Red text still needs to be addressed
I have tried to simplify the recommendations; some points do not need to be
recommendations, they are details relevant to a recommendation
I have removed some of the less-important details from the recommendation section
I have not yet decided what to do with Category C recommendations. Need a better way
of organizing them. Are all the recommendations needed?
Do some recommendations go beyond our mandate?
Case studies not included (will be done at the end).
Learning Management System Review
The following is a brief summary of the report’s recommendations.
A. Invest in Teaching
A.1: Establish a central coordinating unit to lead teaching/learning/e-learning initiatives
(combine UTS and AICT’s E-learning group).
A.2: Provide greater funding for research and development related to innovation in e-learning.
A.3: Within each Faculty, assign responsibility for overseeing teaching/learning (including e-
learning) to a senior Faculty administrator.
A.4: Within each Faculty, ensure that standards for quality of teaching are high, that teaching
and integration of technology are considered assets, and that efforts in this area are
consistently rewarded in faculty evaluations.
A.5: Promote the scholarship of teaching and learning in higher education by supporting
research and publication in this area.
B. LMS Adoption
B.1: Over the next five years, aim to have an LMS presence for virtually ALL courses offered.
B.2: While continuing to support the current commercial LMS system, add central support for
an open source LMS.
B.3: Create a centrally-supported portal that can be used to enhance the LMS/IT experience.
C. Build Institutional Capacity for E-learning
C.1: Form a campus-wide steering committee of representatives from central and local faculty
units responsible for e-learning services.
C.2: The new UTS/E-Learning unit should coordinate support across campus with the goal of
campus working together better as a community.
C.3: Clearly define and publicize the central and local support structures.
C.4: Ensure that support is both reactive (solving problems, answering questions) and
proactive (new initiatives).
C.5: Provide more face-to-face support for instructors at all campuses.
C.6: Make funds available upon application to assist faculties in providing local e-learning
support or upgrading technology infrastructure.
C.7: Consider different approaches to addressing the overall support model.
C.8: Build an interactive communication venue/e-network of support.
C.9: Provide mentorship for instructors and staff new to the e-learning environment.
C.10: Provide instructors with pre-course training and help with creating online materials.
C.11: Develop Faculty/Department specific LMS course templates.
C.12: Encourage the sharing of LMS teaching resources.
C.13: Provide incentives to encourage dissemination of LMS or associated electronic tools, both
for teaching and research.
C.14: Continually examine the potential for building more online programs.
Office of the Vice-Provost (Information Technology):
Jonathan Schaeffer, Vice-Provost (Information Technology) - Chair
JoAnne Davies, Human Resources – Co-Chair
Representing the Vice-Provost (Academic Programs):
Heather Kanuka, University Teaching Services
Catherine Adams, Faculty of Education
Marco Adria, Faculty of Extension
Robert Hudson (alternate Linda Hall), Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental
Armann Ingolfsson, School of Business
Donald Ipperciel, Campus Saint-Jean
Louanne Keenan, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry
Ann McDougall, Faculty of Arts
Roger Moore, Faculty of Science
Pauline Paul, Faculty of Nursing
Support Staff Representative:
Laurie Candy, E-Learning Services, Faculty of Nursing
John Braga, Students’ Union
Mojtaba Azadi, Graduate Students' Association
We are appreciative of the following people/groups for the invaluable input:
Online Programs Support Group (OPSG)
Robert Hayward, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry
Stanley Varnhagen, Faculty of Extension
Graduate Students Association
Festival of Teaching
Faculty, staff and students who participated in the survey and in the town-hall meetings
Learning Management Systems (LMS) are now an integral part of the support infrastructure at
universities and other educational institutions. Given the growing importance of LMSs to
students and instructors, the Provost requested a review of the University of Alberta’s
commitment to LMS technology. The objective of this review was to formulate a long-term
academic vision for the use and support of this technology on campus. 1 The Terms of reference
for the review are given in Appendix B. A glossary can be found in Appendix A.
What is an LMS?
E-learning, or electronic learning, involves the use of information and communications
technology to deliver XXXXXXXXX. The most common delivery mechanism is via the World
Wide Web. Over the past two decades, universities have been moving in the direction of the
electronic presentation of material as a way of integrating multi-media learning objects in their
course material, facilitating collaboration among students, and encouraging independent
directed study. The unmistakable trend is towards a greater adoption of e-learning technology in
a modern university curriculum, although the rate of adoption is slower than many predicted
due to issues of understanding how best to use the technology and the cost of developing e-
A Learning Management System (LMS) is software for delivering and managing
education/training. Modern LMSs are usually web-based and are often synonymous with
Course Management Systems (e.g., WebCT, Moodle, Blackboard), which provide online access
to course materials, tools for instructors (class lists, grade management, assignment submission,
etc.) and interactive/collaborative learning tools (such as chat rooms and wikis). LMS is also a
term used more specifically in the context of corporate training/staff development to mean
systems that also provide registration, performance management and other record-keeping
capabilities related to employees taking either classroom or online courses.
