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UNT Learning Management System Evaluation Project Update

By Jane Himmel, Associate Director, Center for Distributed Learning

As announced to campus last month, the University has begun an evaluation process to select the Learning Management System (LMS) that will replace Vista 3 in the future as the supported platform for UNT online courses.

During April and May, 2007, UNT will host product demonstrations for each of the systems currently under consideration. The following events are open to the UNT community:

Angel Learning Management System
When: April 19, 2007, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Where: Chilton Hall, room 245
Presenters: Marc Bagley, Senior Account Manager and Karen Owens, ANGEL Application Consultant
Desire2Learn Learning Environment and eLearning Suite (http://www.desire2learn.com)  
When: April 24, 2007, 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Where: Chilton Hall, room 245
Presenter: Stephan Meyer, Regional Sales Manager
Sakai 2.3.1 (http://www.sakaiproject.org)
When: May 7, 2007, 1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Where: Chilton Hall, room 245
Presenter: Dr. Bill Moen, School of Library and Information Science, UNT
Blackboard Learning Vista Enterprise System 4.x (http://www.blackboard.com)
When: May 9, 2007, 12:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Where: Chilton Hall, room 245
Presenters: Gary Wilson, Regional Sales Manager along with Vista product specialists from Blackboard

What is a Learning Management System?

A Learning Management System (or LMS) is software that enables instructors to deliver content and carry out classroom activities in an online environment. Learning Management Systems characteristically offer a suite of tools that enable basic functions such as communication (email, discussions or chat), quizzing, assignment submissions, and grading. Advanced features of recent versions of Learning Management Systems may include video, student portfolios, learning object repositories, built-in wikis or blogs, and desktop sharing capabilities.

Instructors use the Learning Management System for online courses, but may also use it purely to provide handouts or other supplemental resources. Students must log in to a Learning Management System in order to access the content and activities for their courses.

The University of North Texas has used WebCT as its Learning Management System since 1998 and currently uses a version known as WebCT Vista.

Why Replace WebCT Vista 3?

During the fall 2006 semester, the UNT campus completed its migration of online and supplemental courses to WebCT Vista. Since UNT began its migration to Vista 3, two important events have occurred:

  • February 28, 2006 - WebCT, Inc. merged with Blackboard Inc. Shortly thereafter, Blackboard reported that it would be developing a merged version of its product and WebCT's Vista.

  • July 11, 2006 - Blackboard released Vista version 4.x, Application Pack. 

With the release of a newer version of Vista -- and with Blackboard Inc. devoting resources to the support of multiple product lines as well as the development of a new merged product line UNT will not be able to remain on Vista 3 for very long. By the end of 2006, Blackboard was already projecting fixes for bugs would not be fixed until version 4 or after and in early 2007, the company stated that only bugs that caused issues with stability would be addressed in version 3.

Because an upgrade to Vista 4 will require substantial retraining for faculty and students and because there are several competitors in the learning management system market, we believe it is a good time to begin evaluating Vista 4 alongside comparable learning management systems.

Who will make the Selection?

On March 13, 2007, the Information Resources Council met and unanimously approved a motion that stated that the Learning Enhancement Planning Group (LEPG) will:  

evaluate Learning Management System (LMS) options to replace WebCT Vista 3.0 and make a recommendation to the IRC by the end of 2007 with final approval of the selected LMS to be sought from the Office of the Provost.

The 40-member Learning Enhancement Planning Group, which includes representatives from each college/school, will coordinate the LMS selection process. This process will involve input from all stakeholders including faculty, students, support personnel, and administrators. The committee will also seek input from the representatives from the libraries, disability accommodation, the adaptive lab, network security, and the other constituencies impacted by the results of the final recommendation. 

How You can Participate

Members of the university community are invited to participate in this process by attending demonstrations, responding to surveys and by participating in product testing or focus groups. Announcements of product demonstration, surveys, and other events will be sent via the UNT GroupWise mailing list and distributed to other appropriate mailing lists on campus.  Project updates will be provided to the UNT Community at least monthly.

Questions, Comments, Suggestions?

If you have questions, comments, or suggestions regarding the Learning Management System Evaluation Process or timeline, please email Jane Himmel (jhimmel@unt.edu).


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