It’s All About You:
NCUOne Ushers in New Age of Learning
at NCU

Written by Dena Roché

When a traditional brick and mortar university has a ribbon cutting for a new building, it’s a nice addition to their campus. When an online university launches an entirely new Learning Management System (LMS), it’s like unveiling an entirely new campus. That is exactly what happened on November 7, 2016, when NCUOne first went live at Northcentral University.

As the new LMS, NCUOne is a portal that houses University information, and most importantly, all of the coursework students need to complete on their path to a higher degree.

The PhD and Master of Science in Organizational Leadership (MSOL) programs were the first to transition to NCUOne. In mid-December, the Master of Science in Forensic Psychology and the PhD and Master of Science in Technology Innovation Management (TIM) programs made the switch and the new Master of Science in Accounting program was added. The plan is to offer every program on NCUOne by October 2017.

“NCUOne is a big step in the University building upon its ‘teaching by engagement’ model,” said NCU Provost Dr. David Harpool.

Once NCU decided that a new LMS was necessary, feedback was solicited from faculty, staff and students to ensure that the new program would meet the needs of everyone who used the system. According to Dr. Colin Marlaire, Senior Director of IT Service Delivery, the team spent more than a year planning and preparing to develop NCUOne, and most of 2016 building the platform.

“NCUOne is a big step in the University building upon its ‘teaching by engagement’ model.”

Dr. David Harpool, Provost

“We needed a new LMS because technology had advanced,” explained Harpool. “NCUOne isn’t your parent’s online learning environment. It is a giant step forward to a state-of the-art platform.”

To facilitate the actual course room on NCUOne, NCU purchased Desire2Learn’s BrightSpace platform and customized it.

“It made sense for us to build on what an industry leader had already done,” explained Marlaire. “We were able to leverage their investment.”

NCUOne is a big advancement, in terms of design and content, over its predecessor.

“It’s a more holistic experience,” said Dr. Ian Cooper, Vice-President of Student and Financial Services. “It provides our faculty the flexibility in delivering content, and students a more streamlined experience with more interesting content.”

According to Jason Benoit, an Academic and Finance Advisor and a student in the MSOL program, the first big difference people will notice is the appearance.

“It has a modern feel to it, which complements NCU’s reputation as a premier institution,” Benoit said.

The portal centralizes a large volume of information, making university services, financial aid information and other housekeeping items easier to find.

"It has a modern feel to it that goes with NCU being a premiere institution."

Jason Benoit, Academic and Finance Advisor and MSOL candidate

The heart and soul of NCUOne is the classroom, and the changes to it will revolutionize every NCU course moving forward. Technology has evolved to the point that pursuing a degree is far more than just reading assignments, writing papers, taking tests and earning grades.

“There are a lot more methods and tools in NCUOne for communicating,” explained Harpool. “We can use video, audio, email, web presentations, social media and more. We aren’t limited to a student submitting a paper and a professor returning it with a critique.”

This means that NCUOne can adapt to many more learning styles than before. In a University that values its unique one-to-one learning model, along with mentorship, this will have a significant impact. Faculty can specifically tailor material to fit the way their student learns best.

NCUOne also strengthens the one-to-one relationship by fostering more faculty/student interaction and engagement.

In NCUOne, coursework is presented in a new way. According to Benoit, the material is laid out on a week-by-week basis so everything needed for the week is in one location. There is less clicking and searching to find needed material. Another valuable upgrade is that NCUOne remembers where the student left off, so they don’t have to hunt to find their place when they return.

According to Marlaire, students will enjoy additional functionality including increased mobile capabilities, the ability to track their progression through the course and content, and customizable notifications.

“NCUOne has a robust menu of potential tools,” he said, “which we can continue to modify as we receive input from our students.”

While most students and faculty haven’t transitioned to NCUOne at the time this article was written, initial feedback is positive.

“As with any new deployment, there were some bumps, but the primary feedback is that both students and faculty think NCUOne will help them be more effective,” said Harpool.

Benoit, who has been using NCUOne since November, said that the new interface is much quicker and easier to use.

“Like any new software, you need to get comfortable with using it,” he said.

Faculty, staff and student training on NCUOne for the initial rollout has been completed. Additional training will continue as the NCUOne is implemented in phases through October 2017.

With NCUOne, the University ushers in a more dynamic style of teaching and learning. Student and faculty communication and engagement will increase, and the creative opportunities for presenting materials in an interesting and interactive way are limitless. The transition to NCUOne is truly a reflection of the University’s dedication and investment to improving the learning experience for all of our students.