Streamline the Process of Selecting a New Technology Solution
The Rothenberger Institute (RI) in the School of Public Health designs, develops, and delivers a fully online curriculum focused on health and wellness issues, including physical, emotional, environmental, social, spiritual, intellectual, occupational, and financial health. The team offers a suite of one-credit, academic courses to University of Minnesota students via Learning Management Systems, like Canvas or Moodle. The RI also licenses their curricula to other academic institutions for delivery to their own students. The team is comprised of teaching specialists, an instructional designer, a media specialist, and an executive director.
To create interactive lessons and modules, the RI team uses the LDMS—Lesson and Delivery Management System, an application built in-house with the assistance of third-party developers.
“The LDMS was custom developed to meet our needs at the time,” said Amy LimBybliw, RI Assistant Director and Instructional Designer. “When we developed the LDMS, no solution on the market met our needs while providing the accessibility, security and ease-of-use our students deserve. We also needed a solution that was not tied to a single Learning Management system, such as Moodle, because the institutions who license our content use a wide range of LMS systems.”
The LDMS served the team well for many years, but began to show its age and limitations as the team’s needs changed.
“The LDMS lacks learner analytics which means we are unable to see how students engage with our content on an individual level and on a course level,” said LimBybliw. “The system also lacks integration with learning management systems. Finally, we had concerns about accessibility and responsiveness. These factors led us to begin exploring the process of upgrading the solution.”
Unfortunately, upgrading the LDMS to meet the team’s needs proved to be more expensive than a replacement solution.
“Once we realized that the upgrades would be too costly, we began exploring other solutions that offered the features we need,” LimBybliw said. “Since the creation of the LDMS, the number of learning development solutions on the market has increased dramatically. There are now several viable options to choose from.'
“The guidance the Technology Advisors offered helped us better understand the technological and logistical aspects of the solutions we reviewed, as well as how those solutions stood up to the University’s standards.”
Choosing the best fit for the team’s needs wouldn’t be easy, however. Sifting through the wide range of course authoring solutions available on the market and identifying the best fit for the team and University would take time, effort, and patience.
To make selecting a solution more manageable, the RI team reached out to the Office of Information Technology (OIT) and the Technology Advisory Council for support during the discovery phase and the RFP process.
LimBybliw and RI’s Technology and Media Specialist, Xiong Xy, began by researching available course authoring solutions. Using the list of known requirements, they ruled out non-viable products and identified a number of potential solutions. LimBybliw and Xy, in addition to RI’s Executive Director, Jerri Kjolhaug, then worked with OIT to further refine the search parameters.
“OIT was very helpful as we researched potential solutions in more detail,” LimBybliw said. “While we knew what features we wanted out of a new solution, OIT helped us better understand the technological requirements we needed the solutions to meet.”
Following extensive research and collaboration with OIT, the team was ready to begin the formal RFP process, as required by the University.
“Once we were prepared to begin the official RFP process, we followed OIT’s advice to get the Technology Advisory Council involved,” LimBybliw said. “We thought involvement of the Technology Advisors would help to eliminate some of the challenge of comparing solutions and selecting the best fit for our team and the University.”
Phoebe Johnson, OIT’s service architect and member of the Technology Advisors, offered guidance throughout the RFP process, including during initial drafting and review of vendor responses to the RFP.
The Technology Advisors’ involvement throughout the RFP process helped the RI team effectively address all aspects of the technology search. Johnson’s advice also ensured that the team considered only solutions that met the University’s standards for inclusion in the University’s technology ecosystem.
“The guidance the Technology Advisors offered helped us better understand the technological and logistical aspects of the solutions we reviewed, as well as how those solutions stood up to the University’s standards” Limbybliw said. “They also helped us ask the questions we needed to ask to fully comprehend the licensing and contract issues involved with the proposals.”
In the end, LimBybliw credits the Technology Advisory Council with offering vital support during the search for a replacement solution.
“I would definitely recommend any department to get the Technology Advisors involved early on in the RFP process,” LimBybliw said. “The extra set of eyes is vital to getting all the information needed, and the questions they helped us ask were invaluable in identifying the right solution for our unique needs. Their involvement made the process, and the final decision on a solution, much easier.”