing functions and the use of MP3 files.

“The structure of Moodle is very easy,” said Kevin Kelly, assistant director for the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching. “(The) information can be organized by week or by topic.”

Kelly said about 50 faculty members voiced concerns about Blackboard in campus focus groups, inspiring his department to look for a different system.

Moodle seems to be a good option because it user-friendly and the product itself is free, freeing up possible funding to hire technical support staffers to maintain the system on campus and thus repair any problems quickly. Moodle is also open source, which means individual users like SF State, or any interested programmer, can actually modify the program to fit their needs, repair bugs and enhance features.

“We could potentially hire people on our campus to run the software instead of relying on Blackboard to do it,” Kelly said. “We could control our own system and make changes easily. Instructors would be able to change over to Moodle very easily as well."

“We have a tool instructors can use to convert what they have set up for Blackboard over to Moodle,” Kelly said.

Biology professor Ann Auleb prefers using Moodle for her classes.

“We hop the university will switch over to Moodle, it’s much more user friendly,” Auleb said.

She said giving exams and quizzes online could be done by simply using Moodle.

“Quizzes are very easy – much more so than with Blackboard. Students have less problems getting kicked out,” Auleb said. She added that the system is generally more easily accessible.

However, some students argue that the real advantage is for the professors.

"I understand if an instructor doesn't want to sit around for 5 hours correcting a couple hundred of students' assignments,” said Tran. “But there is nothing that I get from online technology that I couldn't get from a well-thought-out lesson plan and a competent instructor.”

Moodle was designed by Martin Dougiamas while he was earning his Ph.D. at Curtin University in Australia. He developed the program for his dissertation, as a socio-constructivist approach to learning.

“We will see what happens in June,” Kelly said, citing the approximately 30,000 students at New Zealand universities and polytechnics already using the program, he added that he believes the system can handle the large student population of SF State.

“We are looking partly at if we can handle the large numbers but we believe based on New Zealand has done that it will work out fine,” said Kelly.

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