Students transition to the Learning Management System called the Academic Collaboration Environment when they come to the University of Indianapolis. Professors have differing opinions about ACE and how to use it.
According to Senior Director of Information and Technology Amber Weishaar, faculty surveys have shown professors have complaints about ACE but still would like to continue using the software in an effort to save the time of having to retrain all faculty members on a new LMS.
Professor of Business Joseph Bell also teaches at other universities that use an LMS system called Blackboard. Blackboard is an alternative that UIndy has looked into for a new LMS system. Bell said that there are good features in both systems.
“I really like the Messages and Chat Room tab and that you are able to move entire folders into the Resources tab [using ACE] and not just individual files like you have to do on other LMSes,” Bell said. “Overall, I think Blackboard is easier to set up and seems to be more user-friendly for students and the professor. ACE is a good system, and the best way to improve its use is to require that it be used fully by everyone.”
One problem students mention about using ACE is turning in assignments electronically. Submitting assignments electronically can pose the problem of students’ computers not functioning properly as the students are turning in assignments, or in junior criminal justice major Josh Romano’s case, turning in an assignment and having it get lost in the database.
According to Romano, the professor was able to see the time stamp when the assignment was submitted, but not the assignment itself.
“I think ACE has beneficial components, like being able to see your syllabus and your current grade, but I really don’t like having to electronically submit assignments because of the inconsistency it [ACE] can have,” Romano said.
According to Weishaar, a common problem students have when they start to use ACE is that a course is not listed on the top menu bar with all of the other current courses. This is usually because the professor does not use ACE.
ACE is an LMS provided by the open-source software company called Sakai. According to Sakai’s website, the software company is open-sourced because it carries a license grant giving users the right to modify and distribute the software.
An active community of institutions and commercial affiliates drives the members who participate in Sakai’s open source system. These members are the developers of ACE and have the rights to make changes to the LMS.
UIndy found Sakai through a software vendor named Longsight. According to Longsight’s website, it provides expertise on which software programs would be most beneficial and can then host the specified software. Weishaar said she has limited control when it comes to fixing problems with ACE, such as user modifications, bugs and updating software.
“Our role with ACE primarily focuses on vendor management, so we don’t actually have Sakai hosted here,” Weishaar said. “We have it hosted with a vendor named Longsight, and they’re the ones who really run the database and software itself. We then have conversations with them [Longsight] about anything that is going on and making sure the data is going back and forth between our campus systems and ACE as it’s hosted there [Longsight].”
Professors are recommended to use the Faculty Learning/Design Studio before starting classes on ACE. The FLDS assists professors who use ACE, and instructs them on effective ways of teaching with the LMS. According to Instructional Technologist at the FLDS and Assistant Professor Beth Kiggins, different parts of ACE like forums and gradebook can be challenging to fully use.
“I think helping them [professors] use the tool [ACE] effectively, especially for faculty who are teaching online, will ultimately make it easier for students to access the content online,” Kiggins said. “…If professors want to do online testing and randomize the questions, answers and put time deadlines on tests, that can require more assistance from us [FLDS].”