By: Jenny Alejandra Hernández

New York City, NY, United States

Currently, the State University of New York (SUNY) in Plattsburgh has about 6,000 students enrolled – 5,639 undergraduates and 412 postgraduates.

In 2011, SUNY Plattsburgh decided to move its online course offerings to the Moodle learning management system. Since then, they have seen an impressive increase in the creation of courses each semester across all modalities: fully online, hybrid/blended, and in support of face-to-face classes. Some 475 course sites were being created and managed by faculty every semester in 2011; today, over 775 course sites are developed each semester.

SUNY Plattsburgh attributes much of this success to the flexibility the platform offers. They have maximized this flexibility by developing their own plugins, such as:

· Trouble Report: a block that appears on all pages, making it possible for students to quickly send a support request that automatically includes necessary information regarding the course site and content being viewed, and the browser being used, along with instructor and student contact information

· Course Manager: helps instructors duplicate course sites, shift course sites from one semester to the next, dynamically populate course rosters

·  Library Resources: a contextually aware integration between Moodle and the library system, matching course sites with research guides so students can easily research topics from within their course

Amongst these, the Course Manager block has had the greatest positive impact with instructors at the university. It was created with the goal of eliminating any obstacles instructors might encounter when managing their course sites, giving the faculty full control over the creation of sites in both the production and development environments. The block allows faculty to roll over course sites from one semester to the next, attach one (or more) rosters of students to any of their sites, and create new sites (or duplicates of existing ones) in a test environment where they can experiment with new ideas and approaches. These tasks could be accomplished in Moodle without the block–given sufficient clicks, confirmations, and form fields–but the Course Manager block simplifies the procedures to the point where a single click is often all that’s needed. The block gives the faculty a measure of independence, letting them quickly perform complex tasks without support staff intervention, and the result has been that the faculty have been creating and refining more course sites with every passing semester.

For instructors and learners, these plugins have helped eliminate complicated workflows, reduce the number of clicks, and maximize the learner’s experience.

In the photo (left to right): TJ Myers, Thomas Burl, Karen Case, Peter Friesen, Shawn Aguglia, and Aaron Stanley, State University of New York (SUNY)

Photographer: Jason Greer