Less than two months after its launch, the new version of eCampus appears to be a hit with students and faculty.
The upgrade went live Dec. 27, and as of Feb. 3, the number of concurrent users had jumped from 8,300 in the fall semester to more than 12,000 for spring. More than 3,000 course sections are now in the system, and Blackboard Wimba was replaced by Blackboard Collaborate with few complaints.
Amy Baker, director of application support and training for WVU Information Technology, said more than 900 people went through some form of training in the new learning management system. In all, IT staff offered more than 130 workshops, one-on-one classes and open labs through January. More are on the calendar for the current semester.
Course content from previous semesters must be rebuilt in the new version of eCampus. Senior manager Sucharitha Bachanna reminds faculty that now is the time to start creating content for summer and fall. All content MUST be retrieved from the old system and rebuilt in the new system by Oct. 1.
John Oughton, assistant professor in the College of Education and Human Services, uses eCampus in all four courses he’s teaching, including one that helps instructors design their own courses.
Oughton said there are likely several reasons that more instructors are using eCampus, including new features, ease of use, growing familiarity with the platform and the growth of online courses. Proactive efforts to communicate the change to department chairs, deans and faculty members also may have prompted some people who were not previously using eCampus to consider it.
“If people get the support and they get the training, then they’re willing and they’re interested in utilizing these types of tools,” he said.
Oughton, who used to be an IT contact person for his college, still hears from faculty. “If there were people that weren’t happy,” he said, “I’d be hearing about it.”
Seth Adams, a senior agro-ecology major from Pineville, wasn’t a fan of the old eCampus, which he found frustrating and incompatible with the array of systems and browsers he uses throughout the day. Adams would switch from desktop Macs to desktop PCs, then to mobile devices or his tablet. But eCampus couldn’t keep up.
“When it works on one and it doesn’t work on another, that’s a major source of frustration,” Adams said.
Today, he’s a believer.
“The new one seems to have a whole lot more across-the-board compatibility,” he said. “I use it on all of the above.”
Professors also seem to be doing more than posting syllabi and required readings, he said.
“Now, I actually have professors using the forum for discussions,” Adams said. “I’ve had an exam on eCampus. They’re actually starting to use all of the features.”
Adams calls the notifications feature “amazing.” When a new file, grade or discussion is added, a notice appears at the top of the screen on all platforms. Adams also appreciates a recent layout change that consistently puts the login at the top.
“You don’t feel like you’re back in 2002 anymore,” he said.
Oughton praised the eCampus team for being accommodating and responsive to faculty needs during the piloting and rollout.
“The support group is very good about listening to these things and working towards remedying the issues that people have,” he said. “And that goes a long way in terms of trust. People know, ‘OK, this may be an inconvenience right now, but it will be addressed in the near future.’ They can be flexible and find workarounds if they know there is a solution coming.”
One example is a feature that will let instructors restrict access while administering exams. That feature, which would allow filtering by IP addresses, may be available this summer.
For the latest on new tools, system outages and more, follow @WVUITServices on Twitter.