My brain just did a flashback as my fingers poised over the keyboard ready to begin this post. The song, “War is a Science,” from Pippin has started to syncopate through my skull:
the rule that every gen-er-al
kno-ws by he-art:
it’s smarter to be lucky
than it’s lucky to be smart!
I value ‘smart’ (O how I value smart!) but in my experience we overthink LMS evaluations.
It’s not about a Request for Proposal process. It’s not about a comparison of features. It’s not about the best software package out there. It’s not even primarily a decision of open source vs proprietary, although this exercise may help you characterize your institution’s culture as one or the other and that will get you started down the right track …
LMS Evaluations are like any other decision you have to make for your institution. It’s about trusting that the software you choose matches the way your institution does things.
It’s a cultural decision. Wasn’t always. But these days the market is mature enough that all these packages (Canvas, Sakai, Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Moodle) can do pretty much the same thing. It’s the way they do them that you care about. It’s the way your institution plans to use and support the software that will make the implementation project a smashing success or an unadopted disaster.
This is what you need to plan for and do:
1). Select the group of people at your institution that you trust to make this decision for you. Is it an already existing faculty committee? Maybe its composed of appointees to be representative of each college or department, with central IT or the Library thrown in because they have to run it?
2). Create and follow whatever rigor or metrics these people will need to document and communicate their decision for maximum buy-in.
No kidding. Institutions often publish their final LMS Eval reports. Read them. The variety they represent is as wide as the cultures of the institutions that created them. They’re not all smart. But the successes are the lucky ones who chose software that matches their institutions’ culture.