FAQ – Learning Management System Evaluation & RFP

Background

UNM is currently going through a request for proposal (RFP) process to select a new Learning Management System (LMS) that can effectively support UNM teaching and learning activities. Here are some FAQs about the selection project.


A Learning Management System (LMS) is a web-based platform used by instructors to post course materials and activities online for enrolled students. Instructors can share content, administer assessments, provide feedback and grades, and facilitate communication and interaction with and among students. Blackboard Learn, branded as UNM Learn, is currently the primary LMS for UNM academic courses.

In Fall 2018, the Provost Taskforce on Redesigning the University produced a set of recommendations to improve UNM including a recommendation to re-evaluate our LMS needs. In particular, the committee recommended that the University seek a more intuitive system that simplifies faculty workflows and promotes student engagement and learning. Concurrently, the Academic Technology Advisory Board also recommended that Academic Technologies re-evaluate our LMS needs.

UNM Learn will be impacted by change no matter what direction we choose. UNM currently manages its own local instance of Learn, but Blackboard will no longer offer that as an option by the end of 2023. In addition, our current license with Blackboard expires in September 2022, which means UNM must make plans to move to Blackboard's cloud-only environment or to another system altogether. The rollout of a new LMS is a multi-year process, so UNM must make a decision this fall in order to plan the transition and complete implementation projects.

In both the recommendations from the Provost Taskforce on Redesigning the University and the guidance from the Academic Technology Advisory board, we have been asked to find a more intuitive system that allows for more focus on student engagement and interaction. The best way to know we are meeting that charge is through your feedback. UNM community feedback on the effectiveness and ease of use of these tools is the primary consideration as we move through this selection process.

Feedback from the whole University community is essential to the success of any LMS selection. In Fall 2020 a broad call for participation was announced to the UNM community via multiple channels, and over 500 people signed up. Semifinalist vendors all gave multiple virtual demonstrations of their systems, recordings of which were made available for evaluation participants who couldn't make it to the demonstrations.

In addition, sandbox and sample courses for each system under consideration were made available for interested faculty and student evaluators to conduct hands-on evaluation activities. Feedback methods included discussions with peers in Microsoft Teams, a question form for direct response from vendor technicians, and multiple user survey methods. 

Yes, but not in the way we're used to. There is a possibility that UNM will maintain its relationship with Blackboard. If that happens, however, we will migrate from our locally-hosted Learn into Blackboard's Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud infrastructure.

It is worth noting that the changes associated with a move to Blackboard SaaS (cost, interface and tool changes, shifts in administrative responsibilities) are very similar to what we would face with other vendors.

Course content from Blackboard Learn can be transferred to the LMS systems offered by the major LMS vendors. Depending on the content, some courses may require additional development work or fine tuning post-transfer. An evaluation of course migration services and costs are part of the overall RFP.

The RFP was issued in February 2020. An RFP scoring committee (comprised of representatives from Faculty Senate IT Use Committee, HSC, the Center for Digital Learning, and UNM IT Academic Technologies) reviewed responses in summer 2020 and recommended semifinalists. Those vendors provided sandbox spaces, and gave demos to UNM evaluators during the Fall 2020 term. Evaluation of the semifinalists includes feedback from students, faculty, instructional designers, LMS administrators, and other institutional partners. Final selection and procurement are targeted for late 2020. Implementation planning will begin once a final agreement is reached.

The implementation plan for a new system will depend on the vendor that is selected. As part of the RFP, we asked vendors for information on transition and support services. More information will be available once a vendor is selected and implementation planning has begun.

Yes. All major LMS vendors support a protocol called Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI).

However, while most of the integrations we have in place work through an LTI integration, some of our homegrown applications may need to be reworked or replaced to the greatest degree possible.