Desire2Learn: Pass or Fail?

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Students and faculty review the new learning system

By J.T. Buchheit


jbuchhei@jccc.edu


2014 signified the beginning of a new era for the college, as D2L took the place of ANGEL, which served as the college’s online learning system from about 2008 to 2013.

“ANGEL was a product that had been purchased by Blackboard and is no lon­ger being supported by Blackboard,” said Vincent Miller, Director of the Educational Technology Center. “So they were letting it just slowly die. All the ANGEL custom­ers were moving off ANGEL eventually.”

When ANGEL was removed, the fac­ulty looked at multiple options for online learning systems before settling on D2L as the system that appeared to contain the features they were looking for.

“Each of the systems have pluses and minuses,” said Ed Lovitt, Director of Dis­tance Learning. “When the faculty evalu­ated the products, they were looking for migration of content; if they built some­thing in ANGEL, will it come across into the new system? That was one of the strong points D2L provided.”

A good amount of teachers like D2L and the features it provides, but some admit that it might take awhile in getting used to.

“Whenever you start a new program, like a learning management system, there are some complicated things that you have to figure out,” said History professor Vin­cent Clark. “D2L has a bunch of those, but I’ve managed to figure out how to handle it.”

Some students have given positive reviews to D2L as well, often citing its organization and helpfulness regarding assignments.

“I like how teachers have all their infor­mation on there, so if you want, you can work ahead,” said student Harley Ludwig. “It also helps you organize a study plan for the semester.”

Not everything is hunky-dory with D2L, however. People have admitted that they have found some things that could be worked out, specifically in the email department.

“I wish it would give your teachers’ emails next to their name so you wouldn’t have to go to the main website and search the faculty,” said Ludwig.

It isn’t just the students that have found the email to be a hindrance; some faculty members have made note of it as well.

“All of the email from all of the classes comes to the same place,” said Clark. “So … it could be from all sorts of different classes. And in order to see what the stu­dents are talking about or to figure out if you have something to fix for them, you have to keep going back to all the different classes each time.”

There are even some faculty members who despise D2L to such lengths that they chose to no longer use it in their classes.

“D2L did not work the way I wanted it to work,” said English professor Matthew Schmeer. “It was incredibly difficult to set up. If you wanted to make one change in the gradebook and add a new assignment, you had to go through way too many steps. … I think the biggest problem is that ANGEL used a folder format. D2L is structured more like a book; like a table of contents. And while you can create folders and modules, the overall design behind it is a website. So it really isn’t designed for the sort of interactive courses or hosting of material that students would download and read. … It’s really useful for online teaching, but there isn’t a lot of student/ faculty interaction in D2L itself.”

D2L is not expected to go anywhere in the near future, as it is currently in year two of a five-year contract.

“We could break [the contract] if the product doesn’t provide the services that we need, but that would require a lot of legal work from the college,” said Lovitt. “The college likes to purchase systems like D2L for a long period of time. If we change, we would need to have two systems run­ning and pay for both of them.”

The reviews for D2L have been largely mixed, but since teachers always have the option not to use it, it seems like it will be able to aptly fulfill its purpose until the end of the contract.
 

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