Course Management Systems — decisions, decisions

My school is currently evaluating two course management systems, Moodle and Sakai. I haven’t worked here very long, only about 9 months, which is apparently about 2 years less than the amount of time they’ve spent thinking about these course management systems. Last term, we finally did a side-by-side comparison of the two systems by having a handful of faculty use each (the faculty got to choose which to use) and then surveying those faculty and their students.

Today, the IT staff, members of the web development team, and librarians met to discuss the survey results, decide what other studies need to be done, and plan for a presentation to the faculty at the end of the term which will announce the winner of this little contest and explain the rational for our choice. What we decided was that we have a lot more studying to do. It turns out we’re comparing a course management system with an “interoperability platform” which can also be used as a course management system. And therein lies the rub. Do we want a system that is a pretty slick (though not perfect) CMS, or do we want to back a system that has potential to be something that it isn’t yet: a comprehensive collaboration and communication system.

As usual, nuts-and-bolts decisions force us to struggle with our goals, priorities, philosophies, and hopes. Philosophy and practicality are proved, yet again, to be inseparable.