The University of South Dakota Faculty Senate is endorsing a new policy requiring all 100 and 200-level course instructors to use the Desire2Learn grade book feature and post a syllabus.
According to the Faculty Senate minutes, the proposal was presented on behalf of the office of academic affairs and approved by the faculty senate at the Dec. 4 meeting. The policy goes into effect starting fall 2014.
Bruce Kelley, the director for the Center for Teaching and Learning, presented the policy to the senate.
Kelley said the main rationale for the policy is to improve retention.
“I don’t know that we have hard data, but we’ve heard over and over again from student comments that they want faculty to use the learning management system (D2L),” he said.
First-year Amanda Hanson said all of her professors use D2L as part of their classroom instruction.
“It’s definitely helpful when they post our grades on D2L so that we can know what they are at all times and make sure that we’re doing well,” she said. “It’s helpful with the syllabus as well in case you lose the copy that they give you.”
Kelley said it is known that frequent assessment improves students learning and is an important part of retention, especially for first and second year students.
While Hanson admits she has had friends complain about their professors not using D2L for their grades, she is unsure if it will help retention in certain classes.
“It’s a lot more convenient and people will be more aware, but I don’t think it will stop people from dropping classes,” she said.
In an effort to preserve the right of the faculty to use the educational technology they considered best for their classrooms, the policy is limited to 100 and 200-level courses.
“We wanted to implement it in such a way to make sure the faculty had the right training,” Kelley said. “It could move to 300 and 400-level courses in the future.”
Regarding faculty reactions to the policy, Kelley said there has been justifiable concern, but no real complaints. Kelley said some of those concerns involve a faculty member’s freedom to control their own classroom.
“When you look at a faculty member’s traditional role, this is the university pretty seriously intervening in a faculty’s freedom, but we think it’s worth it for the potential benefits to students and faculty as well,” he said.
Rather than set up a list of exceptions and rules, Kelley said they decided to start with 100 and 200-level courses and the basics of using the grade book and the syllabus and hopefully they will want to start to use more of the features.
Kelley assumes a factor of hesitation to use D2L on the part of instructors is the idea of another technology to learn and overcome.
“For a long time D2L was associated with online, and face-to-face faculty may not understand some of the benefits of using it in their classrooms,” he said. “D2L use has gone up steadily — last year about one third of the courses used D2L. As far as we’re concerned it’s a great way for faculty to engage the students.”
Faculty members will go through four basic training sessions this spring which will help them learn the essentials of using D2L such as uploading a syllabus and maintaining a grade book.
Eventually, Kelley said he wants the policy to evolve into the entire faculty using D2L in some way.
“I would love to see all of our students fully engaged in their classrooms with a variety of techniques,” he said. “D2L is a great technology so the more that we get faculty to use it in ways that benefit students, that would be my goal.”
Follow reporter Payton Randle on Twitter @paytie_marie