For students’ online learning needs there was once WebCT, which eventually changed to the Blackboard learning system.
For students’ online learning needs there was once WebCT, which eventually changed to the Blackboard learning system. However, Blackboard isn’t quite making the grade and will soon be shown the door as a new online teaching tool, Desire2Learn (D2L), is phased in. And yet there are still numerous third-party websites that students are required to use and pay for, in addition to the one for which they pay every term.
The frequent transitions and use of a variety of outside websites raises a number of questions and concerns regarding Portland State’s online education policies.
One can only hope that this will be PSU’s final stop on its long road of online teaching interfaces. Students attending PSU over the past few years have suffered through tests, trials and changes to the online systems they are required to use for their classes—having to relearn nearly every year how to simply take part in their class’ online component.
Aside from D2L’s annoying title and hip use of “2” instead of “to,” its implementation could cost PSU around $200,000, according to a Vanguard article published last February [“Back to the drawing board for Blackboard”]. Such an amount of money coming entirely out of PSU’s budget may seem minor, yet it is still a significant amount when taking into account the rising cost of our education.
Paying such a price would seem less troubling if there were not other cheap options available, such as the open-source and entirely free Moodle. Moodle is an excellent example of a cost-effective interface and is used at institutions of higher learning across the globe. It remains a free option as an online branch of education that PSU should have considered.
While D2L makes its official debut at PSU in the coming months, students shouldn’t expect to have only one stop for the online portion of their education. In addition to (or completely ignoring) PSU’s established online side, some math classes use entirely different online learning sites to serve their particular needs—and of course, this costs students even more. The communication department requires its speech classes to use Course Compass, a Blackboard-like system that can cost upwards of $100 to use.
There are also in-class electronic tools—such as the infamous “clicker”—used in some PSU courses that, while sometimes convenient, utilize yet another website, again forcing students to pay more for their class experience. These additional expenses are on top of the $60 “online learning fee” that is already assessed to most students every term for Blackboard, which their professors may or may not actually use.
PSU needs to do more than merely take the next step for its online learning component. It needs to get its online learning house in order. Students should go to one place, and one place only, for their online needs at PSU. They shouldn’t have to face yet another system and pay sudden and unexpected costs when starting new classes each quarter.
Online components, as well as entirely online classes, are the future of instruction. As education evolves and catches up with technology, we must embrace it—but only while making wise decisions as to how it is incorporated.
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