Learning Management Systems | News

Pepperdine U Moves to Sakai Open Source LMS

At the end of this year, Pepperdine University in California is formally switching over its learning management system from Blackboard to one based on Sakai, an open source learning management system.

The decision to make the move, according to Pepperdine, followed a 13-month pilot (begun in June 2009) in which the university's Information Technology department conducted studies to determine faculty and student LMS preferences, including "focus groups, surveys, and question-and-answer sessions," according to information released by the university. Ninety-four faculty representing Pepperdine's five schools used Sakai during the pilot period, and many of those participated in conferences or workshops as well. Nearly 300 students participated in a survey about their satisfaction with various LMSes and about their experiences specifically with Blackboard and Sakai, focusing on features and usability.

The results, according to a summary of findings, favored a move to Sakai. "Data collected throughout the LMS study clearly identified the need to provide greater LMS services and flexibility to faculty and students. Given this, there is general consensus among faculty and students who participated in the study that Sakai is able to meet those needs," according to an executive summary of the pilot study published by Pepperdine.

According to Timothy Chester, vice provost for academic administration and chief information officer, "With the adoption of Sakai, the University will benefit from a tool that is more aligned with our needs, that provides a better user experience for our faculty and students, that is easier to administer and support, and that is far more cost-effective."

Pepperdine's implementation of Sakai is being called "Courses." It will formally replace Pepperdine's legacy LMS when the university's contract with Blackboard expires at the end of December. Courses offers essentially the same functionality as other learning management systems, with "improved ease of use over Blackboard for commonly used features," Pepperdine reported.

Pepperdine's IT department is providing support for the system, including fall workshops, individual support, and course migration assistance.

An overview of Pepperdine's efforts to gauge learning management system preferences and determine whether to make a shift to Sakai can be accessed in PDF form here.

In addition, next Wednesday Campus Technology will publish an article written by Pepperdine's Chester detailing the findings of the university's 13-month pilot program and the decision to shift from Blackboard to Sakai.

About the Author

Executive Producer David Nagel heads up the editorial department for 1105 Media's education publications — which include two daily sites, a variety of newsletters and two monthly digital magazines covering technology in both K-12 and higher education.

A 21-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

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