T he University of Colorado is updating its ten-year-old online learning system this fall and simplicity is key.
Students and faculty said the current system is too complicated and deters users from taking advantage of what the system, known as CULearn, has to offer.
The new system, Desire2Learn will offer new, user-friendly features like social networking, personalized content and portability.
Debra Keyek-Franssen, director of academic technology for CU`s Information Technology Services, said the decade-old system no longer provides the functionality that current students and professors expect.
“The existing learning management system no longer meets the needs of faculty, is increasingly difficult to maintain,” Keyek-Franssen said. “It does the basics, post a syllabus, do a quiz or two and submit grades, just fine but it doesn`t do those social, collaborative aspects of teaching or learning very well.”
D2L will include features like social networking, course specific content, online storage space and eventually a mobile site, Keyek-Franssen said.
The learning management system — D2L — was adopted by Colorado`s community colleges over a year ago and will be open to students, faculty and staff at CU in the fall.
A search committee was formed last spring and tested four different programs before picking D2L.
CU graduate student James Trevey said of all the systems and companies he saw in the review process, D2L was the most user-friendly and functional.
“It was my favorite system,” Trevey said. “It`s sort of intuitive. These days you don`t want to read instructions you just explore and you just get things by using it.”
Only about two dozen faculty members have previewed the site but this fall they`ll all have the option to migrate their classes to D2L. The old system will remain in place for at least three semesters until students and faculty can migrate their information to the new system and comfortably adjust.
And while most professors haven`t seen the new system yet, some of them are already on board with the change.
Thomas Zeiler, professor in the international affairs program, said he`s looking forward to a new system that`s more user-friendly.
“I have to rely on the IT people a lot to help me get through CULearn,” Zeiler said. “It`s really difficult to use. I probably only use about three or four of the features on the menu of about 15 because I just don`t understand how they work. It`s too much of a hassle.”
Zeiler, who teaches America through Baseball as an online summer course, said the new site will be helpful for both his primarily online classes and his lectures.
“I`m looking forward to using the site a lot more,” Zeiler said. “I think I could even see myself pulling it up during class for PowerPoints or videos.”
Currently, about 50 percent of the CU faculty use CULearn for their courses, Keyek-Franssen said. But after the switch, they expect to see more professors taking advantage of the technology.
“We would never require them to use the system but I think they`ll want to once they see all the new features,” she said.
Zeiler said he hears complaints from students about CULearn and hopes the new system will have a more positive effect on students` willingness to use the online tools.