Preparing Faculty for a Learning Management System Transition

Preparing Faculty for a Learning Management System Transition

Danilo M. Baylen (University of West Georgia, USA), Mary Hancock (University of West Georgia, USA), Carol M. Mullen (University of West Georgia, USA) and Mary Angela Coleman (University of West Georgia, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-853-1.ch006
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This chapter focuses on the impact of a change in the use of a learning management system (LMS) at one university. Survey data captured faculty members’ viewpoints on the transition from one LMS to another, specifically, their dispositions toward technology and change, preparation and prior experiences, need for support, and access to available resources. The inquiry focuses on potential activities and infrastructures that can be established to support the faculty, as LMS users, when a new system is introduced. Also, it explores the types of knowledge, skills, and dispositions that faculty may have or need to effectively and efficiently use the new system to support their work. Finally, strategies are recommended to enhance faculty members’ dispositions, preparation, support and access to resources.
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Preparing Education Faculty For A Learning Management System Transition

The recent acquisition of ANGEL, a Learning Management System (LMS) company, by Blackboard has sparked the latest discussions on the use of LMSs in higher education. What is an LMS? According to the Office of Information and Instructional Technology (OIIT; 2006), it is a “set of web based tools for teaching, learning, communication and class administration.” Ionannou and Hannafin (2008) identified an LMS as a software system designed to manage course content and course activities. Currently the top U.S. providers of LMSs are Blackboard, ANGEL, and Desire2Learn (Young, 2009). A recent report of the Campus Computing Survey Project that polled college IT leaders stated 56.8% of colleges who use LMSs run Blackboard in the United States (Campus Computing Project, 2008). Blackboard provides “easy-to-use tools for designing and managing both web-based and face-to-face courses” (OIIT).

Changes in LMS platforms are fairly common in higher education (Ionannou & Hannafin, 2008; Smart & Meyer, 2005). One of the major reasons for switching to a different provider is increased licensing costs (Smart & Meyer). Another reason is an upgrade to a better, faster, and more robust version of the LMS (Corich, 2005; Ionannou & Hannafin). A third reason identified by Smart and Myer was that some institutions need to have one LMS instead of supporting multiple systems.

Change in a system, especially in higher education, brings about diverse responses and reactions from faculty. Smart and Meyer (2005) reported on how faculty from their university viewed the ease of transition from one LMS to another from a course conversion perspective. The report identified that “parts of the course that did not convert are often time-consuming to reconstruct” (p. 69). This resulted in increased workloads and frustration. However, in the same report, faculty expressed their willingness to convert courses to a new LMS despite the inaccuracy of the course content conversion and the workload involved.

Distance education technologies have presented faculty with the need to adapt to new methods of teaching and learning. Faculty must not only learn the technology but they must also understand the “paradigm shift” in presentation and evaluation of online instruction (Berryhill & Durrington, 2006, p. 52). Oblinger and Hawkins (2006) suggested that most faculty lack sufficient pedagogical and technical expertise to self develop effective online courses, yet Lane (2008) noted few researchers have investigated the effect of LMS design on pedagogy. While a well-designed LMS provides a toolkit for faculty in their development and presentation of courses online, the investment of time is still significant, and the idea of moving weeks or months of work spent in designing and developing a course to a new system often results in a sense of panic on the part of some faculty (Lane, 2008).

This chapter focuses on strategies that can be used to support faculty, when a new system is introduced. What knowledge, skills, and dispositions are needed by faculty members that will encourage effective and efficient utilization of the new system to support their work? What strategies need to be implemented to enhance and provide better support and make resources available and accessible?

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