The COVID-19 pandemic initially highlighted a need for a change in our LMS and as we look to the fall semester, our reliance on online tools is expected to grow. An industry standard LMS, supporting the learning requirements of students is an expectation we intend to meet. As Bradley University invests further into academic technologies, Sakai’s outdated solution no longer meets our needs. Lacking a mobile app and it’s challenges around intuitiveness are only some of the issues our faculty and students experience. We have heard over the last few years that use of Sakai is complicated and inefficient. The program does not integrate with online test proctoring systems, numerous textbook publishers, and test banks for example. Many of the tools that do offer integrations, such as Turnitin, Panopto, and Zoom are limited in their functionality.
Investing in a new LMS allows Bradley to meet the expectations of both faculty and students, increasing our competitive edge, and provides the baseline for academic technology access to all. As Sakai’s market share dips below 2% of all LMS usage in higher education, it’s evident that Bradley needs to look forward to an industry standard, best of breed solution for it’s learning management system.
The Evaluation Process
An evaluation of industry standard learning management systems consisting of Blackboard, Desire2Learn Brightspace, Canvas, and other smaller companies has been on-going for the past five years. As it became clear that Sakai was declining, particularly in the last 18-months, Bradley’s Learning Design and Technology team led the investigation of alternatives through meetings with campus stakeholders, analysis of Bradley Sakai user survey data, review of industry literature, meetings with vendors, product demonstrations, and communications with faculty and staff from institutions who use and support other learning management systems.
From the research, meetings, and communications, Bradley staff conducted a needs analysis and developed a criteria for evaluating the systems. System vendors gave presentations and demonstrated their systems and gave access to test sites. A limited number of campus stakeholders were invited to demonstrations to offer feedback in the initial evaluation stage intended to narrow the field of products to review. More detailed discussions with vendors on implementation processes, integration capabilities, migration paths, training, and support ensued, followed by the gathering of quotes. The intended next step was to have involved a faculty and staff evaluation team and campus-wide invitations to vendor demonstrations of the best products. However, the coronavirus cut that process short. The need for a better system due to the emphasis of online learning increased the urgency for adopting an industry standard system sooner than expected. The decision was made to move forward with the best information available, and that was that Canvas would best meet the needs of Bradley University.