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KU: We all know that changing learning-management systems is not a trivial matter. There is risk and cost associated with deployment, but also with course-material migration, faculty development, and training for helpdesk staff, application administrators, and learners. What motivated you to evaluate and change UCLA’s learning-management system?

RS: In 2002, UCLA’s Faculty Committee on Educational Technology (FCET) expressed concern over the proliferation of “course-management system” solutions in departments, divisions, and schools that required separate logins and made sharing of expertise, materials, new tools, and innovation difficult if not impossible across the campus. After several years of cross-campus collaborative efforts to better link the variety of services, UCLA decided to join the Sakai Educational Partners Program in order to support the Sakai vision and to experiment with open-source solutions and the concept of a common solution on which UCLA might converge. The FCET thought it was important for UCLA to join the national community in order to work collaboratively with others to build tools, as well as to support the vision of a higher-education-defined solution that would support both teaching and research collaboration.

KU: What evaluation and selection methods did you use and why did you select those methods?

RS: The FCET recommended that the common solution be open source. This was endorsed by the IT Planning Board and by CCLE Technical and Functional Sponsor Groups. The Assessment Taskforce evaluated solutions that met UCLA’s requirements and selected Moodle and Sakai to be evaluated in greater depth based on the functional and technical requirements.

Our methodology included doing a fair amount of desktop research to determine what options were available. We referred to Web sites, reports, white papers, and other secondary sources to identify potential systems. As there are dozens of open-source learning management environments, we made a quick cut based on factors such as project viability and maturity; activity within the community; the nature of the technology stack (for example, is the stack open source and are the dependencies open source, is the programming language too obscure?). We were also interested in knowing whether other large-scale production deployments were in existence, the strength and maturity of the development and support community, and if there was adequate support and documentation in English.

Based on this type of general analysis we were able to reduce the field to eight potential systems. We then looked at each system in terms of our meta-criteria and selected Sakai and Moodle as the two solutions we needed to assess in detail. As part of the assessment process, we interviewed institutions that had experience with Sakai and Moodle.

KU: What decision was made?

RS: We selected Moodle. You can find more information about the decision at (External Link) . It is important to note that this decision had two parts. The second was to remain engaged with the higher education community and the Sakai Foundation in order to work on interoperability of Moodle, Sakai, and other CMS/CLE solutions.

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Source:  OpenStax, The impact of open source software on education. OpenStax CNX. Mar 30, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10431/1.7
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