CTL Blog

Merging the Online Courses and CoursePlus Systems

January 22, 2014 | 3 Minute Read

Over the past few weeks, Center representatives have attended departmental faculty meetings to let them know about a a major change coming to CoursePlus in May, 2014: we're merging the online course system and CoursePlus into a single website, CoursePlus.jhsph.edu.

There are a number of benfits to this merge:

  • A better experience for everyone by having all courses in the same website
  • Better tools for on-campus courses, which have missed out on features previously available to online courses only
  • Improved opportunities for interaction, especially for on-campus courses
  • The ability for the Center to deliver new features faster by focusing on a single system

Those who have taught an online course will not notice too many changes, as the online course system is the basis of the new CoursePlus. The biggest change for faculty who have taught online is that all courses — on-campus and online — will be avialable in the same website and use the same tools. Additionally, you'll be able to sign into the merged CoursePlus using your JHSPH username and password for the courses on which you are primary faculty.

For those who have not taught online before, the system will be a bit different. The biggest change will be to the course home page and the "faculty tools" area. In the current CoursePlus, faculty and editors view a site that is very much separate from what students see. In the merged system, just as in online courses, faculty will see everything that students see, and will have access to all tools on a single page (rather than jumping through multiple pages to get to the tools they use). Additionally, there will be an entirely new and vastly improved discussion forum (the same one used in online courses), a rich text editor that supports LaTeX markup for equations, a peer assessment tool, better student site activity reports, an improved Quiz Generator, and more.

There is one feature of the current CoursePlus which will not be part of the new, merged system: the ability to turn individual features (Drop Box, Online Library, Quizzes, etc) on or off. It's important for students to have a consistent experience in a course management system, and when some courses have some features turned on, and other courses have those same features turned off, it is confusing to students. Additionally, many CTL Help requests relate direclty to a feature being turned off when, in fact, the faculty or TAs needed that feature to be available to students and not realizing they had turned that feature off in their CoursePlus site. By keeping all features on all the time, students, TAs, and faculty should have a better experience.

All content currently in CoursePlus and online courses will be copied into the merged system, so you don't have to worry about content being lost. While there will definitely be downtime for CoursePlus during the last week of May, 2014, while we make the change official, you can still work on CoursePlus sites for courses and that content will be copied over when the new CoursePlus goes live.

Online courses, which currently reside on distance.jhsph.edu, will be located at CoursePlus.jhsph.edu after this change. Requests to distance.jhsph.edu website will redirect to CoursePlus.jhsph.edu automatically, although you will need to update any bookmarks you may have which point to distance.jhsph.edu, as those will not redirect automatically.

The Center will offer training sessions for the new, merged CoursePlus starting in June and then throughout the next academic year to show faculty and editors what's new and different in the merged system. Additionally, we'll be providing an overview video of what's changing once we get closer to the actual launch date of the new CoursePlus.

We're very excited about this change and know that it's going to bring a better experience to everyone who uses CoursePlus. If you have questions, comments, or concerns about this change, please reach out to us!