ITS asks SEC for feedback on Blackboard, similar programs

As Case Western Reserve University’s contract with Blackboard comes to an end this summer, Information Technology Services (ITS) is asking students, faculty and staff to reevaluate Blackboard and explore alternative systems.

Project Analyst Jim Petras from ITS attended Monday’s Student Executive Council (SEC) meeting to explain the situation to students.

The SEC is made up of the umbrella organizations on campus, including the president and finance chairs of the Class Officer Collective, the Interfraternity Congress, the Panhellenic Council, the Residence Hall Association, the Undergraduate Diversity Collaborative, the University Media Board, the University Program Board and the Undergraduate Student Government, as well as representatives from off-the-tops Springfest, Senior Week and Thwing Study Over. They manage the allocation of the Student Activities Fee, the approximately $177 per semester that each student pays on top of tuition.

Petras is a CWRU alum who served on SEC during his time at CWRU. Currently, Petras works as a project manager for ITS.

During his presentation to campus leaders, Petras explained that Blackboard is a Learning Management System (LMS) and many universities use different systems such as Moodle and eCurriculum.  

“We are evaluating other systems because our contract ends next summer and we want to make an informed decision,” said Petras.

Because an LMS is a vital component to university functioning, ITS is working with two advisory groupsone for faculty and staff and one for students.  

“We have had lots of success recruiting for faculty and staff, now looking to recruit for a student committee,” said Petras.

Additionally ITS is working with an experimental psychologist to determine how to collect feedback and evaluate the systems. According to Petras, they are leading focus groups, administering surveys and piloting systems.

Petras emphasized, “[CWRU] will adopt the system the advisory committees recommend.”        

On potentially switching to another LMS, third-year Natasha Kurien expressed concern.

“I feel that it would be too much of a hassle to adopt a new system because currently, a lot of professors refrain from using Blackboard; they think it is too new or too confusing to learn.”  Kurien continued, “I would rather it be mandatory for all professors to use Blackboard and actually update grades.”

Crystal Li, junior, expressed interest in a system that could better interact with MediaVision.  

“I would also like a more user-friendly alternative to Blackboard,”  Li said. “Tools such as discussion boards seem hidden.”

“[Students] spend a lot of time in LMS, now [they] can have a choice in that system,” said Petras.

With LMS contracts typically lasting seven to eight years, he also stressed the importance of student, faculty and staff input.

The time commitment for the student committee is about six hours over the course of the fall semester. All interested students are invited to contact Jim Petras through ITS.