I didn’t live blog the CMS discussion at CSG on Friday because I was trying to actively participate in the discussion. In retrospect, what was most striking about the discussion was the lack of heat that it generated. There seemed to be general agreement among those in the room that course management systems were just another administrative system that campuses need to support, aimed at providing a common level of infrastructure to provide a home for courses on the web, and that they are not particularly exciting nor designed to produce or support innovative learning or instructional modes. People seemed to feel that the systems they are currently supporting (which included Blackboard, Sakai, Angel, and Desire2Learn) fill the needs just fine.
I thought the most interesting comments on the topic came from Sally Jackson at Illinois, who couldn’t be there for the discussion but shared a wonderfully perceptive and provocative email on the topic, where she said we shouldn’t (I paraphrase) ask whether the current systems are doing the job they do well or not, but whether we are doing the right things to support teachers and learners, who by and large prefer to make their decisions on an individual, not an institutional level. That mirrors my thinking too, and I think we need to expand our view of what it means to support learning at our institutions instead of building more straight-jacketed vertical applications that drive us towards a uniformity we imagine our students and faculty need.