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When Cynthia Foreman stops to think about it, fall quarter 2009
was really when the writing was on the wall—or, rather, on the
Blackboard, the online Learning Management System (LMS) Clark College
has used since 2005.

“We were on an older version and we were having a lot of downtime,” said
Foreman, who directs Clark’s E-Learning Department. “Last summer was
pretty frustrating.”

At the same time, she knew that Clark’s license with Blackboard ended in
June 2011—and that renewing that license would probably cost more than
the $185,000 that the college was already spending annually under the current contract. “It was time for a change,” Foreman said.

Accordingly, the college began examining other LMS options, and in spring
quarter 2010 hosted a series of presentations by the two most likely candidate
vendors. In the end, with input from faculty and staff, the college chose to move to Moodle, an open-source LMS used by almost 50,000 sites around the world.

“This program has more built-in features [than Blackboard] and much better
ADA compliance,” said Foreman. “I find it more user-friendly. It seems more
intuitive for the students.” Not incidentally during this time of tight budgets,
the move to Moodle will also save the college more than $100,000 a year in
licensing fees alone. Plus, because Moodle is an open-source program (meaning it is not proprietary to any one company), it can be altered to better fit the college’s needs.

Those needs are substantial: According to Foreman, Clark currently has about
10,000 Blackboard users, including both students and instructors. Only a
fraction of those users have switched to Moodle so far. A small pilot project on
Moodle was run with seven faculty and about 250 students during fall quarter
2010. Meanwhile, the eLearning Department has identified about 140 more
instructors who used Blackboard for hybrid or online class delivery and is
working hard to provide them with Moodle training. Currently, 78 percent
of those instructors have completed Phase I of the training, 55 percent have
completed Phase II, and 34 percent have completed all three phases of training.

During winter quarter, Moodle usage has grown to include 45 faculty members
and more than 2,000 students. “In spring quarter we’d like to more than double that number,” said Foreman.

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