This page preserves the text of the "What's the Background?" page of the WebCT Replacement Project website as it was on January 20, 2013.

What's the background?

A learning management system (LMS) is an application, often web-based, for delivering and administering educational programs and courses. It can be used to host both online and face-to-face courses. An LMS typically includes modules for tasks such as content delivery, communication between and among instructors and students, assignment submission, and assessment and grading.

A very brief history

SFU began using WebCT (the name is derived from "web-based course tools") as its institutional learning management system in 2001. As of 2012, the platform was hosting close to 1,800 courses, and 80 to 85 percent of SFU’s 24,000 undergraduates were using the system. However, in 2006 Blackboard Inc. bought WebCT and announced that it would end support for the application in December 2012. SFU's decision to procure and implement a suitable replacement was made in response to that announcement.

A case of good timing

Fortunately, the requirement to replace WebCT coincided with an academic plan that called for a stronger emphasis on teaching and learning. As a result, the search for alternatives was conducted within the context of that larger teaching and learning initiative.

Specifically, the project proposal outlined three objectives:

  1. Find a reasonable solution for the majority of faculty, staff, and student users, to replace essential functionality and position SFU to take advantage of emerging trends (e.g., mobile technologies, assessment and feedback capabilities, instant messaging, whiteboard and application sharing, voice boards, peer-to-peer sharing tools, etc.)
  2. Ensure that instructors, students, and support staff are prepared for the transition
  3. Ensure that ongoing maintenance and support for the implemented solution are adequate and effective

The selection and implementation process began in September 2011 and will conclude in 2014. Ultimately, this process will allow us to advance our aim of building the best possible student experience.