Teaching institutions around the world are using large, unwieldy and expensive learning management system (LMS) packages that are beginning to have profound effects on their whole organizations. Such LMS packages in turn go to great lengths to interoperate with the desktop information productivity software that almost all institutions use, Microsoft Office System. Since a very large part of the instructional content is generated in Office it seems sensible to investigate whether straightforward extensions of the Office System could become an LMS in their own right. This chapter describes research and development that integrated Microsoft Office System, SharePoint Windows Services, and SharePoint Portal Server (SPS) as the heart of an off-the-shelf LMS. Already designed to work closely with Office, SPS features are compared against the list of features expected of an ideal LMS. Where gaps in the LMS features were discovered in SPS a number of small extensions of standard Office applications were proposed to fill these gaps and create a credible LMS. These Microsoft tools and custom extensions were put to use in teaching and administration during a 2-semester (8-month) trial at Bond University. The SPS installation was hosted in partnership with G-Netech Pty Ltd. This Bond University/G-Netech SharePoint Alliance project (BUGSA or SharePoint Alliance) was able to call upon combined research, development and teaching expertise provided by the partners. The outcomes of the short trial support the concept of the Office System as a viable LMS.
Key Terms in this Chapter
WSS: Windows SharePoint services.
FAQ: Frequently asked questions.
Web Part: Portlets supported by SharePoint.
SPS: SharePoint portal server.
SPA: SharePoint alliance trial.
LMS: Learning management system.