The transformation of e-learning
With a vision of enhancing teaching and learning on campus, the University of Alberta has embraced online learning.
For almost two years now, the U of A has gradually been moving its eClass resources to Moodle, the open-source learning management system (LMS).
Today, eClass powered by Moodle, supported by the Centre for Teaching and Learning, is hosting more than 2,400 Winter course sections and nearly 1,700 in the Fall.
The university initiated this LMS transition because its previous online teaching platform, Blackboard, announced in 2010 that it was terminating support for its Vista product at the end of 2012. Moodle, which was already in use in a limited number of situations across the university and proving to be remarkably flexible for developing and delivering modules that support specific needs of the university, was the obvious choice.
“The change in learning management systems has given us the opportunity to help faculty members transform the online experience that they offer their students,” said Jonathan Schaeffer, vice-provost (information technology). “The uptake by the faculty has been excellent and the students are appreciative.”
Tamie Heisler-Schafer, academic assistant in the Department of Physical Therapy, had great praise for the staff at CTL. “The support provided to our instructors by the Centre for Teaching and Learning was great,” she said. “They responded quickly and helped us set up synchronous sessions with multiple instructors and online exams.”
Physical Therapy piloted four courses in eClass Moodle in Spring 2011 and moved the rest of their courses over in Fall 2011.
“The students adapted to the new learning environment with ease and actually preferred the layout of Moodle over [the old system] Blackboard Vista,” said Heisler-Schafer. “The majority of our instructors like Moodle better than Blackboard Vista as they find it easier to use. Some miss some of the features in Blackboard Vista, but for the most part, it’s been a very positive experience.”
Dave Sun, CTL technology team lead, says CTL has been developing plug-ins to minimize this feature gap, while also going above and beyond to extend eClass Moodle’s capabilities.
Additionally, CTL is encouraging interested Moodle developers on campus to get involved as a part of the UAlberta Moodle developers’ community.
“Moodle gives us new opportunities. We want to promote innovation,” said Sun, “but we also need to be careful and balance creativity with sustainability.”
After a flurry of activity in the past year, the Moodle Transition project is coming to a close.
“But it does not end once the move to Moodle is complete,” said Scott Delinger, IT strategic initiatives officer. “The university must continually improve its online presence.”
Spring 2012 is the last term that credit courses will be offered on eClass powered by Blackboard Vista. The last date for instructors to access the eClass Vista system will be Aug. 31. For more information, visit www.moodle.ualberta.ca.