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Carson-Newman College Seeks Social Networking with New LMS

A 2,260-student private college in Jefferson, TN is moving its course management onto Edvance360 LMS-SN from Edvance360. Carson-Newman College is a long-time WebCT/Blackboard Campus Edition customer. When the institution learned that support would end for Blackboard CE in 2013, it began an extensive evaluation of alternatives.

According to Valerie Stephens, the college's director of online learning, the school sought a replacement that would address the expanding requirements of online learning, provide a way to manage learning outcomes assessment and accountability, and instill social-networking features into courses.

"With Carson-Newman's new Online Graduate Degree program initiatives, it's critical to make sure our technology system--which includes software, hardware, human resources, and infrastructure--meet the current and growth needs of online programs." She added that the new system needed to support video communication and streaming, offer strong social networking and collaboration tools, and provide mobile computing support. "Given the imminent lack of company support as well as the software's inability to deliver simple video communication or even mobile e-mail support without adding substantial costs, the time had come to explore new possibilities."

The initial schedule for the migration project was 18 months. "Once our IT department and support saw how easy the setup and conversion was, would be we narrowed it to six months," she said. Training began in March 2011; LMS and Datatel administrative system integration work was done in April; at the same time summer faculty received training and summer course materials, and assessments were converted from Blackboard into Edvance360. Once that work is completed, conversion of fall and spring materials will take place. Use of the new LMS will begin with the summer term. The implementation is expected to be done by the end of summer.

Initially, the college will use Edvance360's learning outcomes feature to track how a course meets the formal institutional mission in multiple areas such as critical reading and thinking and oral and written communication. Stephens noted that the "social learning" elements will be useful for promoting a sense of community among students as a whole. She added that the new application will also provide virtual meetings spaces for specific communities of interest such as clubs and service groups. "The students are absolutely looking for online ways to communicate and find support," she said.

"We strive daily to help our students reach their full potential as educated citizens and worldwide servant leaders within a caring community," Stephens observed. "Our partnership with Edvance360 will ensure our online learning delivery system parallels the exacting standards of our traditional classroom experience."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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