An LMS should be distinguished from a Learning Content Management System (LCMS),
which simply focuses on making learning content available online, and from a Content
Management System (CMS), which is back-end database-driven software that manages web
pages of any kind (e.g., the Sitecore system, recently adopted at the University of Alberta, that
will deliver central campus, faculty and department web pages, or other software such as
Joomla! or DotNetNuke). Alternative expressions for LMS are Virtual Learning Environment
(VLE) or e-learning software.
Hayward (2009) describes learning systems in terms of a simplified five level hierarchy of
1 Such use of the word “campus” is the figurative sense; it refers to the overall organization and
includes all physical and “virtual” campuses that are part of the University of Alberta.
Classroom Management: facilitate delivery of notes or other learning aids for a particular
lecture (e.g., an instructor creates a website to distribute materials).
Course Management: support to span multiple class sessions across an entire course with
common goals, adding tools for evaluation, feedback, discussion (e.g., a typical course site
in WebCT, Blackboard, or Moodle).
Curriculum Management: provides meta-tools (such as content tagging and objectives
management) to handle relationships among a set of courses. These tools can be used to
index a curriculum across a program or identify common attributes across courses.
Learning Management: information is organized around the learner. This facilitates self-
directed learning; students can choose from a variety of available learning opportunities.
Students can progress at different rates over different time periods based on individual goals.
Students may have a private area within the system to assemble selected resources
(facilitating the use of an e-portfolio).
Community Management: enables borders to extend beyond the class, course, curriculum, or
the traditional campus learner (e.g., practicing professionals who need to learn later in their
career; the system allows for multiple learning contexts and organizations).
The use of the term “Learning” Management System by the product vendors and by the general
community is misleading. These products can facilitate student learning, if the products’
capabilities are used to their fullest extent by the instructors and students. These products
usually have a rich set of Classroom and Course Management tools, and a limited set of
Curriculum, Learning and Community Management tools. The reality is that most instructors
(at the University of Alberta and other institutions) use little more than the Classroom
Management and Course Management facilities (usually just to simplify their administrative
needs). Few instructors use the potential of LMS technology to create a rich online learning
LMS history at the University of Alberta
In 1998, the University of Alberta adopted WebCT as a centrally supported LMS (WebCT was
originally developed by Murray Goldberg at the University of British Columbia). In 2003, the
university upgraded to WebCT Vista, which provided more capabilities for larger campuses
(e.g., a multi-level hierarchy of access/administration and improved architecture for enterprise
volumes of users/traffic). In 2006, WebCT, Inc. was bought by a competitor, Blackboard.
WebCT Vista is now sold as Blackboard Vista. In 2008, AICT rebranded the centrally
supported LMS to the generic local name eClass, to be independent of actual product names. As
an adjunct to the LMS, in 2006 the university adopted Elluminate (a product originally
developed at the University of Calgary) to provide capabilities for live web-based audio-visual
Over the past decade there has been a major increase in the number of instructors using an LMS
for their course offerings. The 2008-2009 data from AICT indicates that over 3,000 course
sections per year now make use of eClass. Other LMSs are used on campus, including
Blackboard Classic (School of Business), Moodle (open source software used at Campus Saint
Jean and in some departments in the Faculties of Arts and Science), and discipline-specific
applications (Homer – Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry; TWEN – Faculty of Law). There are
now many viable LMS options for higher educational institutions, well beyond those that are
currently used somewhere on campus.
Central support for WebCT has tried to keep pace with the growth in LMS usage. Some
faculties have established their own educational technology support units, allowing their staff to
build close working relationships with their community of instructors. Generally speaking units
with local support seem to be have more e-learning activity occurring, and often more advanced
use of LMSs or other related tools.
A variety of e-learning projects exist on campus, with instructors experimenting with other
tools such as e-portfolios, Second Life and FaceBook. There is potential for powerful learning
innovations using these tools, with capabilities such as easily networking beyond the classroom
or developing fascinating virtual worlds. However, there is also some unease, especially with
systems hosted off-campus, that these innovations could potentially lead to unintended
consequences for instructors and for students (e.g., concerns regarding security, privacy or
There is also a great deal of interest in portals, a one-stop online location to access many
resources/systems. In some institutions, an LMS is actually used as a portal to provide seamless
linking to other systems. The more common scenario is that institutions adopt a portal as the
first-level of access; the LMS (or specific course sites within the LMS) are accessed by first
logging into the portal. The majority of Canadian universities offer a portal for their students
(see Appendix F); the University of Alberta does not.
