Desire 2 Learn gains mixed reviews with users

Tony Gorder

Tony Gorder

SDSU students may have noticed a change in their online course management systems after returning for the fall semester. Starting during the summer 2008 term, the South Dakota Board of Regents changed its system from WebCT to Desire 2 Learn, commonly shortened to “D2L.”

“The version of WebCT we were using was being phased out, so we had to change to something,” said James B. Lurvey, instructional training specialist at SDSU’s Instructional Design Services.

Lurvey said two statewide studies were performed with systems like WebCT, Blackboard, Angel, Moodle, Sakai and D2L up for consideration.

Student opinion of the new system has been mixed.

“I liked WebCT better,” said Walker Darkow, a sophomore pre-pharmacy major from Owatonna, Minn. “Going from one class to another is a hassle. WebCT felt smoother.”

“I think it’s kind of unorganized,” said Nicole Hoefer, a senior sociology major. “I loved WebCT. It was a lot easier to use and more organized.”

Holly Coldman, a freshman mass communications major from Montrose, S.D., was impartial.

“Either one would work for me,” said Coldman. “I don’t have a problem with D2L. It just takes some getting used to.”

It is the “getting used to” that Lurvey said is the main issue.

“A great deal of adjusting to D2L is learning the different way to do things. We are all still learning, and the program is being adjusted to correct problems,” said Lurvey.

Lyle Olson, professor and graduate program coordinator in the Journalism and Mass Communications Department, has a positive view of the D2L system.

“This is the fourth or fifth online course software I’ve used. It isn’t hard to learn,” said Olson. “After becoming comfortable with WebCT, I wasn’t looking forward to learning a new program. I was pleasantly surprised that moving to D2L went quite smoothly. I have very few questions from students about D2L, so they evidently find it fairly easy to use.”

Olson said that while he likes the system, its main problem is speed.

“This summer, I sometimes had to wait up to 30 seconds after choosing to reply to a student in the assignment dropbox,” said Olson. “In WebCT, the response was usually immediate.”

Lurvey said the D2L server is further away, making it slower than WebCT and difficult to use with a slower Internet connection. But while the server is further away, it is more powerful, making it more stable than WebCT and able to handle more tasks with fewer failures.

Lurvey also said that D2L’s integration with Web Advisor is an advantage over WebCT.

“When a student registers, they should appear on the class list the next day, and if they drop, they are gone the next day,” said Lurvey. “In the future, grades will go directly from D2L to Web Advisor.”

Lurvey said that this integration of classes and grades with D2L and Web Advisor, along with a superior grade book, would reduce grading mistakes. He also said that the system allows instructors to release tests or assignments to different students with different settings, providing more manageable make-ups.

“Overall, I like [D2L] better,” said Olson. “The task of teaching a course online seems a little easier in D2L. The move from WebCT to D2L was the easiest yet.”

“There are many things I like about D2L. There are some things I miss from WebCT,” said Lurvey. “Each day, I learn more about D2L and can use it more effectively. By my count, this is the seventh course management system we have used in my 11 years at SDSU. Each one has been better but took time to learn.”