For many educators in Michigan, July will mark the end of Blackboard’s “reign” as our primary e-learning platform. I am one of those users and, if you are familiar with my articles in the MACUL Journal, you know that I have been a very avid Blackboard supporter. When the potential change was discussed, I have to admit that I tried all of the toddler-like antics that I could muster to try and change the minds of the “powers that be.” Ultimately, the sensible solution in our current economic climate prevailed: Moodle it is.
I would ask you if you want the good news or bad news first, but this is, after all, a blog. So, I have decided to start with the bad news. After all, I have to admit that there really isn’t much to say. The biggest challenge lies for those of us who have built online classes in Blackboard and must move them to Moodle. Although there is a tool in place to transfer content from Blackboard to Moodle, the end result looks nothing like the original. For example, my classes are divided into areas such as Course Information, Assignments, Discussion Board, and so forth. Within those areas, I have multiple file types: simple text, web links, embedded videos, tests, quizzes, learning units, and so forth. When these items are transferred to Moodle, all similar file types are grouped together. Therefore, I have a block of video files, a block of word processing documents, a block of quizzes, etc. For my purposes, I have found that it is easier to copy and paste individual items from Blackboard into Moodle and to use this as an opportunity to reevaluate my unit organization. This is also true because Moodle does not have identical tools to Blackboard. For example, there isn’t a learning unit in Moodle. There is an option to create a book, which could be similar if it had more flexibility in what could be attached to the book’s pages (i.e files). Moodle also does not have buttons, so items appear in a list on the main page rather than organized within buttons on a separate screen. Finally, I have not found a folder option. You can create a directory to files, but it does not work the same way as the folder option in Blackboard did.
Those things being said, I have found many solutions to these problems and some additional resources within Moodle that were not in Blackboard. As I mentioned, I ended up copying and pasting much of my content from Blackboard into Moodle. Fortunately, I did not have to do this with items developed using the test manager. These can easily be exported from Blackboard and imported into Moodle. Just keep in mind that not all question types will transfer over (i.e. ordering). To accommodate the missing folder option, I use the individual topic areas (separate boxes of content) and indent items related to the primary topic. This allows for an outline-like format for users. I liked the buttons in Blackboard for the overall neatness of the website’s appearance, but the students seem to really like the weekly topic breakdown of Moodle. It is very clear to them what is due when and where the items are located within the website. Moodle also has some additional resources that Blackboard did not have. One that I particularly like is the option to build a webpage within Moodle. Rather than having to use a composer, users have an intuitive text editor bar that makes webpage design a breeze. Another one of my favorites is the ability to set a course start date, which Moodle uses to automatically post dates for weekly topics. When a new course begins, I only have to reset the course start date. Moodle changes all of the weekly dates for me.
Although I will miss Blackboard, these tools and discoveries have caused me to re-think my original concerns about Moodle. As a matter of fact, Moodle has redirected my energy from tantrums to triumph with new courses that I am proud to produce! Good luck and please post any tips, concerns, or suggestions that you have for the upcoming transition.