The Terms of Reference (Appendix B) for the LMS Review Committee were formulated in the
summer of 2008, and formally adopted by the Teaching, Learning And Technology (TLAT)
council in November 2008. The committee met regularly from January to June 2009 to gather
data, review literature, discuss issues, and produce this report. The Committee engaged the
campus community in the review process as follows:
Posted a public website (http://www.vpit.ualberta.ca/lms/) to list committee membership,
terms of reference, campus forums, and contact information.
Invited written submissions.
Arranged demonstrations of multiple LMSs at the campus Festival of Teaching (January,
2009) to help educate the committee members and the university population on the
capabilities of these tools. The demonstrations illustrated how these tools can support
students, promote improved course organization, and facilitate learning.
Held two open forums (March, 2009), open to any member of the campus community, to
provide their opinions about the current and future use of LMSs.
Met with the campus Online Program Support Group (OPSG) on two occasions (March and
April, 2009). OPSG is a grassroots community of practice whose members are staff involved
with e-learning/online programs, including faculty-based e-learning specialists, instructional
designers, instructors and staff from central units such as AICT, UTS and Human Resource
Met with student groups: Graduate Students’ Association Council (April, 2009) and
Students’ Union Council of Faculty Associations (March, 2009).
Met with other individuals or groups upon request.
Conducted an anonymous online survey with instructors and students.
Collected data on the current LMS usage on campus and the support provided (both centrally
and within Departments and Faculties).
Collected data on the industry directions for LMS technology.
Benchmarked the University of Alberta's current LMS approach and support with other
comparable higher education institutions.
2. Current LMS Landscape
Learning Management Systems have been around in their current form since the early 1990s
(Vollmer, 2003). The role of the LMS in post-secondary e-learning environments continues to
be important and ever evolving. For the purposes of this report, an examination of the current
literature regarding LMSs was conducted to form an impression of the current LMS landsca pe.
Many institutions and researchers have found that there are unique benefits and costs associated
with the successful implementation and use of any LMS. Further investigation into the literature
available on the topic reveals that there are some common key elements related to instruction
and support that affect the ability of the LMS to effectively meet the needs of an institution.
These will be examined in further detail below along with some of the lessons learned and a
look to emerging trends in e-learning technologies with consideration of their potential impact
on LMS implementation and usage.
One of the touted benefits of any LMS is its ability to increase access to educational
opportunities and learning materials for students (Abrami et al., 2006). Democratization or
greater access for all students has certainly been a recurring theme in the history of LMS use,
especially in its application for distance education (Larreamendy-Joerns and Leinhardt, 2006).
Facilitation of interactions between instructor and student and among students is another
advantage of an LMS system. The importance of interactions in online education has long been
emphasized and investigated by researchers. Some groups view interaction and
instructor/student engagement as vital in any form of online education (Tallent-Runnels et al.,
2006). An LMS facilitates this type of communication through tools such as asynchronous
discussion boards, synchronous chat and email.
An LMS has traditionally offered advantages from an administrative perspective as well.
Siemens (2006) identifies management of the learning process as an original driving force for
the development of LMS software. A typical LMS will include the ability to organize and
manage content, track students as well as provide grades and feedback.
Costs related to the implementation and use of an LMS initially include funds used for the
purchase and maintenance of the software and the supporting hardware. This is the most direct
and visible of the expenditures related to an LMS and generally garners attention from the
administrative areas at an institution.
It is also important to consider indirect costs such as those related to the professional
development and support of staff utilizing the tool. A lot of the research on LMS use and
support indicates that the importance of professional development for those expected to
integrate the LMS into their teaching strategy often falls after the issues of course design and
infrastructure have been addressed (Abrami et al., 2006).
The majority of the material reviewed on LMSs and the use of technology in education
indicated a number of key elements that should be in place to ensure effective implementation
and utilization of the system. Some of these focused on the teaching processes employing the
use of technology, while others addressed the types of support available to students and
Instructional quality, considered to be the effectiveness of the teaching or instructional
environment in light of identified goals and standards, has to remain a focus during any
implementation and use of an LMS. Some of the literature even indicated that the quality of
instruction should be viewed as a major determinant of the success of the LMS technology use
at an institution (Larreamendy-Joerns and Leinhardt, 2006). If an organization hopes to
effectively integrate an LMS that will provide long-standing benefits to students and
instructors, steps need to be taken to ensure the quality of instruction is maintained and
enhanced throughout the process.
One of the steps that will allow the development and enhancement of instructional quality is a
focus on training and support. Tallent – Runnels et al. (2006) did an extensive review of the
research available on technology integration and teaching courses online. They found that
training and support related to the technologies in use was a want and need of instructors and
students alike. They further indicated that it is most effective when offered on a one-to-one and
ongoing basis. The need for training and support is apparent through all the phases of
implementation and integration of an LMS, and programs should be in place to address all the
issues surrounding it.
