University contemplates move from BlackBoard

Correction appended

As the number of online graduate programs swell, administrators are exploring new learning management systems beyond Blackboard.

Denis Cioffi, director of the Teaching and Learning Collaborative, will lead a committee to evaluate offerings from other companies like Sakai and Moodle, which he said offer similar functions and capabilities.

Other programs could be more costly than Blackboard, which is the most widely used learning management system on college campuses and is currently GW’s primary system.

The School of Public Health and Health Services is in negotiations with the education start-up 2tor to help launch and deliver a new online program, Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning Stephen Ehrmann said.

Online graduate programs in the GW School of Business will use Blackboard to deliver content, but will use the education company Pearson to consult on online teaching and use digital content.

Cioffi, also an associate provost, called the choice of online management systems “an incredibly complicated, difficult question,” that needs an answer as GW’s schools add more online programs.

“Anything we want to do in education will have an electronic component with a learning management system. It affects our on campus courses, our hybrid courses and our online courses. It’s really important to see the evolution of this,” he said.

The administrator said he met representatives from Blackboard officials last month to preview its next version.

Cioffi’s review could mean making a switch from Blackboard, but the University pays little to use Blackboard, because the system has its roots at GW, Ehrmann said. Blackboard acquired the GW-created system Prometheus, and is an equity stakeholder in Blackboard.

P.B. Garrett, chief academic technology officer, said through a spokeswoman that a Blackboard upgrade is still under review, and declined to comment on what the new system would entail.

The University of Maryland ditched Blackboard this summer, signing a deal with the company Instructure Canvas.

Jeff Young, a senior writer at the Chronicle of Higher Education, said the competition has intensified as online courses gain ground.

“There has been a bit of a fight in the marketplace to win that business of colleges, because they do have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to use these systems – sometimes more,” Young said.

This article was updated Oct. 8, 2012 to reflect the following:

The Hatchet referred to the company Instructure Canvas as Infrastructure Canvas. We regret this error.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.