AWS Public Sector Blog

Simpson College and eThink Education: Promoting institutional success through Moodle

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe in the initial months of 2020, colleges and universities saw their regular learning plans upended. In many instances, in only a week, higher education institutions reconfigured their pedagogical infrastructure for hundreds or thousands of students with widely varying requirements and learning environments.

Given the circumstances and the tight timeframe, it was natural for many schools to rely on their existing learning management systems (LMS) in order to transition to fully online learning. Learn how Simpson College went several steps further, leveraging its Moodle LMS not only to provide its courses but also to fuel success for students and the institution, and set up a new way of operating beyond the pandemic.

Helping faculty transition online

Founded in 1860, Simpson College is a liberal arts college located in Indianola, Iowa, with 1,500 students and a curriculum of 70 majors, minors, and pre-professional programs. Drawing from its Methodist heritage, the school seeks to serve the diverse communities of the Midwest through its core values of discovery, access, citizenship, belonging, justice, and integrity.

Simpson’s experience with Moodle began before the pandemic when it worked with Amazon Web Services (AWS) Partner eThink Education to assist with the hosting and management of the popular LMS. eThink Education uses AWS to host client LMS sites in a secure, flexible environment. With AWS, eThink Education can provide their customers with a secure solution that helps with uptime and scalability, and allow sites to be geographically hosted in accordance with each customer’s requirements.

When the pandemic forced Simpson College to move fully online, the college was able to move 238 courses, taught by a combination of 90 full-time and 50 part-time faculty, onto Moodle with eThink’s help. To facilitate the transition, the college harnessed the knowledge of its academic software support peer mentor team, which organized a faculty course with a series of department-specific sessions. These courses were supplemented by faculty support hours conducted through in-person and online sessions, as well as a team of staff members that assisted with building Moodle question banks to assist faculty in creating assessments.

The college also supported faculty by organizing a captioning team made up of staff who, because of the pandemic, did not have enough tasks to fill an eight-hour daily workload. In addition to maintaining continuity of employment, the captioning program also promoted efficiency and retention, allowing faculty to focus on creating strong content that would be more widely accessible.

Boosting learning and campus life

One of the reasons Simpson College was able to be so versatile in the face of the pandemic is because they were already leveraging a number of useful integrations within their Moodle site that allowed them to adapt the way they used their LMS to meet their new learning needs. These integrations with the LMS allowed Simpson College to incorporate tools for web conferencing, writing assistance, reporting and analytics, online tutoring, and more.

For web conferencing and support, there is Zoom and Panopto. For writing assistance, there is Grammarly. IntelliBoard provides reporting analytics that allow the school to track engagement, retention, and performance—data that is vital for reporting on the learning progress and allowing advisors to intervene proactively when students are struggling. For online tutoring, Simpson College made Smarthinking available to students during the pandemic. These plugins are readily available and easy to find and launch via the school’s main Moodle site.

Simpson’s Moodle site has also become the host for events that go beyond academic learning and support. Its Upward Bound program—usually held in person—was transformed into an online mini-class including weekly activities with tutors and mentors. It proved so successful that the school is weighing the option of turning it into a permanent supplement to the in-person course in years to come. The school also turned to Moodle to run its Simpson Orientation, Advising, and Registration (SOAR) program, turning it into a one-day synchronous session in June combined with a Moodle course filled with the information incoming students needed, including academic technology tutorials and information, details on security and parking, the student handbook, career development resources, counseling, and more.

A flexible platform for excellence

As Simpson College has shown, the potential for Moodle extends beyond course learning to include faculty support, academic assistance, and social outreach, as well as campus health and safety. Thanks to its collaboration with eThink Education, they designed a unique platform that continues to build institutional excellence through the pandemic and beyond.

Learn more about how Moodle can promote institutional success and overcome a variety of challenges. Request a demonstration from eThink Education, an AWS Advanced Technology Partner with an Education Competency. And learn more about the cloud for higher education.