There is also considerable discussion around the type of structure that should be in place to
offer the needed support to instructors, staff and students for an LMS. Many institutions appear
to have had success with a model based on service layering (Katz, 2008). This type of model
allows for a centrally provided infrastructure that can be locally managed to meet local needs.
Effectively, local autonomy is preserved while access is provided to centrally supported
resources that are shared by many.
Of considerable interest, when reviewing literature on the topic, were the lessons learned by
various institutions as they prepared for, implemented and set out to provide ongoing support
for an LMS. A number of the things discovered are detailed below and should be considered
accordingly in our development of an LMS vision.
At the top of the list for the majority of institutions was the recognition of the need for
flexibility in an LMS. Scalter (2008) warns that the relative inflexibility of an LMS may cause
the institutional processes to be modified to align with the software rather than best serving the
learning needs of the institution. Dron (2006) further supports this argument by indicating that
the systemic features of a given LMS may lead to the administrative domination of teachers and
learners and not serve the best interests of the learner. It is suggested that the future of the LMS
is a range of components that have the ability to be integrated or interact with one another
through some form of connection process or software (Katz, 2008).
Another lesson learned by the institutions examined in the readings was to maintain a focus on
learning and the development of teaching during the implementation and support of an LMS.
Too often administration allows the management functions of an LMS to take precedence over
the learning experience (Siemens, 2006). This concentration on technology at the cost of
teaching and learning is reiterated by Katz (2008) in the investigation of digital technologies in
education over the last 20 years. In that study, it was found that the focus has traditionally been
on the new technologies and the support required, not on the development of teaching or
learning with the technologies. Ultimately it is important for an institution to avoid a strictly
business approach to an LMS, but to consider the teaching and learning side of the tool and the
environment in which it will be utilized (Tallent-Runnels et al., 2006).
Student expectations regarding the use of information technology (IT) in teaching and learning
were often underestimated during the selection, implementation and integration process for an
LMS. The majority of students prefer a moderate amount of IT in their courses and will not skip
class when course materials are provided online (Salaway and Borreson-Caruso, 2008). These
facts would call for the use of technologies, including the LMS, to be a supplemental tool
balanced with other activities in the learning environment.
It is useful to look ahead at emerging technologies in light of their potential impact on LMS use
in academic institutions. This type of information will allow the groups involved to take a
critical look at the challenges and trends that accompany the technologies and may reshape how
work is done in learning-focused organizations (Johnson et al., 2009).
There continues to be a trend toward a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) where students
interact with and collect web resources (Scalter, 2008). Some worry that this type of learning
environment is often a multi-tool learning experience that may exclude learners without a high
degree of technical proficiency (Siemens and Tittenberger, 2009). This situation highlights the
need for an LMS to provide a space where these resources can be brought together in a way that
is useful and easily integrated.
Cloud computing (large clusters of networked servers) is poised to offer inexpensive, simple
solutions for storage, multi-user application availability and multi-processor computing that
could change the way that institutions use computers, software and files (Johnson et al., 2009).
This trend could ultimately change the structure of an LMS as we know it to make it more
flexible and readily available to all users.
There has also been a lot of speculation about Web 2.0 and the implications for the concepts of
Scholarship 2.0 and University 2.0. Web 2.0 characterizes the web as a platform that serves to
facilitate communication, information sharing, interoperability and collaboration (Web 2.0,
2009). A vision of Scholarship 2.0 sees similar collaboration applied in academe to allow for
the sharing of information among individuals, disciplines and across institutions. The new
University 2.0 will see institutions orient themselves as information organizations that are better
able to facilitate and contribute to the movement of information. Both of these concepts will be
dependent on an effective and efficient IT infrastructure, complemented by a flexible and
adaptable LMS (Katz, 2008).
In Dare to Discover, the University of Alberta has articulated a vision for a great university,
with one element being a “vibrant and supportive learning environment” that “actively
promotes the integration of teaching, learning, research and the use of technology”. The
University is “committed to offering our… students the most superlative learning experience
possible in an intellectually rich environment.” This vision guides the learning management
system (LMS) review process, which is based on the following principles:
1. Valuing and supporting teaching
Realizing the Dare to Deliver commitment to “providing professional development
assistance for teachers to develop Discovery Learning skills appropriate to their discipline”,
while being respectful of traditional teaching approaches.
2. Transforming student experiences virtually
Dare to Deliver draws attention to physical spaces as an integral aspect of student
experiences. Building on that, we also consider how we can use virtual spaces to create
“more engaging experiences for our students”, facilitating student interactions with peers,
instructors and resources. We must continue to “develop the technical infrastructure and
expertise necessary to form virtual communities of practice, and use these to complement
face-to-face learning, as well as collaborative research groups, mentorship and knowledge
3. Increasing technological flexibility
The University needs to be more dynamic in providing environments for experimenting
with innovative teaching and learning tools, possibly leading to institution-wide adoption,
while maintaining an effective core infrastructure for e-learning.
