In articles, blogs and tweets comparing a school’s choice to go with Instructure Canvas or Blackboard Learn, you often see the terms “smackdown,” “bakeoff” and “showdown.” These posts usually jump on gripes about the runner up or talk about one shiny new tool or feature. What you don’t usually hear about is WHY an institution chooses a particular vendor. Or HOW the solution fits into the larger, strategic goals of a school or university. What I liked about this piece from Inside Higher Ed is that it provides a balanced view of what institutions look for in an online learning platform. It provides a rarely seen perspective on how evaluations go far beyond features and point products.

“But as the cases at Northwestern and Washington State show, the deciding factor may not always be a feature.”

 This quote couldn’t be more on point. User interface will always evolve. Providers will always improve features. Competition will always continue to accelerate the pace of development and innovation. Taking a more holistic view of the educational experience with a laser sharp focus on student achievement and success is what is going to truly make a difference. As Mark Strassman, our SVP of Product Management noted  in his blog, we need to start thinking about solutions to address institutional challenges, not just point products  that may, or may not, improve content posting, testing, and discussion boards. If you are going to invest resources, staff energy, time and money, wouldn’t you want to do with an environment that supports expanding your program years down the road?

At BbWorld, we have a series of sessions around technology evaluation that will be presented by academic technologists that are thinking about these very issues. These sessions don’t just focus on what to look for, but rather, how  to go about engaging the key stakeholders, creating frameworks and developing an strategic approach.

  • A Comprehensive Approach to Technology Selection, Adoption, and Integration
  • One Size Does NOT Fit All: Three critical Steps for Effective LMS Evaluations

The learning environment is as vital to your institution as your different constituents– both those who want change and those who are fine with the status quo. From faculty members to provosts, you have to take everyone into consideration. But you also need to think about your long term goals and what the educational system will look like five or ten years down the road. This summer, we’ll also publish a whitepaper based on interviews with system administrators, directors of academic technology and faculty members that provides best practices and guidelines to help you make the best decision for your institution. Stay tuned for more.

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