Platform evaluations: why did BU choose its current technologies?
BU supports a long list of technology platforms, each of which was chosen intentionally to serve a particular purpose and meet a particular need. EdTech is often tasked with evaluating platforms to determine if they still meet our university’s needs, and evaluating whether the adoption of a new platform could significantly benefit our students and faculty. In order to do this EdTech conducts focus groups, distributes surveys, and invites vendors to give demonstrations of their products.
EdTech recently evaluated three categories of BU’s technology: ePortfolio, assessment management system (AMS), and learning management system (LMS). For ePortfolios BU supports Digication, a program students use to create ePortfolios. Blackboard is BU’s LMS. The process of evaluating a given platform typically involves isolating a goal, and then determining if there is a better way to reach that goal. To demonstrate the process behind re-evaluating our supported platforms, EdTech’s examination of Digication is detailed below.
In the case of the evaluation of Digication, the goal was to provide a mechanism for tracking and demonstrating BU students’ progress.
EdTech used Qualtrics, a tool for creating surveys, to poll faculty opinions of Digication, and also held small focus groups with faculty members known to frequently use Digication.
Advantages of Digication
BU has a strong relationship with Digication. Digication ePortfolios have individual URLs which make them easy to share, and they stay online forever. Digication is integrated with Blackboard, so students can access their ePortfolios from their Blackboard home screen. Many users like Digication’s interface, and this year Digication will release an update that will make it even more user-friendly. EdTech acknowledged all of these advantages in the beginning of the platform evaluation, and sought out to determine if there was another program the BU could feasibly adopt that could provide more to our community than Digication. The benefits would have to be significant in order to warrant a change, as faculty focus groups affirmed that change for change’s sake can result in unnecessary challenges.
Considering other platforms
EdTech started by ruling out similar platforms that definitely do not meet BU’s needs, and ended up with a short list of platforms to consider further. EdTech looked at what tools each platform has and asked, “does that meet faculty needs?” Prospective platforms had to be user-friendly, not too difficult to learn, and possess capabilities to be integrated with technology BU already supported.
BU has had success with using ePortfolios for assessment, so only platforms with ePortfolio capability were investigated. Blackboard contains ePortfolio functionality, but it is divided into two separate areas called “myEdu” and “Blackboard portfolios.” They each lacked important features, such as portfolio permanency, extractable URLs, organization of portfolios by course, and general attractiveness. PebblePad and FolioTek were also strongly considered. FolioTek has a slick, new interface and was even piloted in the Questrom School of Business, but the program encountered significant bugs. PebblePad had significant advantage of its integration with Blackboard, but the customer service was difficult to navigate and portfolios did not have shareable URLs.
Two other programs were considered for replacement of Digication, both of which had the advantage of already being known to many students and instructors: WordPress and Google Sites. Both were noted for their ease of use for student users, but they had significant drawbacks on the instructors’ side of the platforms. Neither platform could group portfolios into a course, nor were either of them automatically integrated with BU-supported tools like Blackboard.
Ultimately, EdTech found that there was not significant enough benefits in switching to new technologies for our assessment and LMS systems. EdTech recommended that BU continue its strong relationships with Blackboard and Digication.