4. Balancing central and local services
Aligning with the Committee on the Learning Environment (2006) recommendation of
building “an integrated-distributed system of support and services”, we must simultaneously
consider economies of scale and the diversity across our institution. We recognize that some
services are best offered centrally, while others are more effective when provided in a local
faculty or department context.
5. Facilitating usage
Users should be able to access technology-based systems in an easy, consistent manner, and
we must balance workloads or other impacts on the students, instructors, support staff and
other members of the University community involved in using these systems.
Implicit in the following discussion are two basic assumptions:
1. All the LMS tools are essentially the same. At any given point in time, one may have an
advantage over the other in some particular area, but over time this evens itself out.
2. All LMSs are moving in the directions of interoperability.
The recommendations have been grouped into three categories: Invest in Teaching, LMS
Adoption, and Build Institutional Capacity for E-learning.
Category A: Invest in Teaching
For the benefit of our students, the University should demonstrate a bigger commitment to
promoting, encouraging and rewarding pedagogically sound teaching practices, which includes
e-learning as an important component. During the LMS review process, discussions with
student groups and survey data indicated that students want quality learning experiences; they
expect instructors to make more effective use of LMSs and other e-learning tools. They would
like to see LMS usage move beyond just a place to post notes or as a “PowerPoint dump” to a
variety of learning inter-activities. Graduate students in particular mentioned that they wanted
to see more LMS use in their courses, as use of technology for graduate instruction is often
minimal or nonexistent. As mentioned earlier in this report, Abrami et al. (2006), Siemens
(2006) and others have identified many benefits to LMS use (e.g. access, interaction,
administration), along with key ingredients (focus on teaching/learning, professional
development) to enable effective teaching with technology-based environments.
We must do more to professionalize teaching, recognizing that teaching is an academic
discipline with its own body of knowledge and that all university instructors (faculty, sessional
and graduate students) need to develop and demonstrate teaching expertise. The following
recommendations will facilitate this goal
The first two recommendations require central leadership.
Achieve leadership in learning (as recommended in the 2005 E-learning Report) by
establishing a central coordinating unit to lead teaching/learning/e-learning initiatives. Input
from the campus community has indicated that a logical move for the University of Alberta
would be to form such a unit by combining the non-technical functions of AICT E-Learning
Services with University Teaching Services (UTS) to better coordinate services related to
teaching and to ensure that e-learning services answer the academic needs of campus, with
good teaching above technical considerations.
The new unit should adopt the reporting structure of UTS, which currently reports to the
Vice-Provost (Academic Programs). AICT is a non-academic unit that reports to the Vice-
Provost (Information Technology).
Examine whether greater resources should be allocated to the combined UTS/E-Learning
unit to expand and improve its programs, including integration of e-learning in teaching.
Provide greater funding for research and development related to innovation in e-learning. This
could be achieved by a major increase in funding to the Teaching Learning Enhancement Fund
The next three recommendations are to the Faculties and their Deans:
Assign responsibility for overseeing teaching/learning (including e-learning) to a senior Faculty
administrator. Some faculties already have this in place with an Associate Dean or Faculty
Service Officer having this accountability as part of their portfolio. Each Faculty should
determine what model works best in their context.
Ensure that standards for quality of teaching are high, that teaching and integration of
technology are considered assets, and that efforts in this area are consistently rewarded in
faculty evaluations. This needs to recognize that teaching using technology often involves risks
and we strongly encourage Faculty Evaluation Committees (FECs) to support innovative efforts
in this area.
Promote the scholarship of teaching and learning in higher education by supporting research
and publication in this area.
Category B: LMS Adoption
Given the growing importance of LMS technology, the University of Alberta should make a
bigger commitment towards reaping the benefits from this technology. With each faculty
operating as a somewhat autonomous unit, campus is looking to the Deans to be champions in
contributing to the campus integrated-distributed network, ensuring that e-learning support and
expertise grow within their faculties. Local support is more likely to be context sensitive; needs
vary by discipline, course goals, instructor preferences/experiences, etc. Increased visibility of
successful support models will assist other Faculties in the development of their support for e-
learning. For example, the Faculty of Nursing has progressed far in e-learning due to a strong
commitment and resources allocated to a local e-learning services unit. Administrators in
Faculties/Departments with natural affinities should seek out opportunities for synergy and
economies of scale related to the support of e-learning services.
The University of Alberta should aim over the next five years to have an LMS presence for
virtually ALL courses offered.
With a strong e-learning support structure in place, this should be feasible and should not
place an onerous workload on individual instructors or support staff.
Instructors are mandated by University policy to provide core information (e.g., syllabus,
grading scheme, due dates, exam schedule, representative evaluative course material).
All of this information must be available in the LMS.
