What is a Learning Management System (LMS)?

A learning management system is a software package that allows the management and delivery of learning content and resources to students.  Currently, Longwood University uses Blackboard Learn as our primary LMS.

Why Complete an LMS review?

-Longwood has used Blackboard for a number of years and new, comprehensive products have been added to the marketplace.
-Pricing for different LMS software packages has changed within the past two years
-Longwood Strategic Initiative: improving and enhancing instructional technology
-Informal feedback from faculty, staff and students that current LMS may not meet educational needs on and off campus
-Several Virginia institutions have recently conducted, or are currently conducting, LMS reviews (Mary Washington, James Madison, William and Mary, Liberty…).  Discussions with these institutions confirm that it is time for an LMS review.

Which Learning Mangagement Systems will we review?
After discussions with several universities who have recently completed reviews, analysis of LMS products against some critical criteria,  reviews of LMS products at conferences, and discussions between IITS and the DEC the following three systems were selected for review:
   Desire To Learn

Why isn’t a ‘free’ option like Moodle included in the review?
We chose not to include Moodle (or similar open source products like Sakai) for a number of reasons.  The first is that it is not cloud-based (remotely hosted).  That is, it requires us to host and maintain it or for us to invest in someone else to host it.  After talking to several universities that had recently reviewed LMS products, it became clear that a system that was cloud-based was going to be important.  A system that is not cloud based requires dedicated staff who can maintain it technically.  IITS is short staffed as it is, so bringing on a new system that requires much more attention than we already give Blackboard would result in a reduction in the quality of service or more costs from having to hire additional people. Above all we need an LMS that our current infrastructure can support.  Also, remote hosting will allow for reduced down time for maintenance and upgrades as well as increased redundancy to protect our data.  
Though Moodle may appear to be free, it is not when used for large-scale, institutional purposes like ours (see links to articles below).  When you eliminate the lure of ‘free’ and place Moodle among the for-cost models, it is not very robust in comparison.  It is not as user friendly as some of the emerging alternatives, nor does it have an attractive user interface.  If Moodle did not have soo many technical complexities on the back-end (which is fairly common with open source software) and we did not care about remote hosting, we would have it and Sakai on the list as well. 
Given the desire to provide the best faculty experience possible and to provide tools and resources that are emerging in ways that really engage our faculty and students, Moodle and Sakai did not make it into the first round of reviews.  
A few articles explaining costs associated with ‘free’ open source software such as Moodle at the institutional-use level:

$72,000? I thought Moodle was free!

Why Moodle Isn’t Really Free

The Real Cost of a Free (Open Source) LMS!

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