Franciscan transitions to new online coursework program

BY SARAH ALLISON
STAFF WRITER

Instead of using MyFranciscan for all online work, Franciscan University will now be splitting content between MyFranciscan and Blackboard, another online management program. In the future, students will be able to access more class resources, such as syllabi, PowerPoints and homework assignments, from the Blackboard website.

“The goal of Blackboard is to improve students’ experience in the classroom,” said Dr. Corey Maloney, director of online programming at Franciscan. “It’s about trying to engage students and improve communication and collaboration.”

Blackboard is used at many other universities, as well as high schools. Maloney was enthusiastic about the diverse ways Blackboard can be used with classes.

“There are three different options,” he said. “You can have classes entirely online. You can have hybrid classes where maybe you’ll meet on Tuesday, then have an online assignment on Thursday. Or you can supplement the class with PowerPoints on Blackboard, as well as assignments and syllabi.”

Although only 20 percent of classes at Franciscan currently use Blackboard, Maloney says that eventually all classes will be on the site. Because of the limited number of classes using the site not everyone is aware of the change.

“I didn’t even know that Blackboard existed,” said sophomore Kateri Buck.

Student experiences with the website have varied. Loretta Donegan, junior, has several classes on Blackboard this semester and prefers MyFranciscan because she says it is easier to navigate.

“Blackboard is nice and it keeps everything in order, but it gets kind of confusing sometimes,” she said. “If you made it a little more user-friendly, it would work.”

Others, like first-year grad student Laura Belemjian are pleased with the change.

“I like it because my professors don’t have to use handouts,” said Belemjian. “I find it user-friendly. I just log in with the MyFranciscan username and password and click on my class.”

Blackboard already has a variety of applications for students and professors to use.

“It has some really cool tools,” said Maloney. “There are discussion boards, blogs and wikis that the students can create, different ways to engage the students in the material and more flexibility.”

There are plans for new features in the spring semester. One of these new features is Blackboard Mobile.

“Students will be able to access all their courses from their mobile devices for free,” said Maloney. “Right now they must buy the app.”

Another upcoming feature is Blackboard Community, which will allow users to set up groups and network on the site. “It’s almost like Facebook,” said Maloney.

Ironically many students seem to prefer face-to-face communication, at least for a class. Some who have used Blackboard in the past disliked the way it was used. Junior Hayden Weaver had classes on the website during high school.

“It’s an excuse to not do things in class,” said Weaver. “It can be a method of getting students involved in the material when used effectively, but when we used it, the teachers wouldn’t do things or discuss assignments in class.”

Instead, students had to log onto Blackboard to find and complete their assignments.

“It was very non-personal, and there was a lot of miscommunication,” said Weaver.

Although class resources will be on Blackboard, MyFranciscan will continue to be used for registration, student accounts and financial aid.

“It has to be separate,” said Maloney. “All student records are housed there, and that has to stay the same.”

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