Wherever possible, automated processes should be developed to create LMS course sites and
handle routine configuration/information posting.
It is imperative that faculty members become familiar with at least the basics of LMS
technology as part of their core repertoire of skills. Faculty members will not be required to
make use of the LMS technology beyond the basic course information level, but they need to
at least know enough to assist their students.
It is also critical that students are familiar with electronic tools that they need to use during
their campus life. The Students’ Union, Graduate Student Association, Departments,
Faculties and other applicable groups should include training for LMSs and other IT tools as
part of their student orientation programs.
The goal of this recommendation is to raise the standard across campus by having all courses at
least at the Course Management Level (Hayward, 2009) within five years.
The current central LMS licensed from BlackBoard serves the majority of campus well.
However, some departments or individual instructors have found that it has limitations in terms
of desired customizations or innovations. Also, there is concern regarding the direction of the
LMS marketplace, with Blackboard appearing to be gaining a near-monopoly. There could be
risks to the University with future licensing costs potentially rising unchecked or motivation for
product development and quality support being reduced. Open source systems offer a hedge
against these limitations and uncertainties and can offer different product strengths. Campus
needs a future LMS environment that provides both a stable ongoing service and opportunities
for research and development. This leads to the following recommendation:
While continuing to support the current commercial system, add central support for an open
In concrete terms, given the current campus landscape, Moodle is the logical choice for such
a system. However, Moodle use is fragmented and all campus Moodle systems are currently
relatively small; campus should dedicate central resources to developing an enterprise-scale
production Moodle installation as a true alternative to the current commercial central system.
Parallel to any production LMS systems in place, mirror development environments should
be in place to enable innovative experimentation, including development of new tools or
linking to complimentary systems, without risking disruption to the production environment
or the daily online experience of most users.
Central and faculty e-learning support staff will need to become increasingly familiar with
With any centrally-supported LMS, we need to simplify the administration of getting student
lists into the LMS course sites. The campus must address administrative barriers (e.g., most
Extension courses are not currently in PeopleSoft).
In the future, when there is proof of a viable open source enterprise solution, the campus-
wide e-learning steering committee should advise on either continued support of both
systems, or whether a phased migration to the open source system should be undertaken,
accounting for retraining e-learning support staff/instructors, migrating course materials,
revising training, help materials, administrative processes, etc.
Well into the future, the e-learning steering committee will need to continuously observe the
LMS marketplace and advise as to which open source and/or commercial products should be
supported centrally for the overall optimum benefit to the University community, as this
could change over time; out-sourcing our central e-learning systems is another alternative
that may need to be considered.
Ensure that our central system(s) are highly flexible, adaptable platforms that users can
mould to suite their purposes; enable unexpected use of tools that designers never
envisioned, e.g. student mash-ups, learning could be based on immediate needs for problem
solving; develop a repository of gadgets, from social networking tools to pedagogical
resources, that community members can attach or add to their portal or LMS pages; subject
specific resources are important and need to be allowed.
Prepare the LMSs for mobile delivery, e.g. students want to access LMS while in transit;
need a stripped-down version for access on small mobile devices.
Create a centrally-supported portal that can be used to enhance the LMS/IT experience at the
University of Alberta.
It is not practical to have all of campus use the current centrally supported LMS. Various units
have had valid reasons for developing or adopting other products. As a means to make major e-
learning and other systems across campus more easily accessible, usable and cohesive, the
University should adopt and configure a central portal system. This is a strongly desired
addition to campus, based on input from the LMS open forums, meetings with specific groups
and the instructor/student surveys.
The portal should support single sign-on to courses in multiple LMSs and other major
systems (e.g., Bear Tracks, library, OneCard, webmail, etc.).
The portal should support both English and French, recognizing that the University offers
numerous programs in both official languages.
Private area for users to assemble resources, links, etc. as they see fit, to build an e-portfolio.
This area should be easy for the students to customize.
The portal must support a central calendar so that users do not need to check multiple
calendars across multiple courses/systems/LMSs.
Adopt standards for inter-operability to facilitate single sign-on and inter-application
communication. This implies developing a list of requirements for all LMSs used in courses
at the University of Alberta (e.g. must support the central portal/calendar, automatic
processes for processing class lists, potentially automatic grade submission and department
approval of grades).
Seamless interaction between all aspects of student virtual experience with the University,
curricular or extracurricular; address curriculum, learning and community management. in
addition to class/course management. For example, the portal could provide support for
clubs, groups beyond the course level, and greater support for external access by non-
The central portal could be rolled out in stages to meet first student, then faculty/instructor and
support staff needs. Central campus should provide support to connect the current commonly
used LMS systems to the portal and have assistance available to help others add support to
systems they may develop. That being said, local units should be cautious in adopting their own
solutions and should use central systems unless there is good reason to do otherwise.
