Share Tweet Share Email

Huskie input sought as NIU evaluates its online learning platform

December 9, 2020

All faculty, instructors, staff and students will have the opportunity to participate and provide feedback in a review of NIU’s learning management system.

Known as LMS, the system basically serves as an online platform to deliver web-based courses and facilitate teaching and learning.

In the final year of a three-year contract with Blackboard, the current LMS vendor, NIU hasn’t conducted a formal evaluation of other LMS systems in many years, said Jason Rhode, executive director of the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning.

While use and overall satisfaction with Blackboard remains high, the review will look at what features are desired in an LMS moving forward and include an in-depth comparison and demonstrations of the leading learning management systems used in higher education today.

“We want to make sure we have the best possible technology for our faculty and students to enable engaging teaching and learning,” Rhode said. “Now is an appropriate time, before the university pursues another renewal of Blackboard, to conduct a thorough evaluation to determine whether an alternative LMS should be considered at this time.”

Coordinating the review this academic year, the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning and the Division of Information Technology have formed an advisory committee of faculty, instructors, staff and students and launched a website to provide the most up-to-date information about the review.

The website includes an overview and history of Blackboard at NIU, usage data, project overview, timeline and task force information, among other details.

Rhode encourages all faculty, instructors, staff and students to provide input on their current satisfaction with Blackboard, as well as any features desired in a learning management system moving forward.

“We’re going to want everyone’s feedback,” Rhode said. “We’re really being intentional making sure this is as inclusive a process as possible.”

Originally licensed at NIU in 1999 to facilitate the delivery of web-based courses, Blackboard has been used more broadly through the years as numerous components have been added.

Among its many uses, Blackboard serves as a tool for departmental communication to students on events and program deadlines, storage of course materials and student portfolios, delivery and tracking of employee training and more.

“I’m excited to partner with Jason Rhode and CITL for this important LMS review,” said Matt Parks, chief information officer in the Division of Information Technology. “It will be a very collaborative process, enabling faculty, staff and students to have a voice at the table to tell us what’s most important in an LMS so that we’re able to select the best system that will serve NIU for years to come.”