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CCC Online Education InitiativeHow do national consortia use common course management systems (CCMS)? The California Community Colleges (CCC) Online Education Initiative (OEI) worked with a leading higher education consulting firm to find out.

In the news today is the resulting report, written by O’Neal Spicer and Phil Hill of MindWires Consulting, in collaboration with the OEI’s Michelle Pilati. The OEI asked MindWires to help us ascertain what online education consortia across the country are doing when it comes to promoting and adopting CCMS. We were hoping to discover some lessons learned that would help us understand how we should approach our work in creating a statewide consortium.

The report, “A Retrospective on Implementing Common Course Management Systems: Motivations, Benefits, Drawbacks and Recommendations,” has recently been published and, while there aren’t many surprises as to why consortia across the country implement one course management system (CMS) for their work, it is interesting to note some of the reasons they did not or could not.

Focus On Students

Report: A Retrospective on Implementing Common Course Management SystemsAs of this writing, 73 of the 113 colleges in the CCC are planning to implement Canvas as their course management system. I invite you to read the full report because it contains information that will help us going forward, and also continues to direct our focus to what is important, namely students.

If I were to add the lessons we have learned to the list within the report, the first item I’d recount is that, no matter how hard you try to let people know that we aren’t trying to standardize their teaching, they think that one CMS does that. If the OEI continues to focus on what’s best for students, then standardization, in all forms, is not the answer.

Please take a look at a comment on page 11 of the report that refers to the flexibility that a common system allows. Flexibility and robust resourcing is what the OEI is trying to accomplish. Marshaling the weight of a large higher education system like ours enables us to work efficiently by large-scale cost negotiations and to work effectively by collaborating around teaching practices and technology innovation.

A Partner In Canvas

When we chose Instructure’s Canvas as the CMS we would make available to the colleges in our system, we were looking for a provider that would seriously engage in a partnership focused on growth and innovation. The Instructure leadership has shown itself to be interested in what they can learn from us, and been open to suggestions to improve the Canvas platform. We also were impressed by the customizations that were evident in the platform infrastructure.

The nature of Canvas is adaptation and innovation. We saw in Canvas a CMS that could grow and adapt to new technologies, as well as adapt to the needs of our ever-changing educational environment. The strong focus on and ability of Canvas to integrate learning technologies effectively into the CMS will allow our colleges to select, customize and implement resources that work for them.

What we now are actually experiencing is a renewed interested in innovation and collaboration around teaching among faculty members involved in using the CCMS and in focusing on effective practice across the system.

The recommendations at the end of the report are important ones for us to consider, and we are.

Download the full report here.


Pat James is Executive Director of the
California Community Colleges Online Education Initiative