Transition Away from Moodle Delayed Due to Faculty Resistance

Jessica Oren ’21 , Copy Editor


After almost ten years using Moodle as the main online learning platform between students and professors, Dickinson had been considering other products. However, the college abandoned its plans after faculty raised concerns about the change.

Library and Information Services (LIS) piloted a program called Canvas to replace Moodle, which “replaced Blackboard … in the fall of 2009,” according to Robert Renaud, Vice President and CIO of Dickinson.

“LIS reviews its portfolio of software products on an ongoing basis,” said Renaud. “LIS plans to systematically analyze its learning management system needs in the fall of this year.” This analysis comes after Renaud “received a number of messages expressing concern about the transition from Moodle at this time,” which prompted LIS to withdraw “a request for funding for Canvas for the next fiscal year.”

Professor James McMenamin, who is a professor of the Italian department expressed concern about the transition. His department’s use of Moodle extends past “the regular use of Moodle for our courses [for example it is used for] syllabi, documents, and weekly calendars, some professors in the Italian department have used Moodle to create online workbooks for language drills.” His concern is “that these online activities will not necessarily transfer easily to other platforms, which would have been very disruptive for some of our courses.”

McMenamin “raised the issue at the last faculty meeting and…wrote a message to the All-College Committee on Information Technology and Services (ITSC),” who “discussed the implications of this change.” McMenamin was told by the committee “that after hearing concerns expressed by a number of faculty, the budget request was withdrawn for Canvas for the [Fiscal Year 2019] budget cycle.”

McMenamin was also told “that LIS and ITSC plan to engage in a thorough process of consultation with the campus community with regard to the future of our learning management system over the next academic year.”

The results of this analysis, as discussed by Renaud and McMenamin “will be made available to the campus community by the end of next semester,” said Renaud.

Associate Professor of Political Science and International Studies Ed Webb said he “can’t really assess how moving to Canvas will affect my students, if it goes ahead.” Webb explained that he “currently uses Moodle for some courses, a closed wiki for others,” and said “where I currently use Moodle, presumably I would have to build new courses in Canvas. I don’t have sufficient information about what that means in terms of my own time or staff resources, but it will no doubt take up some of both.”

Personally, Webb is “not a fan of a closed learning management system in general,”but “based on the reported results of the pilot,” he does

not “predict significantly greater enthusiasm from students or faculty about using Canvas over Moodle.” Webb also mentioned his surprise with the proposed change, saying he “had no idea there was any problem with Moodle,” and said he is cautious “since I was part of the pilot that brought Moodle here in place of Blackboard, and I tend to support the flexibility and user control offered by Moodle over the greater restrictions I have encountered in commercial LM systems I have worked with.”

“From the last faculty meeting,” Webb said, he sensed “that the faculty as a whole had not been well informed about the possibility of this change nor widely consulted.”

Renaud said that the financial costs are associated with the change in LMS is “not applicable” and that the impact on the college’s partnership with the War College since they are using a different platform is “to be determined.” At this time, the college has not budgeted for Moodle to be replaced by Canvas during the 2018-19 school year.