Course management systems

Course management systems (CMS) have quickly become indispensible academic resources, and the mission-critical, academic counterpart to our administrative systems.

From my perspective, the last five years have been transformative for software developments in higher education. Open source licensing models have been important for years, and many if not most of our institutions have been relying on open source solutions at the infrastructure level (network monitoring tools, web servers, and the like). But as Brad Wheeler of Indiana University has reminded us, open source is moving up the stack and today, we are on the cusp of realizing substantial benefits from open source applications such as uPortal, Sakai, Drupal and more.

I've been privileged to have been involved with open source course management systems since 2000 when MITs Open Knowledge Initiative began setting the technical stage for the dynamic and exciting applications we have today. From drafting the requirements specifications for an open source CMS in 2001, to piloting Stanford's CourseWork and Michigan's CHEF systems, I've been involved in small and not-so-small ways for higher education to gain greater control over the technology tools we need.

CourseWork, CHEF, and Indiana's OnCourse and MIT's Stellar, converged into Sakai and we at Denison University and in my firm, The Longsight Group, began to pilot versions 1.0, 1.1, 1.5, 2.0 and on and on. The potential for pedagogical flexibility, the opportunity to contain costs, to reallocate resources, to do a better job in our core competencies - these have all been reasons for me to get and stay involved with Sakai.

Today, Denison is piloting Sakai, and Longsight is supporting 57 institutions as they use Sakai in limited ways as a pilot or in production to meet their curricular and collaborative needs. And while Denison also uses Blackboard, we are fortunate to be involved in the transformation of the course management system market.

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