LMS Update

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!

FINAL REMINDER: Blackboard Open Forum on October 2, 2013

Educational Technology will be hosting a second open forum about Blackboard and Learning Management Systems (LMS) in general on Wednesday, October 2, 2013, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the main atrium of the Havener Center. Students, faculty, and staff are all welcome to attend. Refreshments will be provided. Participants will be eligible to win a door prize.

If you have not yet taken the Blackboard/LMS Review survey, please take a few minutes to do so. Participants can elect to be entered into a drawing for a prize!

http://tinyurl.com/LMS-Review
(Survey is available until Tuesday, October 1, 2013)

Statement from EdTech on New Building Blocks in Blackboard and Other Technologies

Pearson Education recently sent an announcement to several instructors that a new building block for Blackboard was now available, similar to other publishing company building blocks (e.g. McGraw Hill Connect). We will not be able to deploy the Pearson building block at the beginning of the Fall semester 2012.

We here in Educational Technology (EdTech) are always excited with new technologies become available, but timing is often a critical issue for us. In this case, Pearson announced the release of their building block just before the beginning of the semester before we had a chance to thoroughly evaluate it.

Whenever new learning technologies are released on campus, we here in EdTech take three things into consideration:

  1. First and foremost, it must pass a thorough security audit to ensure that confidential student and faculty information is not compromised and that the integrity of the network will not also be compromised. We take both issues very, very seriously.The Pearson building block so far has not passed this first test to our satisfaction.
  2. New technology must also be tested to ensure that it will work well with the other technologies that have been installed on campus. This is often a very challenging process, but in most cases we are able to find an acceptable solution.Again, the Pearson building block for Blackboard does not meet our expectations for how well the technology will work from inside Blackboard.
  3. Finally, EdTech staff needs time in order to become familiar with the technology ourselves. We will not be able to provide adequate support to our campus community unless we have a thorough understanding of how the technology works, including any potential quirks. Our general preference is to have the technology made available to us (EdTech) in our development environment in the semester prior to its deployment to the production environment. In practice, this means that we want access to the technology in the Spring semester if it will be used in the Fall. This gives us the opportunity to test the technology, learn how it all works, and use the Summer semester as an early-adopter phase for some instructors.Once again, Pearson Education has not been able to meet this simple requirement despite our repeated requests.

Our commitment in Educational Technology is to provide the instructors we support with the best possible experience we can with the technologies that are available. Only when technology has met the three basic requirements above do we feel comfortable supporting it for the campus.

As always, we welcome all feedback from our campus community on this or any other educational technology issue.

Netbooks: A Transitional Technology

netboook-smartphone-01.pngWe here at EdTech Enterprises have recently been examining the possibility of using a “netbook” for some applications instead of heavier and more bulky standard laptop or tablet PCs.

However, I recently came across a couple of good articles that look at some of advantages and disadvantages of netbooks in comparison to other technologies.

Jeff Medcalf at the Eternity Road blog investigates whether netbooks are actually useful. He lays out his criteria in terms of the use cases and function points of the most widely used technology. Basically, each technology needs to match up what the technology can actually do (its function points) against what people actually want or need to do (use cases). We do this all the time in EdTech with faculty. In many instances we try to find out what an instructor wants to do and then try to find the appropriate technology to match that need.

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