Students and faculty currently using CourseDen will experience a change in their online learning beginning the spring semester of 2013.

The University of West Georgia, along with the other institutions in the University System of Georgia, will be shifting from GeorgiaView Blackboard WEBCT online learning to a new provider: Desire2Learn.

“Every five to seven years you can expect some big change with technology,” said Dr. Jason Huett, Associate Dean of Online Development and USG eCore and Associate Professor of Instructional Technology and Design.  “The entire decision making process takes place at the Board of Regents and the changes are made state wide.”

“We have to change,” said Janet Gubbins, Director of Distance Education/UWGOnline.  “Blackboard, the company we are using now, is not going to support their system after 2013, so we have to move on.”

While Desire2Learn is a new system and has a slightly different interface, many of the components remain the same for students taking online classes.  Upon logging in, students will still be able to select and view their different courses, to see upcoming tests and deadlines and create a distinct profile.

“It is really the same tool, just a different path to get there; it does a lot of the same things but also has a few more features, “said David Lloyd, Director of Online Faculty Development.

“The old system has a lot more icons and it is easier to get lost,” said Jason Busbin, Student Support Specialist.  “With the new system you are either in a content widget or icon bar.  Everything is in one place and it is easier to find where you are going.”

One innovative feature of the new system is integration of social media.  In an age in which students want and need to create relationships with classmates and possibly contact them in an instant, Desire2Learn has allowed students to add social media connections to the CourseDen Profile.

“The social media is integrated into the profile now.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google are linked to the profile.  Right now it is just a link, but when the next upgrade happens in what we hope is fall of 2014, the social media piece will be much more powerful,” said Busbin.

Another feature that could possibly benefit students is the notification functionality.  In the current system, students must log onto their account to view assignment deadlines, announcement or to see if a discussion post has a reply.  The notification tool will elevate some of the steps and enhance communication between professor and student.

“You can customize notifications,” said Busbin. “You can have your account set to send notifications to your email account of to your phone as a text message.”

The new system is mobile capable; however, it is not completely mobile enhanced.  Students will be able to read content and post on discussion boards from their tablet or mobile device; however, they will not be able to take quizzes or record audio or video from devices.

As online leaning changes and develops, distance learning continues to be an integral part of UWG and the way students learn.

Every institution is going to have to make adjustments in the way they deliver instruction,” said Huett.  “For us it is a critical piece of our mission and vision.  We will hope to come up with a solution that merges what we do best face to face and what we do best with our online learning and come up with a dynamic model of learning as an institution.  We have to look at our audience and how we can best serve them.  For example, there are a lot of men and women working overseas that want to get an education but can’t.  I think we owe it to them to help them out in any way we can.”

Complete tutorials, videos, announcements, and student resources concerning the online learning technology can be found at http://uwgonline.westga.edu/students.php.