LMS Advisory Team Meeting Minutes

Friday March 30, 2012


  • Jennifer Stevens, ITG
  • Natalie Hebshie, ITG
  • Andrew Feland, IT
  • Karen St Clair, CITL
  • Zachary Ehrlich, VMA Undergrad
  • Karla Fribley, Library
  • Brooke Knight, VMA
  • Neil Davin, IT
  • William Gilligan, IT
  • Maureen Sullivan, IT
  • Paula Damigella, ITG
  • Zoë Hayden, WLP Undergrad
  • Cyle Gage, IT
  • Elena O’Malley, Library
  • David Kociemba, CSD/VMA
  • Ariela Weinbach, CSD Grad

Recap of Last Week

  • Review of Final Guidelines/Criteria
    • These documents are still living and changeable
    • Our thoughts/prejudices/desires may alter when we actually use system

Guiding Principles as of 3/30/12

  • We need one central secure location for faculty and students to access course materials.
  • Usability is a vital concern when evaluating a new LMS
  • Emerson’s future will include online learning: the new LMS will have to be able to support that.
  • Mobile computing is here to stay: the new LMS should work on many different devices.
  • As Emerson grows, we need to support communitybuilding. The new LMS should foster:
    • Cross-campus, cross-major, cross-school community discussions and collaborations
    • Discussions that continue outside of the classroom
  • Emerson’s students need to have a basic level of technological literacy: the LMS should resemble systems that student may encounter in the real world
  • Emerson is hoping to stay with our choice for several years: therefore, extensibility of the system and the health of the vendor are important.
  • Accessibility – the system has to be usable for everyone
  • Does it reflect the Emerson brand? Communication, media, etc.; Students should want to use the system (vs they have to use the system to find content.)
  • We did take out some of the more specific things we added last week and moved them to the list of criteria.
  • For example, the Open Source vs. Proprietary issue/tie-breaker issue was taken out because on March 27th: Blackboard bought the two largest Moodle vendors, and abruptly changed their tune about open-source!

Breaking News!

High drama in the LMS Market! Blackboard buys two biggest Moodle vendors!

 What does this mean for open-source?!

But, more importantly – what does this mean for Emerson College and our current search?

Is Resistance futile?!  http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3347/3510951708_ca21593058_o.jpg

“Is this a major play for market share, a genuine effort to promote development and cross-pollination in the LMS market, or a bit of both?” http://www.zdnet.com/blog/education/blackboard-buys-moodleroomsand-no-this-isnt-an-early-april-fools/4866





  • Previously Blackboard (Bb) was only interested in buying/suing their competition.
  • Open-Source LMS was a vibrant, independent community of developers – could not be bought!
  • (Or so everyone thought)
  • Moodle out of the box is not very pretty
    • Moodle vendors take the source code and make it prettier and customized for a school
    • Moodlerooms (one of the vendors Emerson is looking at) & Netspot were the two of the biggest
    • Now Bb is supporting open-source via those two Moodle providers,
      • Also pledging to support developer community and put money into it
      • They also hired “Sakai Guy” Charles Severance – Dr. Chuck – a well respected iconoclastic developer and professor
        • Big mover and shaker with interoperability standards of LMS’s
        • Possible good news for future market – he can help ensure systems will become more standardized
        • Better than past/current situation – putting all intellectual capital into one system that you cannot leave
    • Instead of just promoting their product as the best, Bb interested in buying the market
    • Now are supporting a variety of options instead of just their own
      • Interestingly, they decided Bb will continue support of the old LMS Angel, instead of ending it
    • Now as a parent commercial company of open-source vendors – Bb has shaken people’s open-source convictions
      • Did sign a five point agreement about supporting open-source, interoperability, and developer community
    • Blackboard Learn and Moodlerooms are still two different products
      • But the company/sustainability part of the equation has changed

[specific discussion of individual companies and their RFIs omitted]

RFI’s & Homework

Criteria and Vendor Demos

  • Vendor demos are closer on the horizon than we realize – second week of April!
    • We will be handing out worksheets for attendees to rate the vendors
    • Grayed out criteria are things that will be only rated by the advisory team
      • Backend (Administrative options, permission levels, etc.)
      • Company (Support, Training, third party development, etc.)
    • The second part of the Vendor Demos will be a tech-oriented meeting
      •  (e.g. what exact version of Luminis do you work with?)
    • Took Advisory Team’s suggestion – the rubric now has a four point scale instead of three

So at this stage of the process – we need to start getting into the nitty-gritty

  • Looking at specific details of different systems
  • We created a Google Docs collection that we are adding everyone to
  • Please go to http://google.emerson.eduto access these – need to use Emerson credentials for security purposes
    • In the collection – detailed vendor information including:
      • Blank RFI (request for information)
      • Vendor responses to the RFI
      • ITG/IT notes & other documents to help you make sense of it all
  • It is up to you whether you want to read the RFIs in their entirety (about 200-300 pages each)
  • The RFI cliff notes are a good place to start!

The contents of the RFIs are confidential information to keep within Advisory Team – please do not broadcast them.

  • Our blank RFI consists of three documents
    • 1) Introduction/Our Timeline/Overview of Emerson College
      • Intro was the process/guidelines they were required to follow
    • 2) Open-ended questions – named n1-n130
      • Organized into different categories
      • Some were very specific (Library, Open Source)
    • 3) Checklist questions (Yes/No/In the process of development) named c1-c217
      • How they answered: currently exists/to be released/in development
      • Most of the systems checked off on items – said “currently exists”
      • However what they consider to currently exist can vary from vendor to vendor


  • Vendor responses to the RFI
    • All of them were formatted in different ways
    • The full RFIs have a table of contents
      • Don’t recommend trying to read beginning to end, very difficult (ITG knows from experience)
      • Recommend reading by sections if you delve into RFI


  • Documents to help you make sense of it all:
    • One document has all checklist answers from all the vendors
    • Cliff notes (compiled by Andrew Feland)
      • Highlight what the system does not do
      • Noted maybes/any false positive carryovers between checklist & open-ended (yes to one, no to the other)
    • Pricing information
      • [specific pricing information redacted]
      • Attempted to break it down – what the price meant and what was actually included
        • What would be the different fees we would accrue?
        • Would the price go up or down in consequent years?
    • Hot Topics: ITG removed from Criteria/Guiding Principles anything that got too specific
      • We did not want lose them, however, so we created this document!
      • The things you brought up in hot topics are often answered in the RFI’s.
      • Once you start testing systems – you can add notes/reconsider things

Looking forward & for next week

  • From now till we make our decision – asking people to volunteer to form response teams
    • Teams would more closely examine different sections of system & RFI
      • e.g. looking at all systems with library eyes
      • Once the testing/vendor demos are finished – bringing your notes & thoughts
      • Becoming a sort of expert on that theme
      • Deadline for response teams is decision time
  • The teams are: Library, Course Administration Tools, Mobile, Community, Tech Specs, Accesibility, Student Tools, and Support
  • Moving forward, we are taking meeting time to delve into each vendor
  • The week before a vendor arrives to demo – the Advisory Team will look at that vendor

Next meeting it’s Canvas’s turn

Please read Canvas RFI cliff notes! And come ready to do sandbox testing!

Following week is Canvas week!

Monday April 9th is all-day user-testing; Wednesday April 11th is the vendor demo