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Huskies invited to check out top vendors as part of LMS review

February 22, 2021

As a review of NIU’s learning management system quickly progresses, now is the time for campus feedback.

The university currently uses Blackboard as its learning management system, or LMS, to deliver web-based courses and facilitate teaching and learning. In the final year of a three-year contract with Blackboard, NIU is conducting a formal evaluation of available LMS systems.

As part of the LMS review process, vendors have been invited to provide virtual demonstrations via Zoom to the campus community.

The schedule of demonstrations has been set for the end of February and beginning of March, with the first demonstration taking place at 1 p.m. Feb. 23. Dates and details for how to participate are available on both the LMS Review website and in the NIU Calendar.

“The entire NIU community is welcome and encouraged to participate,” said Jason Rhode, executive director of the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. “We want faculty, instructors, staff and students to see these different products and give feedback.”

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.

Huskies are encouraged to provide input on their current satisfaction with Blackboard, as well as any features desired in a learning management system moving forward.

While use and overall satisfaction with Blackboard remains high, NIU hasn’t conducted a formal evaluation of other LMS systems in many years. If it is determined NIU should remain with Blackboard, a move to the newer version of the platform, Learn Ultra, eventually would have to be made, Rhode said.

“This is an opportunity for those who haven’t yet tried out the new Blackboard Ultra course experience to get a taste of what it’s like and a great opportunity to see the next generation of what’s out there in terms of future technology for online teaching,” Rhode said.

Along with Blackboard (Learn Ultra), the upcoming vendor demonstrations include D2L (Brightspace) and Instructure (Canvas).

“Thanks to NIU’s membership with Internet2, the university is able to leverage Internet2’s Net+ program to evaluate the top three LMS providers in the market,” said Matt Parks, chief information officer in the Division of Information Technology. “A big benefit of this partnership is securing heavily discounted, best-in-class, pricing from each of the LMS providers.”

An advisory committee of faculty, instructors, staff and students formed by the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning and the Division of Information Technology has created review criteria, as well as 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 dataproject overviewtimeline and task force information, among other details.