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Webinar Report
I attended this one-hour webinar hosted by Campus Technology on August 18.  Presenters were Clark Shah-Nelson, coordinator of online education, SUNY Delhi, and
Blake Haggerty, assistant director, Instructional Design, New Jersey Institute of Technology.  Moderator was Linda Briggs, of Campus Technology.  The webinar was conducted in an interview format, with the presenters playing the role of “guest,” while the moderator served as “host.”  The webinar was sponsored by Dell and Moodlerooms, which is relevant because both speakers contracted with Moodlerooms to support the implementation of the Moodle platform.

Both institutions transitioned to Moodle from WebCT.  Transitions for both were fairly gradual and included a 1-2 year period where both platforms were running simultaneously.  Haggerty explained that NJIT introduced Moodle as a “disruptive technology,” choosing to offer it as an alternative to the current platform, without specifically advocating for it. This allowed the faculty to transition at their own pace and at-will, rather than being pushed into it.  The gradual conversion also gave the support staff time to become familiar with the new platform without the added pressure of importing all content at one time.

Both institutions also use Sunguard’s Banner and were able to integrate Moodle with their Banner systems through an open source plug-in that required minimal tweaking.  In fact, it is the anticipated introduction of a Banner integration plug-in (currently in beta) that is driving NJIT’s timeline for implementing Moodle 2.0.

Both institutions relied on staff, faculty, and student workers to handle transitioning content to Moodle, making wise use of the time to also update/refresh as appropriate.  Moodlerooms was brought in by NJIT to support hardware and installation and by SUNY-Delhi for 24-hour user support.  Thus Moodlerooms’ support was the only significant expenditure in both instances.

Lessons learned centered on the various techniques they to get faculty comfortable with the platform:  brown bags, how-to videos (NJIT’s are available to others through creative commons licensing), a how-to wiki, giving faculty the freedom to decide when they were comfortable transitioning.  SUNY-Delhi created an Online Education Technical Assistance portal, available to others through creative common license.  NJIT noted the low-cost benefit of creating a custom theme (or skin) for their Moodle site to align it visually with the rest of their online web presence.

The greatest value of the webinar was hearing how the gradual introduction of Moodle’s online learning platform really worked for both organizations.  It reduced the pressure on both the faculty and the technical staff.  Both agreed that the gradual introduction was a feasible approach due to the lower cost of selecting an open source platform.  Evidence of their satisfaction with their selection is that both organizations are planning to pilot Moodle 2.0.