Posted on 11 September 2014.
Last fall’s announcement of a switch from Blackboard to a new online learning management system finally came to fruition at the beginning of the fall semester for students at Indiana Wesleyan University’s residential campus.
Blackboard had been replaced by LearningStudio, an online learning management system which has been in the works for three years, according to Dr. Lorne Oke, executive director for the Center of Learning and Innovation.
In the first two weeks of school, students and faculty alike have expressed mixed opinions to the new system of online learning.
Dr. Katie Karnehm, who teaches courses in the Division of Modern Language and Literature, said the transition to LearningStudio has not been a smooth one for her. She said the problem is not that the system is difficult to use, but rather how time-consuming it is.
“[LearningStudio] just seems kind of clunky and counterintuitive, with three or four different steps to do most things,” Karnehm said. “My issue isn’t that it’s gone terribly awry and half my students aren’t [enrolled], but just that doing things takes so much time.”
Dr. Amy Luedtke, a psychology professor, has different feelings about the new system. She said she used Blackboard heavily in her classes before the switch, and had very few issues understanding how to use LearningStudio, with the help of faculty training sessions.
“Just like there were some complaints on the student level, there were some complaints at the faculty level,” Luedtke said. “But once I really started to get familiar with [LearningStudio], I think it’s user-friendly.”
Luedtke added “not exaggerating, there were about 20 different training sessions, people to email or resources to look at to learn how to use LearningStudio.”
Shane Wallin (sr) said he didn’t have much of a problem with LearningStudio, despite having to make the switch after using Blackboard for three years at IWU. He believes the complaints his fellow students have about the system are overblown.
“Every issue I’ve encountered [with LearningStudio] has been pretty minor. We’re at the beginning of the year, and we haven’t gotten used to it yet,” said Wallin. “Everyone just needs to take a chill pill and be patient.”
Incoming students came to LearningStudio with a different perspective. They had not experienced Blackboard at IWU and many were not used to online learning management systems. The school provided training for them at New Student Orientation, according to Abigail Johnson (fr), but for many, it was still a difficult transition.
Johnson said she used Blackboard a little bit in high school. But outside of that, she isn’t accustomed to online learning.
“I like to be told about [assignments] verbally instead of online,” Johnson said. “It’s tough right now, but I’ll get used to it.”
The Student Orientation Tutorial for LearningStudio is located at the bottom of the “My Classes” tab on the MyIWU portal.
Assistant Vice President of Information Technology Gary Green said he has heard all types of complaints from faculty and students about LearningStudio, but that IT is focusing on ones that are related to students not being enrolled in classes. Most of the other complaints, Green says, will work themselves out over time.
“Change is the biggest challenge,” Green said. “There’s going to be some learning curve with LearningStudio to start, but that’s natural.”
Oke said the switch to LearningStudio, while students and faculty may struggle with it at first, is a very worthwhile move. According to Oke, LearningStudio is much cheaper for the school than Blackboard, and also makes looking at course information easier, because LearningStudio is part of the MyIWU portal, not a separate website. Lastly, the switch develops IWU’s partnership with= Pearson, the learning company that developed LearningStudio.
“It would be a misunderstanding to simplify this as just a switch from Blackboard to LearningStudio,” Oke said. “Essentially, this change is part of a bigger relationship that is very beneficial to the university.”
Like Green, Oke concluded that a lot of the issues people have will work themselves out over time. He suggests that students embrace the change and use it as an opportunity to prepare for the work world, which will involve learning new technologies.
“Every adjustment you learn to make is a positive, productive experience for you in learning how to deal with different technologies,” Oke said. “It is literally learning how to problem-solve.”