Trinity considers TLearn alternatives


Illustration by Yessenia Lopez, staff illustrator.

Trinity’s IT Governance Committee is considering alternatives to TLearn to improve the quality of communication between professors and students. Earlier this year, the committee sent a survey to faculty and students asking for their insights on the tools and overall quality that TLearn offers. The committee will be acting to replace or improve TLearn based on the feedback received from faculty and students.

Wendy Apfel, instructional support manager for Information Technology Services, has been studying the student results of the survey sent in late October. The faculty results have not been analyzed. Apfel is examining the survey to better understand how TLearn is being used now and what improvements students would like to see.

The survey received 838 responses, more than a class size at Trinity, so Apfel is confident the results will be an accurate reflection of the student body’s opinion on TLearn.

“So, overall 401 students said that they were somewhat satisfied, and so that’s 57 percent and another 19 percent said that they are very satisfied with TLearn,” Apfel said.

To Apfel, the survey reflects that the student body is pleased with the way TLearn is functioning, so serious changes to TLearn may not be necessary. However, before making this decision the results of the faculty survey will need to be analyzed.

Apfel believes even if no changes result in the way Trinity is currently managing TLearn, it is important to review these systems.

“It’s a healthy thing to do, to analyze your software systems every so often, and we’ve had TLearn at Trinity for eight years. The content that’s in the current server goes back to 2013. Then we had a server that we retired last year that contained another four years of data,” Apfel said.

Through this review, Apfel hopes to emphasize the need for overall faculty participation in the learning management system, even if TLearn is replaced. Now, Apfel offers workshops to new and returning faculty members to ensure the faculty is equipped to use TLearn effectively.

“It’s only as good as the faculty content that goes into it. So if a faculty member is not using it, that’s not helpful for the student,” Apfel said.

Elliot Black, a senior anthropology major, acknowledged that changing or replacing TLearn may put strain on the students.

“I wouldn’t say that I like it or hate it, but I’ve been using it for four years now. So if it changes it might be awkward, probably not awkward for newcomers, but for people who have already been using it,” Black said.

The IT Governance Committee manages each committee in the IT department. These committees oversee the acquirement of different tools, such as handling each proposal based on how the new technology will affect the university. The Education and Research Technology Committee (ERTC) is overseeing the possibility of changing the learning management system or altering the tools of TLearn.

Diana Young, assistant professor of business analytics and technology and ERTC member, will assess the data collected by Apfel with fellow committee members. Then, the committee will make a recommendation to either pursue a new learning management system or improve the tools and appearance of TLearn.

Young spoke of the possibility of switching from Moodle, the learning management system that TLearn uses, to another form. The other big management systems include Canvas, which is more user friendly, and Blackboard, which is more widely adopted at other universities.

“There are pros and cons to all three, and I think that’s something that the committee and the university is currently assessing. I think it’s really a question of, ‘What is it we really want out of our learning management system?’ ” Young said.

The IT department is open to piloting new systems starting next semester if the IT Governance Committee suggests it. Piloting would affect only certain classes in which professors test other learning management systems to determine if Trinity wants to pursue them.