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Initiative seeks updated learning management system for the University of Toronto

You buy the iPhone 6, and just a year later iPhone 6s comes out with updated features. Keeping current with technology helps higher learning institutions be more efficient. With this in mind the University of Toronto launched the Academic Toolbox Renewal Initiative, a holistic reevaluation of the academic technology toolbox. Janice Patterson, Associate Director of the Centre for Teaching & Learning at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC), is taking a leadership role and spoke to writer Sayada Nabi about the project. 

What is the academic toolbox renewal initiative?
It’s an initiative engaged in selecting a new learning management system (LMS) for the University. The LMS is viewed as an online toolbox of educational technology resources that primarily support courses, in both the administrative and learning/teaching aspects. The current LMS Blackboard/Portal has been in place for a while and this is a chance to step back and talk about we like and don’t like, and where we go from here.

This initiative has taken a holistic approach to choosing an LMS, with three phases:

Identify common criteria that can be used to determine the acceptability of services and solutions that could be included in a toolbox.

Second, an intake process was created, whereby instructors and others can suggest new additions to the toolbox on an ongoing basis.

Third, a request for proposal (RFP) is being issued for a LMS.

Once the RFP is closed, a short-list of vendor LMS solutions will be selected, and there will be an evaluation process (a ‘test drive’), where the community will get to see vendor demos, try different products, and give feedback on what they think, and like or don’t like about the different systems.

What are the goals of the academic toolbox initiative?
To end up with a new LMS that can support the academic work of our community. Even more than that, we want to end up with a toolbox that can be continually updated and renewed with new resources as they develop.

What is your role in this process?
I will be helping primarily with the Community Evaluation phase, which is to invite the community – instructors, students and others – to look at the short-listed LMS systems, test them, evaluate them, tell me what they think, and gather that info for an eventual recommendation to the Provost. My role involves providing opportunities for demos, hands-on testing, and talking to lots of people!

Why did you decide to take on this role?
It’s a unique opportunity to be involved at a very exciting moment in this process; to engage deeply with instructors, students, and others across U of T, to hear what they want, need, value and imagine in an LMS. I’m very happy to be involved in this project!

Click here for more information about this initiative.




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