Why do we have to change LMS systems? I’d prefer we just keep Blackboard as-is.

At the most basic level, technology systems require upgrades over time to retain the support of the vendor and to ensure that they continue to function properly. At present, Duke is on version 8 of Blackboard. The most current version of Blackboard on the market is version 9.1, and at some point we would need to consider an upgrade if we stay with Blackboard. Version 9 is significantly different, both in the experience for faculty and students who use it, as well as for the technical staff who maintain it. Faculty and staff at universities that have upgraded to Blackboard 9 have had to invest a large amount of time and energy into learning how to use the new system. So even if we were to stay with Blackboard, there would be a substantial change coming.

Given this, and given that the campus needs for teaching and learning tools are substantially different now than they were when we chose Blackboard 10+ years ago, this seems a good time to investigate the elearning “landscape” and see how best to support Duke’s constituents.

Will my input really impact the choice that is made?

Faculty and student input are one very important factor in determining the best system for Duke. We are seeking input from anyone willing to contribute it, in a variety of ways ranging from attendance at demos and focus groups, up to membership on our eLearning Roadmap working groups.

In addition to faculty and student input about desired functionalities (which may be supported through an LMS system or other related tools), we will also weigh Duke’s strategic needs, technical aspects of all systems, and total costs of ownership in making a recommendation.

How did you pick the three LMS products you’re looking at?

A scan of the environment helped narrow the focus for our LMS investigations early in our process last fall. The group reviewed the systems in use by our peer institutions, talked with colleagues at various institutions about their choices, learned about the market leading systems and their development paths, and filtered down to the top three most-used systems: Blackboard 9 (commercial), Moodle (open source) and Sakai (open source).

How will a final decision be made, and by when?

The eLearning Roadmap Group will submit a recommendation for how to proceed with regard to LMS choice to the CIO Tracy Futhey and the Provost Peter Lange in October 2010. The CIO and Provost will make the final decision about how to move forward sometime after that. A specific timeline for transition has not been determined yet and may depend on which system is chosen.

If a different system is chosen, will you make sure all my existing materials migrate over from Blackboard?

Whatever decision we make, we will need to plan carefully to minimize (to the degree possible) the impact any transition may have on faculty, staff and students. Migration of content is a concern to many faculty, and will be tested with each potential product. At this time, however, we can’t describe how migration will work because we have not yet tested the process. Our intent is to make content migration work as well as possible, and to provide resources to help faculty transition if a system other than Blackboard is chosen.

If a different system is chosen, will it work pretty much like Blackboard and have all the features and functions I’m used to?

All three LMS systems provide the core functionality faculty are used to in Blackboard (content upload, discussion boards, online gradebook, etc.) The functions work quite similarly, but not identically. Additionally, as one looks at finer and finer details of the systems, there may be differences. For example, all three systems have an online gradebook, but each of them may have somewhat different specific functionalities such as how it handles weighting or grade input.

Will I be able to get help learning the system?

CIT will be available to assist with faculty training and creation or gathering of help materials. As with any major system change, the time period for transitioning will be over a couple of semesters, so we encourage faculty to begin learning about the systems with the information provided on this site.

I don’t use Blackboard because I don’t like how all the materials are locked behind a password. Can you switch to a system which is open and available without login?

Openness is a feature in which many faculty are interested, and the ability for sites to be open as needed is one of the strategic functionalities we are investigating in each LMS system. Our intent is that faculty will be able to easily and transparently control which parts of their sites are open or closed.

For copyright, intellectual property and student privacy reasons I need to keep my course site behind a password. Will you be sure that whatever system is chosen is closed by default so I won’t have to manually check everything?

Controlling access to site content is a feature on which many faculty depend, and we are investigating the granularity of access control in each LMS system. Our intent is that faculty will be able to easily and transparently control which parts of their sites are closed or open.

Allowing non-Duke colleagues to see my materials and participate in my course is important to me. Can you be sure this is possible in the new system?

Non-Duke people may be provided access to course sites in two ways. One, they may be able to access sites because the sites are open websites (see above for our intent to provide a system which will allows this to at least some extent). Second, they may be provided with a guest or other login to Duke’s system. Provisioning logins to people outside of Duke is mostly a function of how Duke regulates this – we could make it simple for Duke faculty and staff to create logins for their non-Duke colleagues, or we could have this process go through some approval process (as we do currently). In general, the LMS will allow anyone in who has a login, so the ability to bring non-Duke people into our LMS is more a function of Duke’s ID/credentialing policies and less a function of the LMS.