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U Mary Washington Begins Move to Instructure LMS

A university in Fredericksburg, VA has begun its move to a new open source, SaaS-based learning management system. Several instructors at the University of Mary Washington have started using Instructure Canvas in place of Blackboard software for their summer courses. The campus, whose Blackboard contract ends in August 2011, will move fully to Canvas in the fall semester.

An LMS committee of faculty and students had been meeting since spring 2010 to evaluate alternatives to Blackboard. The college had been running version 8, which was initially released in early 2008. Finalists under consideration included Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Moodlerooms, and Instructure. In January 2011 each vendor gave a two-hour presentation, in which they were expected to enter a syllabus, upload and manage media, control course and guest access, use built-in and third-party tools, and demonstrate other aspects of the applications. Instructure was announced as the winner in February.

Canvas is an open source LMS delivered as software as a service. A major draw of the browser-based application is its integration with multiple popular Web 2.0 services, including Facebook, Google Docs, and Twitter, as well as email and RSS. Discussion posts can include audio and video. The program also integrates features that simplify instructor administration, such as assignment grading and tracking learning outcomes. A built-in notification system can be configured to send certain types of messages to the teacher's phone. An integrated web conferencing system is available to set up group meetings.

Although the product has migration tools, U Mary Washington is advising its instructors to recreate their course materials.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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