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The Dickinsonian

The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

College seeks Moodle alternatives through community feedback

Within a few years, Moodle may no longer be the last word in learning delivery on campus.

The College has begun a campus-wide evaluation and feedback process on the learning management system (LMS), which has been the default for 15 years. By Nov. 1, the selection committee will deliver a recommendation to college leadership to stick with Moodle or switch to Canvas or D2L Brightspace.

“It’s a really good time to think about whether our LMS is serving our needs now and in the next 7-10 years,” said James D’Annibale, Director of Academic Technology. 

This will be a “true evaluation,” said D’Annibale, “No decision has been made today.”

The evaluation committee, made up of academic technology staff, two faculty from each academic division, two student senators and two administrators will gather student, faculty and staff feedback to inform the process.

In particular, D’Annibale said, “We’re prioritizing the student voice.” He presented recently to the student senate and said the academic technology office will provide additional opportunities to try out all three platforms. 

Alexis Boseman ’24, a student representative on the All-College Committee on Academic Program and Standards (APSC), said, “Like a lot of students on campus, I too have my grievances with Moodle. Having used Canvas in the past I think our campus’s LMS…can be improved upon.”

On the process itself, Boseman said, “I believe the main objective of these changes will be to upgrade Dickinson’s LMS and to integrate the college into a more tech-savvy world.”

It is entirely possible, she noted, that the college keeps the Moodle LMS. However, she said, “I think the possibility of a switch is very likely.”

Boseman addressed any students who might be ambivalent about the possibility of transitioning to a new system, saying, “this will affect the way we operate for roughly the next 10 years. It’s a huge deal.”

D’Annibale seemed to echo the likelihood that a switch will be made. He floated the analogy that Moodle is more like a “Mazda 3,” while the other two options are more of a “Cadillac Escalade.” Canvas and Brightspace boast a far broader suite of features and more updated user experiences. 

“It’s important to me that we give our students a good experience,” he said. D’Annibale finds it particularly problematic that Moodle does not have a mobile companion app, nor does it allow for comprehensive data collection. 

“There’s a lot we could be doing with data,” he said.

At D’Annibale’s last institution, for example, he was able to pull a weekly report of students who had dipped below a certain average from the Canvas gradebook and refer them to academic success staff for support.

If the committee recommends a change and the college administration approves the switch, the key to success would be “training, training, training…” said D’Annibale.

The academic technology staff has roughly a two-year transition plan in place if the College switches to Canvas or Brightspace. D’Annibale and his team would provide “sandboxes” for students, staff and faculty to try out the new platform, and they would create Dickinson-specific training materials.

Faculty support for the initiative is paramount. “We need buy-in,” said D’Annibale. “We need people to be excited.”

Boseman agrees. “I have high hopes that this will encourage faculty to engage one way or another,” she said.

The committee will weigh the LMS change in the midst of a larger set of “Technology Modernization Initiatives” which includes evaluation of the college’s administrative systems as well.

In the meantime, faculty, staff and students will provide input on the LMS options via online forms, in-person listening sessions, and contributions to the evaluation committee. Students can find a feedback form here and staff here.


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