College transitions to Moodlerooms


Columbia has outsourced Moodle, the college’s learning management system, to Moodlerooms beginning in the Fall 2015 Semester. The decision was made due to the previous LMS’s unreliability and lack of data space, according to Byron Nash, CIO and associate vice president of Technology Services. 

The transition to Moodlerooms, a system that is supported by its own company and no longer through Columbia’s Information Technology Department, was an important change for the college’s technology services, said Lott Hill, executive director of the Center of Innovation in Teaching Excellence.

Moodle and Moodlerooms share a similar user-interface, but Moodlerooms is an outsourced program with a larger data capacity.

“One of the things happening right now in higher education, [and] not just [at] Columbia, is [Learning Management Systems are] evolving very quickly,” Hill said. “There is not a perfect one yet, and there may not be a perfect one in the future.”

Nash, who assumed his role in June 2015, added that the college’s goal when transitioning was to have a more stable platform for the 2015–2016 academic year. 

Hill said workshops for navigating Moodlerooms are available to faculty members, and added the change  should not cause a learning curve for faculty and students.

The feedback from faculty members has been mixed, Hill said. Many have expressed delight that Moodlerooms has not crashed and its functions are similar to Moodle aside from minor format changes on the site, he added.

“More people each year are using [the college’s] LMS, so the more people who use it, the more people are discovering what it can and can’t do,” Hill said. “Often the feedback we receive is around what the LMS cannot do that [users] wish it would do.”

Workshops are offered nearly every week for faculty and there are now more online resources available through Moodlerooms that could be used to answer collegewide questions, Hill said.

Scott Lee, a lecturer in the Audio Arts & Acoustics Department, said the fact that Moodlerooms does not crash often is a positive change, but he said he is worried that outsourcing the system could cause possible issues in the future.

Lee said the old system was not always reliable, and many teachers who did not have a good experience with Moodle likely will not want to try the new version. He said he finds the new system user-friendly, but many teachers do not know how to use it effectively.

Miles Miller, a junior cinema art + science major who transferred from Harold Washington College, said the transition from Blackboard—the LMS used at his previous college—to Moodlerooms has been smooth. He said he still prefers Blackboard because it is easier to navigate.

“Columbia’s [LMS] is a little more spruced up, so to speak,” Miller said. “Blackboard is a little more cut and dry.”

Drew Polovick, a sophomore audio arts & acoustics major, said while Moodlerooms has not crashed while he has been using it, he is not a fan of the LMS and has heard his professors complain as well.

The college will continue to evaluate what LMS students and faculty should be using, Hill said, adding that the college’s LMS could change in the future.

“As we continue to realign the goals of the institution, we will be able to determine what learning management system will be the most functional for all the departments and all the disciplines,” Hill said. “I do think we will make decisions based on the Strategic Plan about what the LMS [should be] in the future.”