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Moodle to Replace Blackboard at Wabash

Moodle will replace Blackboard this fall as Wabash’s course management system.  Information Technology Services and the Technology Advisory Committee recommended the change following an extensive eight-month evaluation, which included a semester-long pilot program involving ten courses and nearly 200 students.

We will use Moodle exclusively beginning with the 2008 fall semester.  Faculty will have access to their fall classes on June 2, 2008, and campus organizations will be available in Moodle on August 1, 2008. 

Moodle has a good feature overlap with Blackboard and is used at many schools similar to Wabash, including GLCA schools Kenyon, Wooster, Albion, Hope, Kalamazoo, Earlham, and DePauw.  Moodle is a mature, commercially-supported open source product that supports more than one million courses world-wide. As an open-source product, there are no direct licensing costs to use Moodle, so the total cost of ownership for Moodle is substantially less than for Blackboard.

We will migrate all courses from the past three years from Blackboard to Moodle.  This ensures all students will have access to course content from their entire Wabash tenure, which is an important consideration for comprehensive exams.  Active blackboard organizations will be migrated as well.  We will migrate older courses to Moodle on request.

IT Services will take a multi-step approach in training and supporting faculty, staff, and students as they make the transition to Moodle.  In late May, we will launch our new Moodle support web site, featuring best practices, common questions and answers, video instruction for common tasks, and a "Moodle for Blackboard Users" guide that compares features.  We will offer Moodle workshops to faculty and staff throughout the summer, as part of our Summer Tech School program, and incoming students will be introduced to Moodle during freshman orientation.  In the fall, we will establish a Moodle User Group to facilitate ongoing discussion among faculty and staff about effective use of Moodle.  Monica Brainard will have primary responsibility for Moodle user support.

Cost is one significant factor in moving from Blackboard to Moodle, but Moodle has a number of advantages over Blackboard independent of cost.  Below we list the "top 10" Moodle advantages.

1. In a survey of the ten faculty involved in the Moodle pilot, faculty rated thirteen of fifteen features of Moodle as equal to or better than the Blackboard counterpart.  The only tools that scored higher in Blackboard than in Moodle were the grade book and surveys/polls.  Recent improvements to the grade book tool should address these concerns.

2. In a survey of the 190 students involved in the Moodle pilot, we asked students to compare specific tools available in both platforms.  Students preferred the following tools in Moodle: document resources (34% to 16%); external web links (22% to 11%); quizzes/tests (29% to 16%); assignments (36% to 16%); email (17% to 13%); grade book (22% to 17%); calendar/upcoming events (46% to 13%), and attendance (18% to 7%).  Blackboard was favored for chat (7.4% to 5.6%); surveys/polls (11.1% to 9.3%); and discussion form (9.3% to 5.6%).  The following tools were rated equal in both platforms: class announcements; and groups.  Percentages show students who reported a preference for one platform over the other; students could also indicate the tools were comparable in Moodle and Blackboard, or indicate their course had not used this tool.

3. Built-in blog and wiki tools in Moodle provide new communication options for group work and journals.

4. The "Switch role" button allows you to easily see what your Moodle courses look like to students.

5. The Moodle developer community has created hundreds of plug-in modules to meet specific instructional needs, such as Youtube video integration, audio streaming and capture, a 3D molecular viewer, and an equation editor.  Further, as an open-source product, we can create our own modules or customize Moodle to meet Wabash’s specific educational needs.

6. The grade book tool in Moodle lets you add feedback in addition to a grade or score.

7. Moodle courses can be presented in different formats.  For example, the weekly format organizes resources and activities by week; the topic format organizes resources and activities by topic or category.

8. Transferring materials from one course to another (either current semester or subsequent semesters) is easier in Moodle than in Blackboard.

9. Students can access all of the course resources from the course front page.

10. Moodle promotes frequent feedback to students. Students are sent email notices when an instructor has posted grades, added feedback to an assignment, and when an assignment has been updated.  Students can opt-out of receiving specific types of email if they prefer.