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Alamo Colleges Shift to Cloud-Based LMS in Near-Million Dollar Deal

Five colleges in San Antonio will be migrating to a new learning management system (LMS) over the next 10 months. The Alamo Colleges, a group of five institutions, have selected Instructure's Canvas to replace Blackboard Vista. According to trustees meeting notes, the colleges will spend $949,800 for a three-year agreement with Instructure to deliver the online LMS.

The colleges' elearning committee began a faculty-driven process that included both instructors and students to test and evaluate a dozen replacement LMSs. Faculty selected Canvas as the first choice "by a wide margin over Blackboard Learn," the institutions stated on a Web site about the project. The new software will be phased in through a spring pilot program managed by a joint distance learning and IT team and deployed broadly through the rest of the year. By December 31, 2012, the schools said they expect to decommission Vista, which will no longer be supported by the vendor.

The assessment concluded that Canvas was "intuitive, 'clean,' easy to understand and use, and based on current needs," according to an FAQ posted online for faculty and staff. "For example, students and faculty can choose their own notification settings (text, Facebook, Twitter, personal email, etc.) without actually sharing personal information. The product is also based on a new Web framework called Ruby on Rails; it is not reliant upon Java technology. The new LMS will be cloud-hosted; this means that data is stored on remote servers, not at the Alamo Colleges. The Instructure company will provide 24/7 support for all users. Finally, Canvas is a new product that is innovative and user-friendly."

"Canvas has great potential to enhance both faculty teaching and student learning at our colleges," said Thomas Cleary, Alamo Colleges' vice chancellor for planning, performance and information systems. "We are excited about supporting such a state-of-the-art system at the Alamo Colleges." Cleary said faculty response to the new software has been enthusiastic, with faculty members eagerly "lining up" to participate in the pilot program.

However, the colleges won't be eliminating Blackboard technology completely. At the same trustees meeting that selected Instructure for LMS software, Blackboard was also awarded a contract for its mobile application solution. The colleges will be spending $66,000 for the purchase of design work, software, training, and vendor-hosted services "to deliver access to mobile devices both on and off any campus."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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