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New software helps students, professors manage classes

Managing a busy course schedule has been made easier by the introduction of the new Desire2Learn software. Desire2Learn is an online learning management system that provides a centralized hub for students to access course materials and assignments.

Desire2Learn was made available by the University System of Georgia (USG) beginning in May 2012. Though most schools, like the University of North Georgia (UNG), have been using similar online tools for years, this is the first to be mandated across the USG. With every USG institution using the same system, students will be able to easily transfer between schools without having to learn a new system.

The software features a sleek user interface that runs on mobile devices using Android and Apple operating systems. Content on D2L is accessed for free and is accessible to those with disabilities.

"Desire2Learn helps us in our work to increase college completion rates as part of the Complete College Georgia Initiative," said USG Vice Chancellor of Information Technology Services and Chief Information Officer Curt Carver. "This is because the software encourages greater student engagement and ownership of their academic experience, and we know from data that greater student involvement leads to increased success rates in terms of academic performance and ultimately graduation."

Carver added that increasing student engagement would help more students graduate at a lower cost to families and taxpayers. Hosting the system centrally rather than individually at each school saves $1.5 million annually, in addition to the $2.2 million saved on licensing fees.

Dr. Timothy Hayes, an associate professor of criminal justice at UNG, uses D2L with both undergraduate and graduate classes. He sees it as an improvement over the old system.

"Even though it takes time learning a new system and getting courses set up according to the D2L format, I think this will soon be regarded as a needed change," Hayes said.  

Mike Ryan, UNG associate professor of economics and finance, said there has been a learning curve with the new software, but he has been able to find help.

"Instructors had the benefit of training sessions during the Fall 2012 semester, but we all had to learn on the go in some cases," Ryan said. "Fortunately, the Information Technology and Distance Education & Technology Integration staff members have been extremely helpful in this transition."

Dr. Terri Millard, an associate professor in UNG's Department of Physical Therapy, said the department has been using D2L to make course resources available to students to cut down on paper use.

"Making the switch to D2L has been interesting. The quiz and assignment options have been easy to access and use and building the course is also easy," Millard said. "The learning curve has not been difficult in general, but a few things have been a little tricky."

Carver is optimistic about D2L and its future applications. He noted that, in addition to an improved interface, it also has the potential to support a rising trend in higher education—massive open online courses (MOOCs).

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