Extreme LMS Makeover – Unconventional Approaches…

“Leaving the LMS: Checking out of Hotel California”
Campus Technology Forum 2012, Session T07, May 1

Do you ever wonder what it would be like to have a seamless, intuitive learning management platform that  does what you tell it? Starting your course fresh with a new system? Yet the barriers appear steep and deep. Well two universities did just that – one, Western University shared their story (title above) in a session at Campus Technology’s Forum 2012 that wrapped up today in Long Beach, CA, and the other, Temple University, in “Making Education Social: the FoxMIS Community Site”.

Both sessions were relevant and timely for those that work with traditional LMS platforms such as Moodle, or Blackboard. Front line educators from both institutions shared their stories of doing the unthinkable — ditched the LMS, fired them, dropped them, whatever you want to call it. And, the school didn’t fall apart, or implode, in fact,  the instigators of the program volunteered their time to tell other like-mined educators how they did it.

Temple University logo (no text, "T"...

1) FoxMIS Community Platform, Fox School of Business, Temple University, created jointly by Dr. David Schuff and Dr. Munir Mandviwalla.

The Problem
Schuff and Mandviwalla identified several ‘problems’ with courses in their LMS before making the change: 1) operating like silos (sounds familiar), 2) not connected with the larger community, 3) students had little ownership in the learning process, 4) challenges in creating communities around ideas. It didn’t stop there….the  students, who are spontaneous, often work ad-hoc, are event based, collaborative, social, and digital consumers. These mismatched needs led to the development of this model….

The Solution: WordPress and BuddyPress
The concept of Socialize the Enterprise emerged, where the goal was to integrate the learning, teaching, professional development, socialization all while building a community. How did they do it?

  • Image representing BuddyPress as depicted in C...Built a platform with WordPress.org (open source blogging software) and BuddyPress (open source software for self-hosted WordPress social network)
  • Added custom plug-ins for Grade book and e-portfolio
  • Developed custom themes and functions for e-portfolios and courses

I encourage you to visit the site – it’s impressive, the developers managed to create a community ‘feel’, yet the site functions practically as a tool for faculty, staff, administrators, prospective students and  employers.

2)  Leaving the LMS: Check out of the Hotel California, Western University of Health Sciences, Dr. Gerald Thrush, (Assistant Dean, Pre-clinical education) and Dr. Matt Curtan (Technical Support Supervisor).

Western University was using a Learning Management Platform that they found non-responsive, clunky and heavy with features and tools they did not need or use. To complicate matters, there are over eight different schools within the University.

The Problem:
The school had three primary needs, 1) Content sharing – the need for high storage capacity and ease of file transfer, 2) Score recording and reporting (including historical data to be pulled from ALL testing, advisor notes, records etc. 3) Low stakes quizzing capabilities.  Faculty and administrators were not interested in the bells and whistles, what they called ‘feature creep’.

The Solution: Microsoft’s SharePoint
Dr. Curtan and Dr. Thrush started with a backwards approach, with the end in mind.  After exploring several options, SharePoint, had all the features they needed, which included:

  • Unlimited space
  • Intuitive interface
    • Web browser
    • Windows Explorer
  • Active Directory Built in
  • Academic Progress Portal: APP
  • Web-based data warehouse

Though they did experience significant challenges, and not all colleges have adopted the program (though many now are looking to change to SharePoint), the new system was implemented in five weeks in two of the colleges.  Impressive? Absolutely. Is this for everyone, definitely not.

I’m not suggesting that we all abandon our LMS platforms tomorrow, but I hope to plant a seed. Change is possible – solutions to an unmet need may even be within your own LMS. But, I believe it begins by identifying what is needed to best meet the needs of your instruction, students and content.

Other Resources:
Re-imagining the role of technology in higher education

Fox MIS Community Project
Ideapressa WordPress as a LMS

2 thoughts on “Extreme LMS Makeover – Unconventional Approaches…

  1. HI Jen

    Thanks so much for your kind words, and glad you liked the post. Yes it takes many hours to create blog posts and maintain a website, but hearing from readers like yourself makes it all worthwhile. Thank you! 🙂


  2. Its like you read my mind! You appear to know a lot about this,
    like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you can do with some pics to drive
    the message home a bit, but other than that, this
    is excellent blog. A great read. I will definitely be back.


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