New and Changing: Updates from AIT

Posted January 11, 2016 by
Tags: Classroom Technology Updates

Blanchard 339 Updated

Effective Date: January 11, 2016

In order to resolve ongoing issues with laptop input, the classroom technology in Blanchard 339 was updated. The control screen has been updated, and laptops will be able to connect reliably to the projector.

Instructions

  • Operating instructions for the new control screen can be found here

Key Benefits and Features

  • Updated control screen

  • Previous issues with laptop input are resolved

Impact on College Community

  • On-screen annotation will no longer be available in Blanchard 339

You can find operation instructions for the new control screen here. If you have any questions, please email us at ait.service.desk@wheaton.edu or call 630.752.4357 (HELP).

Why is Blackboard being replaced?

  • Blackboard has been the College's learning management system (LMS) for many years. The marketplace has evolved since Blackboard's implementation at Wheaton College. While Blackboard was given the opportunity to participate in the selection process, they were eliminated by the LMS Selection Committee [LINK]. The Committee felt that Blackboard’s proposed solution did not meet the criteria for Wheaton College’s needs.
  • Many faculty and students have indicated Blackboard does not meet their expectations and needs.
  • The College requires a tool that enables new teaching and assessment methods to support Christ at the Core, graduate and global education initiatives, and other faculty requests. These tools include analytics, assessment, and portfolio capabilities. Wheaton’s version of Blackboard does not provide this functionality.
  • Due to technical issues within the Blackboard software, Academic and Institutional Technology staff spends an unsustainable number of hours, day and night, performing cleanup and emergency maintenance to keep Blackboard functioning and minimize disruption to faculty and students.
  • Blackboard has failed to resolve identified issues and continues to deliver substandard software. Other higher education institutions have reported similar difficulties.

What were the criteria for the new LMS?

The LMS Selection Committee [LINK] developed an extensive list of features and requirements necessary to support Christ at the Core and other College needs. Key criteria included:

  • Robust learning tools that are easy to setup and manage

  • Intuitiveness of use for students

  • Accessible, intuitive, and meets the greatest majority of faculty needs

  • Security of data (especially course material, student submissions, and grades)

  • Ability to migrate Blackboard courses with minimal disruption

  • Built-in analytics to assist in the evaluation of core curriculum courses.

  • Features such as student-initiated groups, office hours, signup sheets, attendance sheets, web conferencing, and lecture capture

  • Grade book with automatic calculations and the ability to track both individual student performance and rubric or goal achievement by class

  • Integration with other tools used at Wheaton College (ThunderCloud Storage powered by Box, Ensemble, Lifesize, Google apps, etc.)

  • Two-way Banner integration for enrollment, grade reporting, and other reports

  • Mobile accessibility for phones and tablets

  • Accommodations for diverse learning needs

  • A vendor who is excited to partner with Wheaton College as we work together to support learning in the coming years

  • A reliable system managed by a vendor that is committed to maintaining a secure and robust system experience

  • Significant data storage for courses

  • 24/7 support for faculty during the transition

How was Schoology selected?

List of LMS Selection Committee members [LINK].

The new system was selected with involvement from the Teaching and Information Resources subcommittee the Student Technology Advisory Committee, the LMS Selection Committee, Academic and Institutional Technology staff, Purchasing, and other students and faculty members. In Spring 2015, a multipage request for proposal was developed and distributed to 12 LMS vendors.

The following five vendors chose to participate:

  • Blackboard Ultra by Blackboard
  • Moodlerooms by Blackboard
  • Brightspace by Desire2Learn
  • Canvas by Instructure
  • Schoology by Schoology

In August 2015, the LMS Selection Committee reviewed the proposals and selected four semifinalists (Moodlerooms, Brightspace, Canvas, and Schoology). In September, these semifinalists were invited to campus for live demonstrations of their products to all faculty, staff, and students. Those who were unable to attend were invited to view video recordings of the demonstrations. All participants were encouraged to submit their feedback regarding the product demonstrations.

In October 2015, the LMS Selection Committee reviewed this feedback and selected two finalists, Schoology and Brightspace.

Both vendors set up sandbox trial environments open to all faculty and students. Concurrently, Academic and Institutional Technology, the Wheaton College Graduate School, and Christ at the Core teams had the opportunity to have technical ‘deep dive’ sessions with the vendors to confirm whether or not their products would meet Wheaton’s specific requirements.

The LMS Selection Committee made reference calls to other higher education institutions that used both products to ask about their experiences.

The CIO personally met with the presidents of Schoology and Desire2Learn to discuss each company’s long term strategy, commitment to Wheaton College, and financial outlook.

In December 2015, the LMS Selection Committee met to review all of the data points and feedback, culminating in a unanimous vote for Schoology.

What key factors influenced the final vote?

The committee was impressed with the following aspects of Schoology’s product:

  • Eagerness to partner with Wheaton College as we deploy Christ at the Core and continue to develop the product in a way that meets our needs.

  • Overwhelming faculty feedback regarding the ease of use and intuitive nature of the product.

  • Extremely positive references versus the mixed reviews from the other vendor that was under consideration.

  • A commitment by the vendor to deliver a reliable, secure, standards based product with integration into Wheaton’s existing systems (e.g. Banner, ThunderCloud Storage, etc.).

  • A robust analytics and reporting platform that is under further development in support of the Christ at the Core initiative.

  • The mobile application is robust and intuitive.

  • Students indicated that this solution was easy to use and that they are excited to see a large number of faculty adopt it.

From this feedback, votes, and information from reference calls, the LMS Selection Committee recommended Schoology to the Office of the CIO, who completed contract negotiations.

When will Schoology replace Blackboard?

This is the target timeline for replacing Blackboard:

  • Spring Semester B-Quad 2016 | Two Course per Division Pilot for Early Adopters
  • Summer 2016 | Summer Courses Use New LMS
  • July 15 2016 | Launch and Full Implementation
  • August 8 - 24 2016 | Faculty Training and Orientation
  • Fall Semester 2016 | Fall Courses Use New LMS
  • December 15 2016 | Blackboard Fully Retired

How will my current courses be moved from Blackboard to Schoology?

We’re working to create a transition plan to make this process as easy as possible. Whenever feasible, AIT and the vendor will transfer courses automatically. In some instances, faulty will need to make adjustments to their course content to ensure that all content transfers correctly to the new system.

While this system meets the needs of the majority of faculty members, it will not have exact feature parity with Blackboard in some cases. AIT is committed to working with faculty members to create solutions for individual needs.

Will someone show me how to use Schoology?

Yes. Both hands-on and online training will be available to faculty in the coming months. We will also have specialized 24/7 support from the vendor for all faculty during launch.

How were faculty informed of this project and its potential impact on the College?

Academic and Institutional Technology regularly updated a webpage with information about the project [LINK]. This page was first posted on September 1, 2015.

Subject  Date
Technology Review Summer 2015: Faculty Revisit Learning Management 23 July 2015
Evaluate Potential Blackboard Replacements: Moodlerooms and Schoology 25 September 2015
Evaluate Potential Blackboard Replacements: Canvas and Brightspace  2 October 2015
Trial Environments for Potential Blackboard Replacements 20 October 2015

In addition, the Teaching and Information Resources subcommittee gave updates at the Faculty Business Meeting on the following dates:

  • 15 September 2015
  • 13 October 2015
  • 10 November 2015
  • 8 December 2015

If you have any questions, please email us at ait.service.desk@wheaton.edu or call 630.752.4357 (HELP).