Photo courtesy of the University of Nevada, Reno Instructional Design Team

Photo courtesy of the University of Nevada, Reno Instructional Design Team

By Rocío Hernández

The Instructional Design Team is looking for students’ help in deciding the future of the University of Nevada, Reno’s WebCampus.

The need to select new learning management systems comes as a result of the soon release of UNR’s current vendor Blackboard’s new product, Blackboard 2015. After its launch, IDT said in its press release that Blackboard would phase out support for its older products.

Currently, there are only two learning management system contenders: Blackboard, and Interstructure’s Canvas, the product behind Truckee Meadows Community College’s WebCollege. Bowen Drewes, an instructional technologist for the Teaching and Learning Technologies department, said that the IDT could be open to exploring other products in the future.

The earliest changes to WebCampus could come as soon as fall 2016, but Drewes predicts nothing will happen until 2017.

“We are at the early stages of an evaluation and we do have the vendors on campus, so please come on out and get your voice heard and get a little bit of input on your reactions to what these systems are,” Drewes said.

Blackboard gave multiple 20-minute presentations of its upcoming software, Blackboard 2015, to university students, faculty and staff last Thursday, March 26 and Friday, March 27. After the presentation, participants were handed surveys where they could evaluate the product individually.

Drewes said that not as many students attended the sessions as the team had hoped. He credits the attendance rate to the process’ constrained timeline.

Caden Fabbi, the Associated Students of the University of Nevada Speaker of the Senate and president-elect, was contacted by the IT department in hopes that the senate would spread the word to its constituents. The senators took to Facebook and create an event for the drop-in sessions and were able to send out a mass email through the undergraduate list server.

“We think it’s really important for students to be able to have a say in this because we have so many complaints often about WebCampus,” Fabbi said. “We just want to make sure that when we are choosing the next software that we are going to be working using to run our WebCampus, that student input is taken into consideration so students are more happy with how the software works in the future.”

Blackboard representative Scott Smith said that Blackboard 2015 users could expect a product that is simple to navigate and is responsive throughout different platforms such as tablets and mobile phones. The software will also feature virtual instructor offices that include video chat capabilities. The company hopes that the online office will facilitate communication between professors and students.

In the future, Smith said that Blackboard would be able to continuously monitor the WebCampus environment to ensure reliability and availability.

Blackboard 2015’s competitor, Canvas describes itself on its website as an “adaptable, reliable, customizable, time-saving and easy to use” product. The LMS also boasts its speed. Since Amazon Web Service hosts Canvas, it is capable of processing more than 1 million requests per second.

Students will be able to view Canvas and speak to a product representative on April 2 and 3.

In the future, IDT plans to set up a website that will contain information on the WebCampus selection process. The vendors may come back to campus along with the more events that will allow students, faculty and staff to further experience the systems. Drewes said that the team wants to ensure that students will be able to send additional input after April 3, if they so chose.

The team can be contacted via email at idt@unr.edu.

Rocío Hernández can be reached at rhernandez@sagebrush.unr.edu and on Twitter @rociohdz19.