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eLearning Dialogue for Wednesday, September 1, 2004

CMS Review - a resource on elearning & Course management Systems

Wed., Sept. 01, 2004




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CMS Viewpoint

Achieving a True Networked Learning Environment

By Matthew Pittinsky, Blackboard Inc.

Pittinsky offers a re-vision of course management systems as access points to a true networked learning environment. The goal is to enable students, teachers and researchers to access any learning resource at anytime and from anyplace.

In my view, the best mission statements are those that are never quite achievable, even as they define a clear objective against which progress can be measured. As the p'et Robert Browning wrote: “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for.” [From Robert Browning’s 1855 p'em Andrea del Sarto available on the Web at:'em264.html.]

At Blackboard, I thought we coined just such a mission when we founded the company in 1997 with the vision: “To transform the Internet into a powerful environment for the education experience.” This was a clear goal, and one against which progress could be made. But with the capabilities of the Internet always changing and the imagination of educators always expanding, it was a mission sure to keep us busy for a while; maybe even a lifetime.

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How Three Institutions Transformed Their Campuses: An Oracle White Paper
Read how three schools are moving successfully into the future of information management in an exclusive white paper from Oracle. Meeting the Future in Higher Education looks at challenges faced by most higher education institutions today: shrinking budgets; growing pressure to show ROI; competition for students; demand from students and faculty for greater access to information, and legacy systems that no longer meet a school's needs. In each case, you'll learn how the challenge was met and what the solution and payoffs were after moving to technology solutions from Oracle.

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CMS News & Product updates

High School Exit Exams Reveal a ‘Graduation Gap’

What happens to high school students who fail their exit exams and don’t get diplomas? Mostly nothing good. “A lot of poor kids, poor minority kids in inadequate schools are facing a dead end.” D'es that matter to colleges and universities? (
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P2P Software Makers Off the Hook for Illegal File Sharing

It only makes sense, but nowadays you’ve got to wonder if sensible is what will happen when you get to court. This time it did.
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200 Wireless APs Boost eLearning at Kansas State

Kansas State University will reach 200 wireless access points this fall-- KSU has a goal to wire every square inch, indoor and outdoors, of its campus. Students, faculty, and staff love it and are supportive, and the goal is in sight.
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America’s Best Colleges 2005

Yes, it’s that time again. On the off chance that you’ve not already been there, we’re providing this link to the latest annual survey by U.S. News & World Report. (
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CMS Case Study

Learning Content Management at Seneca College

Spread throughout the greater Toronto area, Seneca College ( has five major campuses and several smaller ones. With a combined student body that now exceeds 90,000, Seneca has been in a long-term growth mode in the use of technology to support teaching and learning. As their eEducation infrastructure has expanded, Seneca encountered two major challenges related to effective management of learning content and course materials.

The first challenge involved managing the update and distribution of content and course materials used in Seneca courses. Typical of other large institutions, Seneca offers numerous introductory level courses with multiple sections every semester. If each instructor independently manages course content, when the inevitable mid-semester content change is required, updating the course materials across multiple sections becomes time consuming and a process fraught with error. A centralized management and version control of the common course materials is required to increase the efficiency of such a complex system.

The other challenge involved creating appropriate mechanisms for users on campus, particularly faculty, to share content with each other. Providing department-specific repositories so members of a department can make materials accessible to their colleagues is one goal, but sharing at the departmental level is just a first step for Seneca. In fact, the campuses see department-level sharing as part of a more sophisticated, long term plan for leveraging re-usable learning objects (RLOs) in a system-wide content repository.

Seneca had experimented with different approaches to this for some time. Their Centre for New Technologies in Teaching and Learning created an application called SLOPE (Shared Learning Object Portal Environment), a prototype repository that allowed faculty to submit and re-use digital learning materials. The experience with SLOPE helped Seneca identify hurdles related to effectively rolling out a learning object repository. They concluded that faculty are more likely to use a learning object repository that is easy to use and access. The campus came to believe a successful content repository has to be implemented within an application environment the faculty already knows, such as their course management system.

To address learning content management needs Seneca chose the Blackboard Content System to complement their Blackboard Learning System and Blackboard Portal System. “With the Blackboard Content System,” says Joanna Hunt, Seneca’s Application Systems Administrator responsible for Blackboard, “it became so much easier. Now we post a document or learning object once and all course sections simply link to it.” For example, when a syllabus has to change mid-semester, that change is made in just one document, not 15 or 20 times, once for each section. Being able to store course materials in a single location also makes better use of digital storage space.
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