College’s Desire2Learn becomes Desire for New eLearner System

By Robert Frenke

Maintaining a full course load on campus while working a full time job, or even raising kids is nearly impossible for some students at the college. Many problems arise, such as conflicting schedules, sick kids and any number of unforeseen incidents that might occur throughout a semester. Many schools offer Instructional Management Systems (IMS), such as the Desire 2 Learn (D2L) learning suite. The online courses the college offers allow students to attend classes when they can fit them into their schedules from the comfort of their homes, attempting to make it possible for full time students to maintain full time lives.

The D2L website,, calls it “a user friendly, intuitive learning management system with sophisticated course building capabilities, extensive reporting, assessment and collaboration options, and unparalleled flexibility for matching the learning environment to the unique administrative, teaching, or learning preferences of the organization.” Hundreds of clients have chosen D2L to assist them with their learning requirements. These organizations have entrusted their brand and their success to D2L, according to the website.

The college implemented D2L in 2008, replacing its predecessor, Blackboard. Personally I find D2L to be a less than desirable IMS. On top of monthly scheduled maintenance, D2L sometimes goes down for upgrades, glitches in the system, and just generally needed repairs which can make it difficult for both the faculty and students.

Take the case of Paul Pagano, a non matriculated student. He took one online class last semester and found it more time consuming than either of the two classes he took on campus, and did worse in it the than any other class. He had problems receiving answers from his professors in a timely manner and often found the system glitchy. Pagano also said that he often had trouble logging on during times that fit into his schedule due to maintenance issues.

Many students and faculty find the system both difficult and complicated to use. They encounter glitches and other problems as their courses progress. So, I decided to check some other institutions using the D2L system to see how they’re fairing with it.

What were the results?

“Some instructors reported frustration with slow file uploads and nondescript error messages, but the system was not down or otherwise unusable for lengthy periods as it was during those critical first weeks last semester. Having moved to D2L from Blackboard exclusively last spring, the problems in the fall were a real nightmare,” according to the article “D2L Off to a Better Start this Term” released on the WSU eLearner, the Washington State University’s Word Press site. Although, the article said it was off to a better start this year, a later article reported some of the same problems.

In February of last year Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN, released an article, “Students have problems with D2L,” which stated “Some APSU students are currently unable to access online classes through the link provided by APSU OneStop – causing them to fall behind in the first few weeks of school.
Not knowing why they cannot log into D2L or how to log in directly (rather than through OneStop) many students have missed class work and deadlines.” The article continued to say that it was due to an unexpected upgrade and they didn’t know of any other institution that had run into this problem, although many other institutions have reported similar problems.

Maybe it’s time to think of some possible solution. One possibility is to wait and hope that D2L will fix all the bugs, and actually make it a much more “user friendly” system. A more realistic option might be to get rid of D2L and adopt another IMS.

Canvas, just one of many other IMS’s, offers many more options than D2L. I think it has a sleeker design, smoother interface and more tools that would make it an all around more user friendly system for both the faculty and student body. Information about Canvas can be found on its website at

One instructor, Christopher Danielson, from Minnesota State University has made the switch to the Canvas in his own classes, although the institution currently uses D2L. Danielson’s started a blog comparing the two systems that can be found at

In his blog he posts pictures comparing D2L and Canvas. He describes different aspects and generally coming to the conclusion that Canvas is much easier to navigate through.

“Canvas is a tool that has been designed for the ways people use the web. The designers have thought through the things students will want to find there, and they have incorporated these things from the ground up,” according to his blog.

Canvas is only one of many options that will hopefully be considered once SCCCs contract with D2L has finished. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t too early to start researching other options for improving SCCC’s IMS.

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