Martin Laba says the university’s move to a new learning management system should help users “articulate and realize their aspirations for what a teaching and learning environment at SFU needs to be.”

WebCT replacement will enhance teaching and learning

October 06, 2011
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Between now and the end of 2013, SFU plans to move all of its courses based on WebCT, a virtual learning environment platform used for e-learning, to a new learning management system (LMS).

“It’s a major undertaking prompted by WebCT owner Blackboard Inc.’s decision to end support for the platform in January 2013,” says Associate VP Academic Bill Krane.

“Fortunately for us, the timing coincides with SFU’s current three-year academic plan, which calls for a stronger emphasis on teaching and learning. So we’re approaching the search for a new LMS as an opportunity to create an enhanced teaching and learning environment. This will include examining ways to improve the support for students and faculty who want to use the new LMS.”

SFU has used WebCT as its institutional learning management system since 2001. The platform now hosts close to 1,800 courses, and 80 to 85 per cent of SFU’s 24,000 undergraduates use the system. Some internal WebCT support will continue even after Blackboard’s cut-off date—for example, to maintain archived pages. However, the new LMS will become the primary host of SFU courses.

The replacement project will consist of three phases:

  • An evaluation process from Sept. 2011 to Feb. 2012.
  • A selection process and implementation planning from March–August 2012.
  • An implementation process from Sept. 2012 to Sept. 2013.
  • The teaching and learning emphasis will have a particular impact on the first phase.

Martin Laba, in the School of Communication, and teaching and learning needs coordinator, Rob Dainow, joined the team in September. Their mandate is to consult instructors, staff, students, and other constituents who will be affected by the change.

“Our discussions are above all about teaching and learning at SFU, now and in future,” says Laba, “to not only respond, but also to anticipate the needs and demands of a dynamic teaching and learning environment at this university.”

He adds, “The LMS initiative is an opportunity for us to take the widest view of teaching and learning, and to enable students, faculty, and staff alike to articulate and realize their aspirations for what a teaching and learning environment at SFU needs to be.”

A website with regular updates and options for providing input will be launched in October. Stay tuned for details.

Q: WHAT IS A LEARNING MANAGEMENT SYSTEM?

A: It’s a software application, often web-based, for delivering and administering educational programs and courses. An LMS typically includes modules to handle tasks such as content delivery, communication between and among instructors and students, assignment submission, and evaluation and grading.

Q: WHO IS MANAGING SFU’S LMS REPLACEMENT PROJECT?

A: An executive steering committee chaired by the VP Academic including members from various SFU constituencies will guide the effort. The Learning and Teaching Coordinating Committee, part of SFU’s governance structure for IT, will monitor activities and provide advice. A project team consisting of SFU faculty members, staff and external consultants will execute the three project phases

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