I’ve followed my healthy obsession of learning management system (LMS) evaluations to South Africa, this time, settling my gaze on Stellenbosch University and their recent evaluation of Moodle, Sakai, and Blackboard Learn™ 9.1.

To start, I spoke with JP Bosman, Senior Advisor of eLearning, and Johann Kistner, IT Director, at Stellenbosch University, to walk through their decision making process and understand, in detail, the undertaking of their evaluation from detailed feature parity analysis to final decision.

Stellenbosch University Crest

Pectora roborant cultus recti.

[A Sound Education Strengthens the Spirit.]

The University first recognized a need to assess systems when they received notice that support for their current LMS, Blackboard WebCT, Vista 8, would end in January of 2013.

“After the end-of-life announcement, we were contacted by our institution’s Teaching and Learning Committee,” recalled Bosman, “with a formal request to evaluate the current state of the LMS market.”

Shortly thereafter, Bosman, Kistner and a number of University staff, narrowed their focus down to three potential replacements for Vista 8, including Moodle, Sakai and Blackboard Learn 9.1. They put a plan in place to:

  1. Reach out to neighboring institutions that use the respective software.
  2. Evaluate feature parity between Vista 8 and any potential replacement.
  3. Test the three products in production level environments.

“We even attended an annual Sakai conference in South Africa,” admitted Kistner. “There was a desire to do this evaluation in a thorough manner, and a big part of that was having a holistic view of what’s out there and what our peers are doing.”

To answer questions regarding functionality, an evaluation matrix was created and reviewed by various members of the Stellenbosch team. The research was the driving force behind their evaluation.

“We filled out the matrix and, at the end of the day, Blackboard Learn 9.1 came out with the highest score,” revealed Kistner. “Ultimately, it met the criteria in the best way for our University.”

In addition, the Stellenbosch team added on-site testing of the three products as an input in the evaluation matrix.

“Testing the three systems gave us a good idea of the scope of our change management needs,” commented Bosman. “It allowed us to think of the training, resources and services we would need for each product.”

After evaluating all three systems, Stellenbosch University opted to designate Blackboard Learn, 9.1 as their next LMS. To learn more, read the official University announcement from July of this year, download their template evaluation matrix, and take a look at their transition timeline below.

Moving from WebCT, Vista 8 to Blackboard Learn Timeline

To see how other institutions have carried out their LMS/VLE evaluations, just visit the Evaluation Resource Center. We have assembled rubrics, survey instruments and results, timeline and reports from universities and colleges that have compared and contrasted their e-learning options.

Have a resource or story to share with your peers? Let us know at upgradecenter@blackboard.com.

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