Blackboard vs Desire2Learn–the low-down on the new learning module

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For new students at UNBSJ, Desire2Learn is all that they’ll ever know. For the returning students, it’s a brand new online learning resource quite different from the former program, Blackboard. Whether you love it or hate it, Desire2Learn is here to stay and how it came to be was a big undertaking for UNB.

Blackboard’s licence was going to expire in mid August, 2012, and a decision on whether to keep the program needed to be made.

Well before the expiration of Blackboard, a focus group of students, staff and faculty met to discuss and decide whether they were going to renew the licence or look for an alternative company. Knowing that Blackboard was also upgrading their program to Blackboard Learn and that would require retraining for the staff, it was left as an option but not necessarily the answer to UNB’s search for something new.

After a yearlong study and the development of a business model, the call was put out to companies looking to join the team at UNB. Interested companies were required to submit proposals and convince the university to choose them.

While Blackboard did make the short list of potential companies, it was a unanimous decision that D2L would be the best fit for UNB’s needs. Mary Astorino, Instructional Technology Consultant, played a major role in making the decision toward choosing Desire2Learn and owes it to the personal investment that they made in the university. “We received good vibes from the company,” says Astorino, “One of their representatives cut his vacation short just to meet with us and discuss D2L.”

The personal touch that D2L provided left a good impression on the focus group and ultimately a decision was made. Blackboard presented their proposal through webinars and although well done, it was much less personal.

With both Blackboard and Desire2Learn costing roughly the same amount, UNB found D2L to be very supportive and willing to do what they could for the university. Based out of Kitchener Ontario, D2L is very accommodating to what the school needs and very efficient on answering ticket issues that may arise.

As far as features go, Blackboard and D2L can basically do the same thing. While Blackboard works through the use of icons, Desire2Learn is module-based with a table of contents.

So far the faculty and staff have been very supportive of the change from Blackboard to Desire2Learn. A few pilot classes tried the program out in the winter term of 2012 and their feedback was greatly appreciated. There have also been a number of training sessions set up to teach professors how to make the best of the program and the attendance has been high. Roughly 150 professors have made it out to this workshops and the IT department has a number of upcoming sessions for the month of October.

Astorino suggests that if students do not like D2L, it is probably because they don’t know how to use it yet. If students have any questions about D2L, they’re encouraged to visit the Student Tech Centre in the HWK Commons building. The staff are well trained in the program and will try to solve your issues firsthand. If they can’t, they’ll point you in the right direction.

If you have any feedback or suggestions as to what you would like to see happen with D2L, don’t hesitate to contact the IT department.



Emily is in her fourth year of Political Science. She loves studying and academics which follows into her research work. She's a stern black coffee drinker and is a proud Acadienne. When she's not working or doing school work, you can find Emily listening to 70s music on vinyl and watching Parks and Recreation. If you ask her about parliamentary institutions, she won't stop talking.