Tufts last month launched Trunk, the university’s new learning management system (LMS), as a replacement for the outdated Blackboard system in an effort to create a common LMS platform for all of Tufts’ schools.
Trunk was created on a platform called Sakai, an open-source software, which is used by over 350 schools of higher education internationally. The name “trunk” was selected through a naming competition held in November.
“Sakai is actually the underlying system, and Trunk is the brand name of Sakai,” Director of Educational and Scholarly Technology Services Gina Siesing said.
According to Siesing, this is the first time that Tufts has implemented a university-wide LMS.
Trunk is currently in operation on the Medford campus, and other Tufts schools will make the transition in the coming months. In the fall of 2012, the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy will replace its current system, Angel, and use Trunk course and project sites instead, according to Siesing.Currently, the School of Dental Medicine, School of Medicine, and Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine schools still use the Tufts University Sciences Knowledgebase (TUSK).
“The plan is to eventually try to have Trunk and TUSK integrated in some way … As of now, people in the health sciences school can use Trunk specifically for the project sites,” Senior Faculty Development Consultant for UIT and Head of Communications for Trunk Rebecca Sholes said.
The new website features three major components that differ from its old counterpart: a customizable workspace, course sites and project sites, according to Sholes.
“[Project sites] are sites that can be used to support any type of collaborative work,” Sholes said.
Anyone with Tufts credentials can create a project site, including staff, faculty, and students, and they can then grant access to these sites to those unaffiliated with the university, she noted.
Unlike Blackboard, Trunk is compatible with Student Information System (SIS), and allows course sites to be automatically created as students register, Sholes said.
Students are able to use their Universal Tufts Login Name and password to access Trunk, according to Siesing.
“We can all use our Tufts username and password like we do for most of the applications at Tufts,” Siesing said. “That’s a change from Blackboard, where people had their own unique username and password.”
Siesing said that information available on TuftsLife and in the Mayer Campus Center and other strategic locations around campus will help students learn how to use the new system.
She added that those implementing the system are actively working with the faculty to ensure a smooth transition.
“From the faculty side, we are making sure faculty are aware of how to publish their course sites so that students can see them,” Siesing said.
Sholes described Trunk as user friendly, and noted that a new website, Trunk Support, will help those in need of assistance navigating the system.
The process of conceptualizing a new LMS for Tufts began several years ago when Neal Hirsig, assistant director of instructional services at Information Technology Services, put forth a proposal for a new system, according to Siesing.
“In 2008, we got approval to go forward with strategic planning for the replacement,” she said.
The creation of a the LMS platform started in April 2010, according to Manager of LMS Services Janet Hill. The university went through pilot processes and evaluated different systems after Blackboard went out of commission and selected Sakai last fall, Sholes noted.
Trunk will continue to extend its range of services in the future.
“We will be working on a project to deliver course evaluations and a project to pilot e-portfolios,” Hill said. “I’m excited about this. I think this is a critical piece of learning technology.”
Trunk has received favorable initial reviews from the professors who participated in training workshops, according to Siesing.
Over 320 of those who took part in the faculty workshops in May filled out evaluations.
“Their responses have been in the ninety percentile consistently,” she said.