Learning Management Systems | News

Masconomet Regional SD Chooses LMS After 2-Year Review

A 2,100-student district in Massachusetts spent two years assessing learning management systems (LMS) as part of a larger program to integrate technology more fully into teaching and learning. Masconomet Regional School District whittled a field of six primary LMS contenders down to two -- Blackboard and Instructure's Canvas. After demonstrations by those two vendors, field trips to review the products in school settings, and a review of the initial request for proposal (RFP) criteria, Blackboard won the contract.

"Blackboard has been perfecting content and curriculum delivery longer than any other LMS provider in K-12 and higher education, and that experience shows in their latest design, features and services," said Chief Financial Officer Susan Givens. "We are excited to work with a partner that will help us empower our teachers with the tools they need to optimize the learning experience for students and foster hands-on, personalized learning opportunities."

The district, which has one middle school and one high school, will be implementing the LMS at the same time it begins ramping up professional development among its instructional staff for the use of technology in the classroom. In its "study group report," the district cited three functional areas that turned out to be important in helping make the LMS decision:

  • The environment: "Blackboard provides a safe and secure platform for teaching digital literacy skills," the report stated. "The product also provides a controlled social networking environment with all the benefits of being able to chat, communicate by email or text, blog, and collaborate. This environment provides a unique opportunity for students to participate in a social network in a safe controlled environment. Students can apply the skills learned in this environment to their personal social networks outside of school."
  • The user interface: "The variety of tools such as Video Anywhere, Google Docs integration, blogs, wikis, discussion boards, and homework drop boxes all have a consistent look and feel that makes navigating the platform quite intuitive," the assessment team wrote. "Students and teachers can easily navigate among screens like the online calendar, list of assignments with due dates, assignment descriptions and submission areas, assessments, content creation tools, and collaborative spaces with ease. This centralizes these activities in a solitary, secure environment and provides students practical experience in an environment similar to what they will encounter in higher education and the workplace."
  • Support: "It was essential that the vendor be financially stable, committed to the K-12 market, and have a progressive product roadmap that will iterate and adapt to keep pace with changing technologies," the authors reported. "Blackboard meets all of the criteria set forth in the RFP and has the additional benefits of having the strongest and largest user base, a good peer network, responsive account managers, the most extensive documentation and knowledge base, as well as the most organized and responsive support teams."

Givens noted that "Blackboard Learn will help us take technology out of the way of teaching and learning. Tools like the content repository will allow teachers who aren't yet comfortable with technology, to deliver personalized curriculums at the same level as those who are digital natives."

Eventually, the district also anticipates implementing Blackboard MobileLearn as part of its 1-to-1 initiative, which is scheduled for fiscal year 2015. At that time students will be given the option of downloading an app onto their devices that will let them access course content.

The contract with Blackboard was signed at the beginning of the year with an appropriation of $142,000. The district reported that licensing fees will be added to the operating budget in future years.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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