The new generation of the Compass learning-management system does more than point instructors and students in the right direction; it literally gives them the tools to forge their own teaching and learning paths.
"It is much improved and offers many new and helpful features," said Konstantinos Yfantis, the acting manager of teaching and learning services for Campus Information Technology and Educational Services.
Illinois Compass 2g (powered by Blackboard Learn 9.1) was introduced to campus users last year, though nearly one-third of instructors have yet to make the transition prior to the December deadline.
On Dec. 31, the original Compass system (powered by Blackboard Vista) will be decommissioned, with only archived class content available.
"They will still have access to the content for old courses they have on Compass for two more years, but this will be the last semester we offer both services," Yfantis said. "Starting in January, Compass 2g will be their only choice from CITES."
Those who have yet to make the switch, which includes faculty and teaching assistants, will not be left on an island, however.
Yfantis said CITES has scheduled several training sessions to help faculty members transition to the new system, and that new-and-improved tutorials make the self-training process easier than ever.
"We offer consulting and training and even one-on-one help if somebody needs it," he said. "There is a lot of training available and we are always here to assist."
Yfantis said the transition is made easier because the same vendor created the interface of both systems.
He said the new features of Compass 2g include a simplified grading center, a student academic "early warning" monitoring system and an improved plagiarism detector. Compass 2g also gives users the ability to send emails to students from within the system to their Illinois.edu email address.
"We're asking those who haven't made the switch to try it as soon as they can and see how quickly they can adapt," he said. "If it looks like it may be difficult, then there's still enough time to attend a training session or ask for assistance."
Marie-Christine Brunet, the assistant dean for undergraduate programs in the College of Engineering, said when she inherited an engineering course from another instructor last year, she was worried it might be difficult to adapt to the new system after being away from Compass for so long.
After accessing tutorials at Lynda.com, she realized it wouldn't be as painful as she first thought.
"The videos were just the right length, so it was a real time saver," she said. "I learned how to use the different parts of Compass 2g and tweaked the class the way I wanted it."
She said she's also been impressed with the grading center feature.
"In particular, it is very convenient to be able to upload and download grade files, and it was easy to set it up the way I wanted it - again, thanks to Lynda.com," she said.
Yfantis said work to improve the system doesn't stop at the next-generation transition deadline.
"There are still improvements we are working on and we are very receptive to any ideas anyone may have," he said.
In fact, CITES is forming a campus advisory board to funnel ideas for changes or improvements straight to the vendor to facilitate the recommendations as quickly as possible.
"We're inviting faculty members and students who are using the system to provide feedback," he said. "We value that input; it's critical in determining whether the service is meeting their needs."