Last year, Educational Technology supported a committee of faculty and students to evaluate our current Learning Management System (LMS), Blackboard. This LMS Review effort was part of a larger project to understand whether the portfolio of learning technologies we had implemented on campus contained the best tools to meet the needs of instructors and students on our campus.
The committee did a great job working together and asking the hard questions about teaching and learning needs on our campus. We helped facilitate several open forums where feedback from students was gathered to help the committee understand students’ needs and desires. In late fall the LMS Review committee decided to look at other learning management systems to better understand the entire picture of potential learning management systems’ capabilities. According to the committee, “If we’ve never seen anything else, how do we know we are even asking the right questions?”
The committee focused in on the major LMS offerings, Desire2Learn, Canvas, Sakai, and Blackboard. A scoring guide was developed help the evaluation process. (This scoring guide can be found on the Resources portion of the project website.) After preliminary evaluation by the committee, the three finalist LMS vendors were invited to make campus presentations. Following the campus visits, further hands-on evaluation of the products continued. In March, with the evaluation of products completed, the committee unanimously recommended that Canvas would better serve the teaching and learning needs of Missouri S&T. But what does that mean? EdTech has never guided the campus through such a significant change in a foundational learning technology software like this before. What were the steps? It seemed around every corner we have found more steps that need to be taken in order to make this happen. If our campus changes LMS, what about the other UM campuses? How might this affect the UM Course Sharing Initiative? What about procurement?
Since S&T completed our evaluation, Columbia campus has started theirs. MU’s timeline is to evaluate possibilities and gather information through this semester. They plan to make a recommendation by the end of the fall 2014 semester. UMKC has indicated a desire to stay with Blackboard, but is exploring the alternative of having Blackboard, Inc. host their server. There seems to be a lot of activity around LMS across the System!
There has also been an announcement about the evaluation of the ERP (JoeSS, finance, HR) from the President. This is a major endeavor that affects many functional groups across the system. Unfortunately, this appears to be the major stumbling block for further progress toward implementing a better LMS for S&T. Upper UM System administration is asking us to wait on any decisions about the LMS until after there is a plan in place to address the needs of the ERP, latest estimate is 6-9 months.
There are always complexities in this sort of decision and implementation plan. Some are anticipated, some are not. EdTech and the LMS Review committee are continuing to work diligently to resolve the issues that arise in order to settle once and for all what learning management system S&T will be using. For the time being, and through spring 2015 at least, it remains Blackboard.
I can assure you that no matter what LMS is chosen; EdTech will be here to help you. Our goal is to do what is best to address the teaching and learning mission of our campus. As of right now, an extended demonstration phase of Canvas is occurring where EdTech is really digging into the back-end management process and working to understand how everything works while a limited number of faculty and students continue to use Canvas for some classes. Additional feedback from the faculty and students using Canvas this semester will help inform us and the other campuses as we move forward with the LMS discussion and decision. We will continue to work with UM System to understand the process for making this change and what steps we need to complete. If you have any questions about what is happening don’t hesitate to contact us. Stayed tuned for future developments!