Choosing a Course Management System… The Saga Continues

Last term, six professors accepted the challenge to road-test Moodle and Sakai, the two finalists in our quest for a course management system. At the end of the term, each professor and many of their students took surveys. And now a group of IT people, Web department people, library people, and a faculty member are sorting through the survey results to see if they can give us some clues about which system would work best for our campus in the long term.

Unfortunately, after working for a week to analyze only about 55 survey results (ending at 2am last night, I might add), I’ve realized that our job is even bigger than it seemed at first. I’m not quite sure why I didn’t anticipate this, because I haven’t participated in any project yet that hasn’t become much more complex and labor-intensive than seemed possible at the outset. It turns out that we have to cope with several related issues. In addition to testing the functions of each system we are also:

  • comparing the two development communities,
  • analyzing survey responses that give us a lot of useful information but that do not actually answer the questions we asked,
  • charting current pedagogical trends,
  • Grappling with the vaguely-felt, ill-defined, but strongly-supported goals of a “Small Liberal Arts College,”
  • Choosing between at least two divergent ideologies of technological adoption,
  • and last but certainly not least, come up with evaluation criteria and apply those criteria in a way that will appease those who are completely committed to which ever system we decide against.

I am one of the lucky 4 members of this group of evaluators charged with doing the actual evaluation and choosing of the system… heaven help me. I’m not only choosing a system, but I’m also choosing which of two departments on campus I want to continue to interact with on friendly terms for the rest of my career.

If anyone had said that I’d be handed this type of project and responsibility less than one year after getting out of library school, I’d have laughed in their faces. But as it turns out, it seems that I’m pretty good at this committee thing, so I get assigned to a lot of them. If this keeps up I’ll morph from the library liaison to certain academic departments into the library liaison to campus committees.

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