Category Archives: lms evaluation

Trends in learning management systems

The dots I’m connecting here:

As there are two kinds of ePortfolios, there are now two classes of systems which help facilitate learning. I’ve blogged before on what we should call the one system. Well, I think the industry has chosen to continue to have both. On the one hand, we have a learning management system (LMS), the child of the course management system (CMS). This type of system is managed by an institution of higher learning for purposes of providing controlled interaction for formal learning situations resulting in grades and a diploma. We can continue to call it an LMS. To be clear, there are a number of products which could be configured to meet this goal, or configured to meet the next goal. What we call it is dependent on who it’s configured to serve, the student or the institution.

We now begin to see systems, or collections of systems, serving the purpose of fostering and collecting informal and formal learning of students and adults alike. They have these attributes in common:

Student-centric. I can configure how I want to be messaged when a new grade is posted, a new assignment given. I can configure my own blogs, wikis, links to other places I learn outside of my institution, I can receive messages relevant to my learning interests and formal classes. I can form my own ad hoc groups.

Account life. While this system may be hosted by a formal institution of higher learning, provision is made for me to either have access beyond graduation or take it with me.

Copyrighted material can still be accessed after the course is over.

Privacy. There is none. Everyone understands to learn from others, I have to share what I know. Or what I don’t know (my questions). By giving up my privacy in any given domain, I can earn my own “cred” as a learner in that field. I need to willingly agree to carry that risk myself.

These kind of systems, shall we call them Collaborative Learning Environments (CLE) ?


Buying Blackboard : Speculation Continues

It was in Twitterland that I heard the April 19th announcement that Blackboard was contracting with Barclays Capital to respond to non-binding offers to buy. And that’s all that Blackboard press release said and all it said it would ever said. But it did say offers plural. At the end of this listing will be sources so far who’ve engaged in this entertaining speculation.

My own speculations are informed by

  • the April 14th, just prior, release from Blackboard, to whit, McGraw-Hill and Blackboard Launch Combined Course Solution Worldwide.
  • a phone interview with OpenView Venture Partners who recently invested in Instructure.
  • the fact that 700 current Blackboard clients must change their LMS to stay current, and not necessarily stay with Blackboard. (Casey mentions this too).
  • oodles of reading. Check out those articles below.

Unlike Green and Kim, I think the bidders are not investment firms but companies who either are capitalized well enough to sustain a long term evolution into the educational space and have already indicated a desire to do so  (Microsoft or Google, as Kim suggests) or companies who are already firmly entrenched in the higher education market (SunGard or even Oracle) and may already have versions of their own of the Blackboard product types (analytics, notification, point-of-sale, content management).

Kenneth C. Green (aka Casey Green), InsideHigher Ed Blog U:

Josh Kim, InsideHigherEd, Blog U:

Eric Savitz, Forbes:

Jerry Bishop, The Higher Ed CIO,

William J Raduchel, Resignation Letter, Board of Directors, Blackboard. Feb. 14, 2011

Michael Feldstein, e-Literate, latest as of this date  (but read priors as well)

Phil Hill, Delta Initiative, and

A Day in the Life …

As the LMS replacement project moves forward, I was asked to validate what the heck I do all day… Back in November when I calculated support activities weekly for our current LMS, I only accounted for half my time. What do I do the rest of the time?

So, today I wrote notes. This is what happened today. No wonder I can’t find buckets or categories to put this stuff in!

