Butler pilots system that could replace Blackboard

The saying is ‘It’s out with the old and in with the new,’ but that’s not the case with learning management systems such as Blackboard.

Butler University’s Academic Technology Services is piloting Moodle, a learning management system that could replace Blackboard.

Instead of replacing Blackboard immediately, Academic Technology Specialist Kenton Smith said that the university is piloting Moodle for the entire academic year, and if it doesn’t prove to be a solution, the university will pilot another one. The testing is called The LMS Project.

“With technology evolving and changing, we haven’t done any type of re-exploration or re-evaluation of our current platform, which is Blackboard,” Smith said. “We’re just trying to compare apples to apples, what we have versus what is out there.”

Butler has been using Blackboard for 10 years.

This semester, nine faculty members are testing Moodle. For a successful project, Smith said 30 faculty members need to test the system next semester.

Elizabeth Mix, assistant professor of art history, is one of the faculty members currently using Moodle. She has been at Butler for six years and used to post on Blackboard a lot but never used certain features because they didn’t seem to work.

“For me, Blackboard was just a place for me to load documents for students to get,” Mix said. “I emailed from it when the email worked, but that’s about it. I found myself using My.Butler a lot.”

Amy Peak, director of drug information services for the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, said the college faculty has invested a huge amount of resources in getting to know how to use Blackboard and has come to expect students to know it and use it. She said that COPHS faculty would be willing to switch to a new system, but it would be a challenge to make the transition.

“We want to use whatever is the best tool available,” Peak said. “If [Moodle] has more options, is easier and less expensive, then we are certainly open to doing that. But I think we should look at all of the options.”

Smith said concerns with Blackboard are about flexibility.

“Students and faculty are wanting more mobile access and needing greater reporting tools,” Smith said.
Mix said Moodle is more user-friendly.

“It looks more and acts more like a social networking website,” she said. “With Blackboard, you have folders inside folders, and it takes many clicks to get to a document. Moodle isn’t like that.”

Becca Muszynski, a senior theater major, said that although she has only been using Moodle for about a week, she has found it easier to navigate than Blackboard.

“I like how it highlights what you’re currently studying in class,” Muszynski said. “In general, it also seems like a less glitchy kind.”
The LMS Project is currently just a test, Smith said they are looking at all options.

“Right now, with our timeline, we’re basically trying to confirm if Blackboard is the right solution for our community or not,” Smith said. “It may be that neither Blackboard nor Moodle is going to meet our needs.”

For more information about The LMS Project, visit blogs.butler.edu/lms.