Are you tired of constant Angel updates? Clunky email service? And jumping through hoops to find your grades?

Laramie County Community College may have a solution, and the institution desperately wants student feedback.

Little bit of history: LCCC, LMS systems

After the leading Learning Management System company Blackboard bought Angel, LCCC’s current LMS, the institution has come up with three companies it is considering for a new LMS.

Les Balsiger, director of the center for learning technologies, said LCCC has come a long way in choosing the three leading companies.

After surveying about 500 faculty and students at LCCC to determine exactly what the college wants in an LMS, Balsiger said he and his team assembled a list of must-haves, would-like-to-haves and kind-of-like-to-haves.

Eleven companies submitted proposals, and of those, seven met the criteria of the “must-haves.” A committee of students and faculty then scored each company individually and narrowed the choices to three: Blackboard, Canvas and Desire2learn.

Top three providers visit campus

Balsiger said he believed they chose the absolute top three programs available, and now students and faculty must decide what they want.

After doing our own research, Wingspan believes that Blackboard offers an industrial strength LMS; Canvas uses a Facebook-like approach that appeals to a younger audience, and Desire2learn falls somewhere in between. Wingspan believes Canvas will appeal to the average college student and be easy to navigate for anyone, especially those accustomed to social media.

Within the first few weeks in October, these three companies will be on campus, in the student lounge, to give students and faculty their pitches.

Demonstrations and presentations of how each program works and the types of services will be offered.

Balsiger will elicit student involvement through emails, announcements on Angel, and, of course, the presentations in the student lounge, where many students travel throughout the day.

Industry leader presents difficulties in navigation

Blackboard, who is the leader of the industry, seems to have a great system with many services.

But after much searching, we were unable actually to demo the program, but we found useful information about it from its website. However, in our interview with Balsiger, we were able to catch a glimpse of what the program is like through his instructor account.

The program appeared to have everything it should, but it looked a little difficult to navigate. The features listed on the website also were not readily available. It seemed the user needed to hunt through the website to find the different features you could work with.

Blackboard had lists upon lists of services, platforms and partnerships. Founded in 1997, it has more than 12,000 software license applications in 70 different countries. Blackboard is obviously a successful and useful tool in many places.

Although the goal of the team at Blackboard is to “improve every aspect of the education experience,” it may not necessarily be the best fit for all schools. Compared to Canvas, this program is much less of a social site and also has a traditional feel.

Facebook-like feel could attract students

On instructure.com, the official site for Canvas, we were able to demo the program easily as a student and an instructor.

The program had a Facebook-like feel to it. It is attractive to a younger audience and was extremely easy to navigate.

We found features like mobile apps, fast grading and customer service. The homepage of the system showed messages and the assignments due for all classes, not just one. And the messages shown were from all instructors. So, rather than having to navigate to each class individually, Canvas allowed the user to see all assignments, messages and notifications for all classes right away. Of course, when clicking into individual classes, the user was also able to see the messages specifically from that class.

Option three is a mix of other two

The third option for LCCC, Desire2learn, had a semiprofessional look to it, was mostly easy to navigate and had all the features the other programs had.

The three programs all have features that include grading, testing, assignment submissions, chat and video options and communication preferences. However, Canvas was the system that allowed us to find those features easiest.

These three systems are undoubtedly top-notch, but only one can win the hearts of the LCCC community.

Being proactive about future laws

“We want to be proactive,” Balsiger said when mentioning that these three companies are up to the standards of a new proposed rule that will soon require all web-based, public material, like these programs, to be fully compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

Students with disabilities will be able to use the systems, Balsiger said. He assumed that by next year, the rule will be implemented, but “we’re trying to get ahead of this.”

Balsiger said LCCC will then gather notes on the presentations, make a selection, which he and Chad Marley, director of information technology, will take to the president’s cabinet. “We want a five-year contract,” Balsiger said.

Time line broken down

The big transition will be throughout the summertime. Before then, though, a number of faculty will “test-drive” the program throughout the spring semester to work out any bugs. In August, a massive change will result, he said.

Getting students and faculty accustomed to the new LMS will be challenging but, in the long run, will also be worth it.

Students may have a Desire2learn but need the right Canvas to express their academic abilities so that, hopefully, we won’t get stuck with the old Blackboard as a last resort.




Editor's note:

The videos of the demonstration of the different LMS providers are available on Angel. The committee will take input from the college community until Oct. 19, 2012, at 5 p.m.