Sharpening Our Tools: Improving NC State’s Enterprise Learning Technologies

WolfWare interface on iPad

At DELTA, we are almost always upgrading something—a learning management system (LMS), tool, plug-in, or some piece of our extensive enterprise learning technologies. If we’re not actively upgrading, we’re planning an upgrade. It’s enough to make a user wonder, why all the changes?

When it comes to learning technologies, our guiding philosophy is to meet the needs of the learning community at NC State, both faculty and students.

“We strive to identify and address needs within the community, as well as standards of reliability and efficiency, enabling instructors to effectively teach their classes,” said Dr. Marty Dulberg, learning management system coordinator.

By meeting needs we mean a wide range of needs, some of which users rarely think about. Of course, we aim to provide tools that are easy to use, widely accessible, flexible and well supported. Then there’s the less exciting set of behind-the-scenes requirements we attend to: security, reliability and storage capacity. In FY 2012-13 we took measures to address these needs in our major tools: Moodle, Mediasite, WolfWare and Blackboard Collaborate.

Perhaps the most visible change in DELTA’s learning technologies in FY 12-13 was the move to Moodle 2 in the spring and summer of 2013. Because developers in the Moodle community were no longer supporting Moodle 1.9, our previous version, we upgraded our open source LMS to Moodle 2.3. The upgrade provided our users in more than 7,000 course sections with new features, a more modern interface, increased reliability, and improved scalability for our growing community. Plus, with the upgrade, Moodle became mobile, allowing students to easily access course materials on a mobile device on the go. DELTA staff created a course copier in Moodle 2.3, which allows faculty to copy courses from one semester to the next with ease. Throughout the upgrade, we provided support resources, workshops and help desk assistance to create a smooth transition.

Moodle wasn’t the only tool that went mobile last year. The Mediasite classroom capture tool upgrade in spring 2013 enabled mobile video playback on any newer Android or iOS mobile device. The upgrade from Mediasite 5.5 to 6.0 required a change in file formats from WMV to MPEG files, which made mobile playback possible. In addition, changes made during the upgrade increased security of our course materials and decreased the amount of storage space required per file, which is crucial given that instructors create roughly one terabyte of Mediasite data per month. With more than 800,000 views of NC State Mediasite recordings during FY 12-13, these tool improvements impacted a significant number of students and their access to course materials.

While managing the major upgrades to Moodle and Mediasite, DELTA smoothly transitioned synchronous learning management systems from Elluminate Live! to Blackboard Collaborate and made minor interface improvements to WolfWare, our primary access point for NC State learning technologies.

All the while, we kept the needs of the community as the top priority.

“We welcome suggestions from anyone with an NC State ID,” Dulberg said. “Students, faculty, administrators and staff are all welcome to provide feedback. We want to hear what everybody has to say.”

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For more DELTA stories like this one, explore the DELTA Annual Report 2012-2013.