Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Looking Beyond Blackboard CE8

The version of Blackboard that we currently use, CE8 (formerly WebCT), will no longer be supported by Blackboard as of January 2013. This presents both a problem and an opportunity for National-Louis University. The problem is of course that we are faced with moving to another system – an experience that is still quite fresh in our minds having completed the move from WebCT 4 just over two years ago. But the opportunities this necessary change presents go far beyond having a new tool with improved features and capabilities. This is an opportunity to reflect on the way we currently use our learning management system (LMS), to examine the tools we have chosen to support online learning, and to improve on that in the future.

The next iteration of Blackboard, called “Learn”, is quite different from CE8. It’s not an upgrade for us; it’s a move to an entirely different system that will have some similarity to CE8. Keeping our existing courses will involve “migrating” them, and getting faculty and students familiar with the new system will involve extensive planning and training. In light of this, I asked the faculty and administration at NLU this question:

“Do we want to continue our relationship with Blackboard, Inc and move to Blackboard Learn? Or, do we want to explore other LMS options along with Blackboard Learn?”

We chose to explore our options.

Under the guidance of the Senate Academic Technology Committee, I have convened a group of faculty and administration with representation across colleges and the library. This “LMS Task Force” is taking on the work of examining our current satisfaction with Blackboard and looking to the future to determine what LMS will present us with the best combination of tools, features, and support to ensure the success of NLU’s online and blended courses.

Hoping to make a recomendation in early 2011, we have set an aggressive timeline that involves focus groups and individual interviews, surveys, LMS test-drives, cost-analysis, and conversations with other SunGard institutions. We plan to draw ideas from our own pool of innovative faculty who have been leading the online vision at NLU, to research the direction of tools that support online learning through esteemed organizations such as EDUCAUSE and Sloan-C, and to use our significant resources available through SunGard Higher Education to recommend a solution that will support the efforts of administration and faculty at NLU and contribute to an improved student experience.

For more information and updates on the project, visit

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