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Open Source E-Learning: Louisiana State University dumps blackboard, picks Moodle

On Saturday, November 3rd, MoodleRooms Michael Penny reported that Louisiana State University would be moving to the Moodle Learning System. LSU is a Major research university enrolling more than 30,000 students, including more than 1,600 international students, and nearly 5,000 graduate students. LSU has more than 1,200 full-time faculty members and a staff of more than 3,000.

Because their process was public, we have access to valuable details that are not often available for institutional decisions such as this one.

This is what the CIO had to say about the decision:

One of the things I’m most proud of is that our IT strategy (FITS) was community crafted, and our focus is on implementing key parts using that same strategy — community leadership. So you know, as CIO, I stayed away from the year-long examination of CMS (as I am not a teacher, or am I a student I hardly felt qualified to render opinion). IT folks were involved as support for the process (we investigated the details of the products and hosted versions for examination by the task force members), but these are not by-and-large technology decisions; so we didn’t make them such. While technology is key to delivery of 21st century instruction and learning, it should not be the focus, and I believe in this case it was not.

I do want to update you on the fact that, indeed, our plan is take the ‘financial footprint’ of our existing implementation and re-invest funds/savings back into the broader process. Not only are we positioned now to host a much larger segment of the courses in a CMS (using Moodlerooms headcount pricing model), we’re also bringing on staff in the area of CMS administration and application enhancement development. But we’re not stopping there — there are enough savings that we are bolstering our support for faculty use of CMS. We’re taking the final bits (if you call over $100K annual ‘bits!’) of savings and throwing it at another FITS action item — 7.07, which deals with increasing faculty support for use of technology in teaching. On top of some strategic funding increases we received this year — which allows us to add four (4) positions to 7.07 already, this additional resource almost completely satisfies the Task Force implementation plan for this item. This is a point we didn’t envision we’d achieve for several more years! And having human support not only satisfies the community desire (stated in the recommendation on CMS) but also positions us for a more successful implementation.

In evaluating CMS, I do think the community members were cost conscious. This was not an exercise in ‘day-dreaming’ about what we’d do with unlimited resources, and everyone here is hypersensitive to funding issues and constraints given the State’s history of funding (and occasionally de-funding) of higher ed. But what I find impressive is that the group said, basically “Look … we’re spending $X on CMS today — let us continue to spend that, but get more of what we need for the same money.” And that is precisely what administration is going to do– keep the budget the same, but vary how it’s being spent to get more bang for our buck. This understanding between the “guilds” (academic/faculty) and the “sphere” (administration) is another key result of the way we’ve done strategic IT planning. We’re not setting people at odds in the process — we’re building cohesion. Both sides are finding the other far more reasonable than they had historically believed.

Thanks again for casting a light on what we’re doing at LSU. If you
keep watching, I think you’ll see that we’re making significant progress on implementing the FITS across the board — not only in teaching and learning IT, but also in research, general infrastructure and access, user support, security and policy, information systems, and communication. Forgive me if my pride in our community and its advancement of IT shows a little too boisterously!

Brian D. Voss
Chief Information Officer
Louisiana State University and the A&M College



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