Category C: Build Institutional Capacity for E-learning
Campus community input during the LMS review process indicates that the University should
maintain and strengthen the integrated-distributed model in which central and local
department/faculty units collaborate to provide e-learning support. “Support” covers many
aspects including: professional development (pedagogical and technical), help desk service,
posting materials, instructional design, developing online resources/tools, and
hardware/software infrastructure. There are different needs for instructors, students,
administrators and support staff.
The following recommendations will move the campus in the direction of building a stronger e-
learning support network.
Form a campus-wide steering committee of representatives from central and local faculty units
responsible for e-learning services. The combined UTS/E-Learning coordinating unit would
meet regularly with this committee for input on policies, standards and processes related to e-
learning support, and periodic re-examination of plans, including LMSs.
The central UTS/E-Learning unit should coordinate support with local units, provide more
professional development and help, resources and services, and improved communication about
services available centrally and locally, with the goal of campus working together better as a
Clearly define and publicize the support structure to allow questions to be directed
appropriately. Determine what support is best done centrally (e.g., help desk for students) and
what is best done in the faculties (e.g., one-on-one with instructors). Consider distributing LMS
administration, depending on Faculty/Department preferences.
Ensure that support is both reactive (solving problems, answering questions) and proactive
(new initiatives, professional development to make the shift to online teaching, create resources
and provide demonstrations to help instructors realize the potential for LMS technology).
Provide more face-to-face support for instructors at all campuses.
Make funds available upon application to assist faculties in providing local e-learning support
or upgrading technology infrastructure.
Consider different approaches to include in the overall support model. For example: create pods
of support around campus, where smaller units might get services from larger ones; create an
ongoing program to develop students as e-learning interns to provide more local support;
leverage administrative support staff who have an aptitude/interest, help them develop skills to
provide some level of local e-learning assistance.
Build an interactive communication venue/e-network of individuals who provide help on e-
learning questions or share effective practices directly with each other.
Provide mentorship for instructors and staff new to the e-learning environment.
Provide instructors with pre-course training and help with creating online materials, in-course
help while a course is running, local support staff for just-in-time assistance, and teaching
assistants where possible.
Develop Faculty/Department specific LMS course templates, especially as an aid to new
instructors, but helpful to all.
Encourage the sharing of LMS teaching resources with colleagues within the University of
Alberta and to the broader community. The University should develop a policy to clarify the
intellectual property rights of faculty and staff developing teaching material.
Provide incentives to encourage instructors to do conduct workshops or presentations on their
use of an LMS or associated electronic tools, both for teaching and research.
The University should continually examine the potential for building more online programs,
offered completely or partially at a distance (blended).
There is currently a need for this, particularly at the graduate level.
The central coordinating unit should support and encourage distance programs.
Faculties/departments across campus could benefit from the experience of Faculties (such as
Education, Extension and Nursing) in building successful online programs: support for
instructors and students, administrative processes adopted, resources created, attracting and
retaining students, etc.
Online programs are challenged to find instructors to teach online. The campus needs
professional development programs to grow the pool of instructors that are confident about
Courses should be developed to provide online synchronous and asynchronous
support/training sessions for distance instructors.
Placeholder. Can be improved!
Learning management system technology is currently widely deployed on campus. However,
the full benefits of this technology are yet to be realized. By constructing a vision for the
University of Alberta, one that will increase the usage of LMSs and the level of sophistication
of that usage, this report will help move the University of Alberta on a path towards increasing
the teaching excellence on campus.
Red items may not be referenced in the text.
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Committee on the Learning Environment (2006)
Dare to Discover
Appendix A. Glossary
CMS: Content Management System or Course Management System.
Content Management System (CMS): software that facilitates the process of posting/updating
website content, usually providing a simple interface for non-technical users to post content.
Course Management System (CMS): software that facilitates managing online course websites,
usually providing private login to sites, tools for administration, creating/posting materials,
discussion boards and other online learning activities.
eClass: the generic local for the University of Alberta’s centrally-supported LMS (currently
E-learning: electronic learning; learning that is accessed via information and communication
technology tools, usually online via the Web.
E-portfolio: electronic portfolio, a collection of artifacts/samples created in digital format,
sometimes used for evaluation purposes, or as a digital resume.
FaceBook: a free social networking service that allows people to create an online personal
profile on a website, share this with others, send messages, etc.
Learning Content Management System (LCMS): software for making learning content available
Learning Management System (LMS): software for delivering and managing education/training.
Personal Learning Environment (PLE): define
Portal: a software application that enables users to access multiple systems from a single point
Second Life: an online virtual world where users interact through avatars and build virtual
objects. Basic usage is free, but charges apply if you want a dedicated area (island) to
customize the environment.
Social networking service: A website that facilitates communities of people sharing interests
and interacting online.
Single sign on: access control that allows a user to access multiple software systems by entering
login credentials only once; often used in conjunction with a portal.
