Press - 03/4/2016

Course Management Systems Under Review

MiraCosta College is doing an extensive evaluation of possible providers for its Course Management System. 

For the uninitiated, a course management system comprises the software tools providing an online environment for course interactions.  The current course management system – with programs developed by Moodle and Blackboard – is used by almost 90 percent of classes at the college. Australia-based Moodle is used by higher education systems that include Louisiana State University and Cambridge University. Washington, D.C.-based Blackboard by 2011 was being used by more than half the colleges and universities in the United States.

A MiraCosta College Course Management System Evaluation Task Force also is evaluating Canvas, a Salt Lake City-based firm used by more than 1,600 universities, school districts and institutions around the world that is now being favored by a growing number of colleges. These include nearly 50 California Community Colleges after the Online Education Initiative selected Canvas as its Common Course Management System in 2015.

The College Course Management System Evaluation Task Force comprises some two dozen students, faculty and staff who at their inaugural meeting on Feb. 1 selected Dr. Jim Julius, faculty director of online education, as chair of the group. Other committee chairs include Biotechnology Professor Mike Fino, the Interim Dean for the School of Mathematics and Sciences, who heads the Decision Analysis Subcommittee with support from Communications Studies Professor Sam Arenivar as the subcommittee facilitator. Dr. William “Billy” Gunn is chairing the Input Gathering Subcommittee. Lead Accounting Instructor Mike Deschamps and the MiraCosta College Teaching/Technology Innovation Center’s Karen Korstad are co-chairing the Public Relations Subcommittee.

In January, representatives from Blackboard, Moodle and Canvas conducted one-hour, in-person presentations during Flex Week (those who have not seen the presentations can access them through this link.)

“The course management system is one of our most important tools for supporting teaching and learning,” said Julius. “I’m really excited that we have a great task force of faculty, students, staff, and administrators who are leading MiraCosta College in a forward-looking process of considering which CMS aligns best with the college’s strategic vision for enhancing academic achievement. Whatever system is chosen, I think that the process provides an opportunity to everyone at the college to look at the CMS with fresh eyes and strengthen the ways we use it to support student success.” 

The Task Force began the evaluation process in February, with more intensive evaluations and feedback from many faculty and students set to continue through March. A recommendation will be forwarded to the Academic Affairs Committee in April, with reviews by the Academic Senate, Classified Senate Council, Associated Government Student Council and Administrative Council to follow. President/Superintendent Sunita ‘Sunny’ Cooke will make the final decision, pending ratification by the Board of Trustees.

Why now? A separate MiraCosta College Online Educators committee has been discussing for some time the possibility of reevaluating the college’s course management systems, and the 2015-2018 Online Education Plan also calls for a reevaluation. Locally, Palomar College, the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District and Southwestern College also are conducting evaluations of their systems.

MiraCosta College has included online offerings since 1995, and the college in 2014 was selected as one of 24 taking part in the California Community Colleges Online Education Initiative pilot program. The Online Education Initiative is a state-sponsored project that aims to dramatically increase the number of students who earn associate degrees and transfer to four-year colleges and universities.

As of 2014, nearly half of all MiraCosta College students were taking at least one distance education class each year.

Further information about the process can be obtained by contacting Karen Korstad kkorstad@miracosta.edu.

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