6:00am The alarm clock rings.
7:30am On the way out the door to work discovered one of my sons had left his homework binder. 40 minutes round trip to drop it off for him puts me at work 30 minutes later than planned.
8:30am Fill out timesheets from past two weeks. Miss general Enterprise Systems weekly mtg to do so.
9:00am Respond to email from instructor of special use coursesite asking how he adds member. Send link to instructions. Add person acct for him. (Note to self: Log support ticket).
9:30am Login to Test, discover my sudo scripts broken. Email sys admin that application user account does not have sudo in test and I can’t restart the app after patching yesterday.
9:30am Take phone call from project member researching TCO for the LMS replacement project
9:30am Take phone call from Instructor wanting to know what RLB adoption is so that psych department can recoup their cost in licensing it for this year.I understood Psych department to be taking the lead on promotion.
9:30am Return call from A&L IT Director about support for RLB.
9:30am Alter bash_profile of application user account on test servers to reflect new weblogic path. Email sys admin that app user has lost its sudo privileges somehow (from physical to vm no doubt).
10:00am Start searching my harddrive for information on TCO from last project to forward to project member calculating it this time.
10:00am Emailed sys admin backup (regular SA out on medical leave turns out) for cms servers that I no longer seem to have sudo privileges to start vista in test environment.
10:30am Reviewed several versions of excel spreadsheets and passed on the one I think most helpful.
10:30am Received an out of the blue offer from new faculty in Graphic and Interaction Design to assist with LMS evaluation.Loved it! Forwarded it to committee.
10:30am Opened LMS touchpoint spreadsheet.
11:00am Found the BackupAndRetention policy as it was communicated to campus March 31, 2009 by Gordon Wishon and posted it out to the CMS Subcommittee as was discussed at one of our meetings no one seemed to recollect our commitment to migrate 2 years of courses forward.
11:00am Went online to my Advanced Technologies for Distance Education and made a couple of posts concerning whether there is an educational use for Twitter or blogging.Found out what this week’s assignments are.
Noon    Got Lunch. Back at my desk eating. Writing more posts for my class. Researching the dawn of RSS. Suggesting improvements to the course.
1:00pm Enough professional development already! Where is the email from the sys admin backup that I have sudo back? Take a walk up to her office…
1:00pm Logging into Wimba Admin dashboard to attempt to collect Stats I promised to project member along with TCO this morning.
1:00pm Setting out of office and voice mail message for Friday and Monday. (yee-ha!)
1:30pm Sending results to Project member.
1:30pm Answering email responses to the BackupAndRetentionPolicy discussion. (Why did we commit to migrating student data! to new system!!!).
1:30pm Missed call agian form A&L IT Director re: support for RLB.
1:30pm Found out System Admin backup is out sick but responded this morning from home, yet isn’t going to be able to help with sudo.
2:00pm Continuing work on spreadsheet of all touchpoints to current LMS which need to be considered when moving to our new system.
2:00pm Going to get coffee.Continuing work on spreadsheet.
2:00pm Phone call with A&L IT Director finally. We scheme about how to assist with the promotion of RLB by the psych depart. Dave taking it up.
2:30pm Continuing work on spreadsheet of touchpoints.
2:30pm Email request from Chris Clark to unenroll the Kaneb “learning” account rom the FA10 course sections they assisted with.10 of them and any others he didn’t list.
3:30pm Email from A&L IT Director that RLB contract expires 7…2011 and who paid and that he will follow-up.
3:00pm Remembered I hadn’t heard back about a reservation request for U of Fl guests before the Learning Technology Consortium meetings. Resent the email to the admins in charge.
3:00pm Thought to ask about Jira’s production status because these spreadsheet rows really go in Jira for tracking. Sigh. Double-entry for me.
3:00pm Real sys admin out for medical reasons today emails me that the app user’s sudo privileges on my test system have been restored. Reboot to get back on VPN and test…
3:00pm Fiddled with Grooveshark and speakers to drown out a personal conversation a few cubes away
3:30pm Logged in and starting up my patched Bb Vista 8.04 test app. I have sudo again.
4:00pm Moved files from the old domain directory per standard patching, Chat and
4:00pm Took phone call from admin asst who has been working on my room reservation for the U of Florida folks. She’d been out sick.
4:00pm Emailing sys admin that sudo looks good.
4:00pm Another email about Student Data Retention…Answered what skill set we need to retain just the gradebooks. A programmer. Webservices. Java. Or student employees to dip into each section and download the gradebook as .csv (FERPA???)
4:15pm Commencing end of day rituals to leave at 4:30pm

This week’s LMS Choice Announcements


As the end of life looms for Blackboard’s CE/Vista product increasingly regular reports are being received of institutions’ choices for its replacement.