Virtual Learning Environment (VLE): a software system that facilitates online learning.
Definitions of other e-learning or information technology terms can be found on sites such as:
American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) E-Learning Glossary
Appendix B. Terms of Reference
The committee will review LMS usage and support on campus. The objective is to formulate a
long-term academic vision for LMS technology at the University of Alberta. The overarching
question guiding the LMS review will be:
What deployment of Learning Management System(s) and related services promote flexibility,
innovation, and outstanding learning outcomes at the University of Alberta?
To facilitate discussion and analysis, the above question is broken down into the following sub-
1. Why has the campus LMS user community fragmented into numerous LMS
2. Will a single centrally supported LMS flexibly support the range of innovative uses of
instructors throughout campus?
3. What services and technologies (including one or more LMSs) are desirable to foster the
best use of LMS by instructors?
4. What deployment of LMS(s) on campus offers the best student experience?
5. Should all courses be required to use a LMS?
6. What are viable, cost-effective strategies for offering Faculties decentralizing
administrative authority for a centrally supported LMS?
7. What level of instructor support (both central and in the Faculties / Departments) is
needed to realize the full potential of LMS technology?
8. What are the costs and relative benefits of employing a proprietary LMS versus an open
or community source LMS?
9. What are the pedagogical impacts of alternative LMS adoption strategies?
10. What are the direct and indirect costs associated with adopting multiple LMSs and/or
migrating to another centrally supported LMS? What benefits might be realized by this
This is a long-term planning exercise and will not get into the issues of the relative merits of the
available LMS products on the market. The committee's visioning exercise will be product
For further information: http://www.vpit.ualberta.ca/lms/tor.php
Appendix C. Popular LMS Tools
The following are some of the well-known proprietary (commercial, with licensing costs) and
open-source (community developed, no licensing costs) LMS products and community
BlackBoard Learning System (http://www.blackboard.com/).
Blackboard is the LMS provider with the largest market share in higher education. It
acquired WebCT in February 2006 and Angel in May 2009.
WebCT was originally developed at the University of British Columbia. Used in 80
countries, it was the leading LMS provider in Canada until it was acquired by BlackBoard.
WebCT will be phased out in favour of BlackBoard products. “Vista” is the latest version of
Angel Learning (http://www.angellearning.com).
Angel Learning was developed at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
(IUPUI) and was initially deployed in 1996. It was recently acquired by BlackBoard, and its
future is still unclear as the acquisition conditions are not yet complete.
Headquartered in Kitchener, Ontario, this product has a strong presence in pre-university
institutions across Canada.
Others include Scholar360 (www.scholar360.com), eCollege (www.ecollege.com),
IntraLearn (www.intralearn.com), and SharePointLMS (www.sharepointlms.com).
Moodle is an acronym for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment. Based
in Perth, Australia, it is the largest open source LMS and fastest growing LMS, with users in
207 countries. It is based on a constructivist and social constructionist approach to education.
Originally funded by the Mellon Foundation, Sakai was developed by Indiana University,
MIT, Stanford, University of Michigan and the Polytechnic University of Valencia. Sakai is
also intended to be a collaborative tool for research and group projects.
Claroline is a mainly Europe-based LMS. Its founding members include Université
Catholique de Louvain (Belgium), Haute École Léonard de Vinci (Belgium) and
Universidade de Vigo (Spain), plus two members from outside Europe: the Université du
Québec à Rimouski (Canada) and Universidad Católica del Norte (Chile). It is used in more
than 80 countries.
Others include OLAT (www.olat.org), ATutor (www.atutor.ca),
Dokeos (http://www.dokeos.com), eFront (http://www.efrontlearning.net), and Metacoon
Community Management Tools
Appendix D. Student Survey
Appendix E. Instructor Survey
Appendix F. Institutional Survey
At the February 16, 2009 face-to-face meeting of The Canadian University Council of CIOs
(CUCCIO), a survey was administered by the University of Alberta. There were 28
responses. The survey encompassed a variety of issues, several of which are relevant to
Learning Management Systems. Note that in the following, the total responses for some of the
questions exceed 28 due to multiple answers being given. Note that the BlackBoard entry
What learning management system (LMS) have a large user community on your campus?
Home Grown (1)
Of the above, which LMSs are supported centrally?
Home Grown (1)
What is your policy towards LMS usage on campus?
Anyone can do what they want (13)
Most courses should be in an LMS (10)
All courses must be in an LMS (3)
Note: six replied “central or not at all”
Do you have a single-sign-on portal for students?
Yes: the portal is based on uPortal/Luminus (12)
Yes: the portal is based on a learning management system (3)
Yes: the portal is custom built (3)
Yes: the portal is based on Oracle (3)
Yes: the portal is based on Sun (2)
Appendix G. WebCT/Vista Usage
<<AICT stats on current usage>>