By Lori Dresner, Managing Editor/News Editor

 

The recent learning management system (LMS) transition and improvement of sustainability on campus were the main topics discussed at the Student Government Association (SGA) meeting at the University of Missouri–St. Louis on March 3.

Three guest speakers opened the meeting by discussing the campus’ LMS migration from Blackboard to Canvas, which began on January 1. Daren Curry, director of the Gateway for Online and Adult Learners (GOAL), said that Blackboard and Canvas will be running parallel until December 31, when the complete migration to Canvas must be complete. Until then, faculty are allowed to choose either Blackboard or Canvas as the LMS on which they host their classes.

Curry explained that the rationale to migrate to Canvas came down to a few factors.

“We [the entire campus] felt that Canvas was more modern than the Blackboard system. … We also felt that it’s much more mobile-friendly. … It’s also much more supportive of different projects and different activities that you would be involved in,” he said.

He also noted that the cost of implementing Canvas was substantially lower than that of Blackboard, although specific costs were not made available during the meeting.

Dylan Herx, instructional designer for the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), and Kristen Wilke, specialist for academic success for GOAL, spoke further about the features of Canvas and took questions from students regarding the transition.

Herx noted that a migration process would have been necessary regardless of which LMS the campus had chosen.

“Even if we had stayed with Blackboard, eventually we would need to make a change like this, because [Blackboard is] developing a product that is so vastly different than what is currently offered in MyGateway, that we would have had to change either way,” said Herx.

“Canvas has the more proven product because theirs has been done for a while, and they are continually improving it,” he added, noting that 45 faculty members are already teaching courses on Canvas this spring.

Representatives from UMSL Sustainability also addressed the audience. Sustainable energy and environmental coordinator, Katy Mike Smaistrla, and 3R’s specialist and student assistant, Megan Mayfield, sophomore, undeclared, discussed improving sustainability on campus and increasing student involvement in that effort.

“There wasn’t a lot of student input when I came to campus and started on this goal-setting process four and a half years ago,” said Smaistrla. “So now it may be a good time to actually revisit some of these concepts and decide ‘Is this still applicable, or can we do even better?'”

The Campus Sustainability Action Plan includes a list of efforts to make the campus a greener place. Smaistrla said that these include green dining, recycling, using methods of alternative transportation, and ensuring that the new buildings on campus meet environmental standards.

“I think that there are a lot of overlaps between what I’m working on and what SGA is consumed by,” said Smaistrla.

Smaistrla and Mayfield encouraged all students to attend the next Green Team meeting on March 7 at 3:30 p.m. in the Fireside Lounge in the Millennium Student Center. Students who cannot be present at the meeting can attend via Google Hangouts.

Following the guest speakers, the SGA representatives presented their reports. SGA president Kathryn Loucks, senior, biology, said during the President’s Report that the opportunity to file for 2017-2018 SGA positions ended Friday. She noted that four candidates had filed for executive positions, and 14 candidates had filed for senator positions.

Comptroller Sean Burkett, junior, psychology, discussed Governor Eric Greitens’ recent proposed budget cut of nine percent to the University of Missouri System.

“The nine percent of what we were expecting [to be cut], we got less cut than that, so we kind of lucked out a little bit. But from Greitens’ budget cut, we’re still suffering a little bit from it,” he said.

Emphasizing transparency, Burkett assured audience members that the SGA representatives will be meeting with administrators at the university about the budget situation and will keep students updated with the information they receive from them.

Burkett also presented an update on Student Activity Budget Committee (SABC) allocations. According to Burkett, the first round of student organizations’ budget presentations to SABC ended Friday. The deadline to sign up for the March 10 budget presentation meeting was Friday, and the deadlines to sign up for the March 17 and March 24 dates are approaching.

Burkett also presented numbers on the SABC allocation for SGA. The total allocation SGA received from SABC was $21,934. After total expenditures of $5,287, SGA’s total available funds amount to $16,646.05.

The next SGA meeting will be held on April 14.