Community College Move to a New LMS Highlights Ease of Migration
Too many learning management system implementations involve expensive hardware and software, and lengthy rollouts as courses are moved from the previous system. Northeast Iowa Community College, in contrast, engineered a smooth move to a cloud-based LMS that has been seamlessly integrated with other software on campus, including a Datatel student information system and CampusCruiser’s Portal software. The move, from WebCT to CampusCruiser LMS, has left the community college with a single sign-on system and one familiar interface for all users, whether online or face-to-face, and whether they are accessing email, conducting a class discussion, recording attendance, or submitting, collecting and grading assignments.
With roughly 5,300 students spread across two physical campuses in the Iowa towns of Calmar and Peosta and their online campus, Northeast Iowa Community College serves a mix of rural and urban students with both classroom and online instruction. In an indication of the importance of the online courses offered, Director of Distance Learning Dr. Christopher Ostwinkle says, “We think of online students as a third campus,” as the students whose academics are 100% online, now constitute a population as large as each of the physical campuses.
Before moving to CampusCruiser for its LMS, NICC had been using WebCT (now a Blackboard product) for years, partly because of a consortium arrangement with several other community colleges in the area.
NICC began to outgrow that system, however, and the challenges of managing content on the shared WebCT server grew. “Although it was cost-effective to have the server offsite [in Cedar Rapids] and shared,” says Ostwinkle, “it was challenging.” Also, because of the shared arrangement, the URL for the LMS wasn’t NICC’s, causing confusion and diluting the college’s brand. Eventually, NICC moved to its own hosted arrangement with WebCT, but Dr.Ostwinkle, who was familiar with CampusCruiser, encouraged the Online Committee to take a closer look at the robust features and tools of the CampusCruiser LMS.
Among the benefits: the move would bring course content into an interface that students and faculty were already familiar with from using the CampusCruiser PORTAL product since 2005. Training and integration issues would be easier with a familiar interface, and the software-as-a-service model of off-site hosting and management would save costs. Finally, student questions tended to get lost in the WebCT support system, he said, because “WebCT support was problematic.”
NICC had rolled out its first CampusCruiser product in 2005, CampusCruiser PORTAL, which the institution branded as Xpress and used for its community features, email functions, and college portal to student and educational services. In 2008, the college migrated to CampusCruiser LMS, followed soon after with the company’s emergency notification system, CampusCruiser ALERT, and course evaluation software, CampusCruiser EVAL.
Integration with other systems was an important aspect of the move to the new LMS. In fact, the software’s tight integration with Datatel WebAdvisor, which NICC uses for its student information system, helped make the case for moving to the LMS system as well.
The two systems are so tightly integrated that faculty are generally unaware of which system they are using. Initial class attendance, for example – information that goes to the financial aid office – is reported by faculty through WebAdvisor screens within the portal. After that initial reporting, faculty then keep track of regular daily attendance within the LMS. In another example, a WebAdvisor screen in the portal is used for final grade reporting, but faculty use the courseroom within the LMS for all other grade recording, such as assignments and assessments.
Also easily integrated with CampusCruiser, which is branded Xpress on the NICC campus: Turnitin, Respondus (no longer in use now), and the tutoring software Smarthinking.
One significant benefit of the CampusCruiser LMS system was immediately apparent: all classes, no matter what the format, were available through the portal. With WebCT, only courses with online content had been available and affordable. Now, course content, syllabi, student rosters, and grade books for any course are available through a single interface. NICC quickly saw the number of instructors using the system begin to increase. This increase of usage in the LMS also allows students to get help, ask questions, and find meaningful interaction online from any instructor or classmate—as everyone is united in the same system.
Cost benefits have been significant with the elimination of WebCT, which has saved some $40,000 a year. With the CampusCruiser suite providing not just an LMS, but also the college’s email system and portal into systems such as WebAdvisor, the school has been able to spend at least some of those now-extra funds on new software.
Seamless product integration always makes IT’s job simpler, since it is far easier for users to learn new products when a well-known interface beckons. That’s been perhaps one of the biggest pluses for NICC – students and faculty face a familiar interface, and can move transparently among systems without even knowing it. Along with the ease of the migration to CampusCruiser, and the cost and support benefits of a hosted in-the-cloud suite of solutions, NICC’s move to CampusCruiser has proven to be a winner overall.
Visit http://campustechnology.com/CampusCruiser to download additional resources, case studies and more.