Challenge: Best Practices for a Blackboard to Moodle Course Conversion

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Here’s a new type of post, a challenge really.  I’m working on a pilot course conversion from Blackboard to Moodle.  The course has been in production in one way or another for about 18 months and has seen a sizable number of student (enough to know that there are very few remaining usability problems).  The challenge is that course conversion (despite what any consultant or hosting company might say) is very difficult between an LMS and any other.  The process is rarely as simple as just transferring course files (for which there are some great tools for: ConversionThingy2, LSU course converter, bFree, etc.).  In my case I need to replicate the look and feel, but most importantly the overall experience and easy usability of the original course…just on Moodle.

The Blackboard the course looks good, has smooth navigation and provides roughly 40 pages of data using the default Blackboard course structure (which if you aren’t familiar with, provides a very flexible template for adding data and new pages or “content folders” very easily).

Each of the 17 topic areas is structured with the following items:

  • prompts or checklists (which highlight the “to-do” items for each topic area,
  • suggested reading and assignment,
  • quizzes/tests,
  • review games/exercises

There are several additional “Topics” which provide course resources and links to external sites which are integral to the course (but are independent of course enrollment; e.g. they could be linked to through a simple HTML block).  The overall experience currently looks like this (there is some scrolling, but not too much):

However: converting the course to Moodle has posed some interesting problems.  The first is that the flexible course structure is not a standard feature of Moodle. The 2nd is that the scroll of death is an acute issue seeing as there are 14+ activities/resources per topic.  As you can see from the screen shot below, the main course page becomes very difficult to manage.

What’s not apparent from the screenshot above is that the scroll goes down to 17 topics!  Needless to say this is a prime example of “scroll of death”.  I have a few options in redesigning the course, and not all of  the activities and resources listed are integral to the course (many are removed in the Blackboard version already).  But I’m hesitant to implement some of the tips and tricks highlighted here at Moodlenews (namely, making the course look more like a webpage) as it might cause some really distinct management/admin issues (not to mention that it will take a long time to setup).

Here are a few of my thoughts so far:

Other thoughts?  Any suggestions on creating a new course design which would be as flexible and usable as the current course (which is in Blackboard) within Moodle?  I’ll be sure to share my progress and struggles as this course get’s the full treatment.  Any helpful hints are welcome in the comments.

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