After the campus-wide switch to OpenClass last semester, faculty and staff are adjusting to the new advantages and quirks of the system.
The decision on the new learning management system was made by a committee formed specifically for the task.
ACU’s contract with Blackboard expired in July, said Dr. Mindi Thompson, director of distance education for the Graduate School of Theology and former member of the LMS selection committee.
“We’re saving a good bit of money in a time of tight budget,” she said. “Blackboard cost the university sixty thousand dollars per year.”
Renewing the contract would have cost closer to eighty thousand dollars.
OpenClass, provided by the education company Pearson, is free to use. The developers of OpenClass are continuing to collaborate with ACU’s Adams Center for Teaching and Learning to update the system and provide additional services and upgrades for the future.
Certain features of the OpenClass interface and program were based on collaborative efforts between Pearson and ACU.
Thompson chaired the subcommittee to analyze student usability for various systems.
“We really liked the flexibility of OpenClass, from the standpoint of an instructor setting up the page,” said Thompson.
The various modules can be rearranged and reordered, making it flexible, unlike Blackboard’s interface.
Another benefit of OpenClass is the way it incorporates social learning. Students can “follow” classmates, either on the generic homepage or in a specific class, in a style similar to many social media sites.
The conversion from Blackboard to OpenClass has been met with both positive and negative responses from the faculty.
Dr. Brian Cavitt, associate professor of chemistry, sucessfully taught himself how to use OpenClass for classes over the summer.
“OpenClass is fairly easy to use and straightforward, really,” he said. “OpenClass is not without its quirks, but I think with discipline and time it would be easily adopted by most people.”
On the other hand, assistant professor of Bible, Dr. Victor McCracken, feels that OpenClass still needs some improvement.
“I think that OC still has some bugs, some things the developers are still working on,” he said. “As a teacher, that makes it harder for me to teach, and I think that has a bad effect on students. We want students to have a positive experience.”
Despite his misgivings, McCracken is optimistic about OpenClass in the future.
“Over the past few weeks, those of us who have been using OpenClass had the opportunity to visit with the developers about our experience, and I think we gave them some very helpful feedback,” he said. “I think OC has a ways to go before it satisfies everything we need it to do, but I’m very hopeful.”