GriffinGate vs. Moodle: the search continues

Seton Hill University (SHU) is known for its technological immersion. The university prides itself on being a forerunner of educational technology, including its use of Apple products such as MacBooks and iPads, and applications designed for classroom use. However, their current  Learning Management System (LMS), GriffinGate, was established in June 2008.

Jenzabar, the vender that owns GriffinGate, has announced that it will no longer be supporting the current platform starting in December of 2015.

Despite Jenzabar’s promise of a more appealing platform, SHU decided to use this opportunity to change to a new LMS that will better reflect the university’s technological standards.

 “We’re looking for something that will take us out of the box…we want to be able to take advantage of the Cloud and tie into third-party systems. We need something modifiable for SHU. Not a lot of the systems are there quite yet,” said Mary Spataro, director for the Center of Innovative Teaching and chair of the academic technology committee.

Some alternative LMSs in consideration are Canvas, Acatar, OpenClass and Moodle. Many faculty members are already comfortable with Moodle and a handful of others are piloting Canvas this year. However, SHU is still very open to incorporating other new and innovative LMS platforms.

“Moodle might be the preferred method now, but I don’t know if that will end up being the LMS we use exclusively in the future. Personally, I really like Canvas. It has a unique grading feature that none of the other programs have,” said Spataro.

Many SHU faculty members are still relying on the GriffinGate LMS, despite the change coming soon. Currently, there are 79 faculty who currently have courses hosted in Moodle and 198 with courses hosted in GriffinGate.

“Because I have so many bookmarks, handouts and other links to websites for my courses, I have stayed away from Moodle. Currently, we cannot copy a course from GriffinGate to Moodle, so I would have to make time available to transfer each of the handouts, bookmarks, etc. Indifference to that task has slowed any movement.  Besides, I am satisfied with GriffinGate, since I finally can use it fairly productively,” said professor Collin Wansor.

Student and faculty opinions are widely mixed. Each system has its own flaws and benefits. “I like Moodle. We used it in high school so I already knew all the ins and outs. It was a seamless transition for me. Plus GriffinGate looks dated and it’s not as convenient to get to as clicking the little Moodle button on Griffin’s Lair,” said freshman psychology major Rachel Goller.

“Moodle is just hard to navigate,” said junior biochemistry major Natalie Balfe, “It looks a little like a blog, instead of a classroom website. It can be hard to find handouts and lecture notes in all the different folders.”

Freshman art therapy major Allie Parady said, “I don’t think it’s an issue of which platform we’re using. I think the big issue is getting all the teachers to use the same one. It’s just inconvenient to have to switch between Moodle and GriffinGate forty times when I want to do my homework.”

According to Spataro, the only part of GriffinGate that will change is the “My Courses” tab after SHU officially switches to a new LMS. Other links, such as financial aid and student resources, will remain as they are. In addition, all documents and information uploaded to GriffinGate will be archived so that students and faculty can always have access to past projects and information.

The university does not have a date set for a total switchover, but it will be well before December 2015. “Right now we’re exploring our options. It may take some time, but whatever LMS we end up deciding on will be a progressive step forward,” said Spataro.

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