This week’s announcements included two large Blackboard clients, UMass and UEN (Utah Educational Network).

UEN, not surprisingly, announced the decision to support their statewide network with Instructure, built by a Utah-based developer. Their announcement here.

Today, UMass Amherst announced their decision to phase in Moodle over the next two years (just beating the event horizon for the CE/Vista end of life, Dec. 2013). John Dubach, CIO for UMass Amherst, writes of their decision.

Notre Dame’s current FTEs and skill set supporting our CMS/LMS


The University of Notre Dame has some unique characteristics, but these are not necessarily advantageous towards fully utilizing the best of teaching and learning technologies, including the LMS.

The major factors your institution must consider when benchmarking your course management staffing:

  • Does your institution have a School of Education? If you do, they will tend to keep the educational use of technology ‘fresh’ on your campus. Or perhaps I should say, they could do that, if you’re intentional about allowing them to.
  • Does your institution have a distance education program? Are you thinking of starting or expanding one? Instructional Designers will be a part of your campus already.
  • Does your institution require (“Can” your institution require?)  the posting of grades and/or syllabus for all courses in your LMS? Many of your faculty will need help complying. Instructional Designers will help grow their own business.
  • Do you have, or do you intend to grow, multiple integration points into and out of your LMS? Not just SIS provisioning and SSO to digital library resources, but other tools such as iTunes U, the next generation of Wimba/Elluminate tools and so forth.

Notre Dame’s current LMS Staffing



System Admin




App Admin (regression testing, patches, certs, provisioning, monitoring)


OIT Help Desk


MCOB Help Desk


Kaneb Cntr


Language Cntr (Wimba)


Library eReserves


Second Level Support (FAQ’s, blogs, communication)


Academic Technologies (iTunesU, Streaming media)




What does an LMS do? What should it do?

If you think you’re evaluating a replacement for your current system and you don’t know the answers to these two vital questions, think again.

As Blackboard’s adopted products, Vista and CE, near their end of lives, many institutions are again evaluating what’s next.

Stay with Blackboard on their next generation product? Maybe even re-define what “it” is? Do you really have to replace “it” with a monolithic “system” or are the technologies that enable learning chosen one at a time as best fit for your institution and then glued together by a central authentication system and/or portal?

I wrote about Notre Dame’s evaluation process oh… what was that? About 3 years ago now. I had a series on “Switchers” using the old Tarenton cigarette motto “I’d rather fight than switch.” (Moved my blog after that and all those graphic links broke…sniff).

Well, switch we did. Many of us. A few of us were caught having just switched to ANGEL only to have ANGEL purchased by Blackboard. Some of us switched to Desire2Learn, and I hear they’re going strong. Many of us, like Notre Dame, chose the devil we know over the devil we don’t know.

This year, at BbWorld ’10, the Blackboard conference, several of us are inviting you to join us in a panel panel discussion around how to determine what it is your institution needs and how to find it.

I have to say Blackboard Learn 9.x may prove to be a better option today then it was just a couple years ago. Why? … That posting is for another day.

SunGard Higher Ed and Blackboard

Nicole Engelbert of Ovum says it better than I could’ve,

While sniping at Blackboard continues to be a popular sport and many are debating whether to move to an open-source LMS, the reality is that most institutions continue to use one of Blackboard’s LMS and are likely to do so for the foreseeable future. As SunGard Higher Education executes on its vision of an “open digital campus”, supporting the large percentage of its client base using Blackboard is crucial.’


However, a lingering question is whether these vendors will be able to cultivate this partnership in such a way that it accelerates the client service and technical innovation gains each has made, rather than inciting squabbles over who owns the land upon which the fence sits.’
I also learned from her article of other LMS/SIS events I wasn’t aware of:

  • Oracle and Sakai (yeah, I knew that one…hello Michael Feldstein)
  • Campus Management (they also own Talisma CRM) and Moodle
  • Jenzabar’s relaunch of its e-Racer solution
  • Datatel and Moodlerooms