Meeting the need for online learning at the HCT: Investigating alternatives to BBVista

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The British University in Dubai (BUiD)
Backboard Vista (BBVista) is the learning Management System (LMS) of choice in 60% of institutions of higher education around the world (LAMS, 2006). Nevertheless, there is an increasing awareness of the limitations of this tool in the face of rapid technological change, such as the widespread use of social media and individual learner preferences for online tools (Siemens, 2010). This study evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of BBVista as the current institutional learning management system at the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) and investigates the viability of its possible replacement with the open source alternative, Moodle, which offers increased usability at a fraction of the cost (Siemens, 2010). The value of personal learning networks (PLNs) is also explored as a means of increasing learner autonomy. Findings show that, although e-learning is becoming more common place amongst staff and students at the HCT, there is no distinct preference for any one repository and teachers and learners are largely independent in their choice of online teaching and learning tools. This implies the need for flexibility, allowing for individual preferences and experience with ICT, but also the need for a set of overarching values, to respond to the changing role of the institution as a provider of information and the shift, for educators, from sources of knowledge to facilitators of collaborative information management. The study examines ways of supporting learner autonomy, including the incorporation of collaborative tools such as wikis, blogs and discussion boards into the LMS, and the effects of these tools on learner behaviour. Finally, recommendations are made for the inclusion of e-learning activities on ITEC N100: Computing Fundamentals, including a reflective approach to assessment to facilitate the setting and meeting of goals in the process of lifelong learning.
social media, social networking, VLE, PLN, Learning Management System (LMS), Backboard Vista (BBVista), teaching and learning tools, information management