SU relaunches its online learning platform
Silliman University recently relaunched its online learning platform, the Silliman Online University Learning (SOUL). The new SOUL is powered by Blackboard Open LMS and will cater to 21st century learners through digital learning tools and technology that will be utilized by SU faculty starting June 2019.
During the launch and unveiling of the new SOUL at Silliman Hall, SU and Blackboard Open LMS also signed a partnership contract. Dr. Dave E. Marcial, College of Computer Studies dean, said SOUL is an online learning management system (LMS) that uses modern educational technology to improve the programs and services of SU to benefit students and the community.
Because most of the students today belong to the generation of digital natives who have access to many mobile learning tools and technology, Marcial said, SU shall augment the quality, delivery, and accessibility of curriculum content to its students through SOUL.
“That’s the trend today—that content should be accessible, that students and teachers should be mobile, and that learning should be anytime and anywhere,” said Marcial.
SOUL was first launched in 2013, but because of other “equally important” educational landscape challenges such as the K-12 implementation, Marcial explained, it was not given much importance during that time.
Last December 2018, SU partnered with Blackboard Open LMS, Inc. to improve the existing SOUL system and start conducting a series of training courses for SU faculty and staff to prepare for the full implementation of the new SOUL by June 2019.
“Our learning management platform (SOUL) is powered by Blackboard Open LMS, [which means] the platform that we use is provided by Blackboard,” said Marcial. Blackboard Open LMS, Inc. will also be in charge of SOUL’s technical management such as maintenance, hosting, security, and updates.
CCS started implementing training courses in 2018 to retool and upskill SU faculty and staff. “Most of the training that we delivered last year [were] actually preparatory skills or pre-requisite skills that are required to utilize a technology like a learning management system that is powered by Blackboard,” said Marcial.
In April CCS conducted a weeklong Blackboard Open LMS End-User Training for about 90 faculty members from all departments to familiarize themselves with all the features of the new SOUL LMS.
The Educational Technology Department of CCS coordinates training on Blackboard Open LMS and the implementation of SOUL. Educational Technology Department Chairperson Alfie Arcelo said the department was established primarily for faculty and staff retooling in ICT (Information Communication Technology) skills, especially in the use of Blackboard Open LMS.
Arcelo said the next training for faculty on the third or fourth week of May will be a follow-up training where participants will develop actual courses using the new SOUL LMS. Aside from Blackboard Open LMS, Inc., CCS also has collaborated with BEENET Singapore Pte Ltd. and Microsmith Technology Systems, Inc. for the training.
“Blackboard [Open] LMS training for faculty will continue [in] the next three years,” said Arcelo.
Marcial mentioned that many SU teachers are already using digital tools for their classes, but these are the various tools available online, none of which are institutionalized in SU.
“[These different digital tools used by teachers are] not a system; [they are] not connected to each other. This time, we want all our faculty to really patronize [SOUL powered by Blackboard Open LMS] because this will help us centralize [and] because Blackboard can serve as our repository of materials,” he said.
In an interview with SU faculty member Royanni Miel M. Hontucan, Jale Nonan, principal consultant of BEENET Singapore Pte Ltd. and main resource person at the LMS end-user training, said that SOUL is not a replacement for paper-based learning, but rather a supplement for teachers to extend and improve classroom teaching through accessible technology and features that learners of today are familiar with.
Nonan also said that traditional teaching techniques alone are not enough for learners today, hence there is a need for educators to utilize technology as a way of enhancing students’ learning experience.
(Photos from Blackboard Open LMS Philippines’ Facebook page)