Course Management Systems
A course management system (CMS) is a collection of software tools providing an online environment for course interactions. A CMS typically includes a variety of online tools and environments, such as:
In addition, a CMS is typically integrated with other databases in the university so that students enrolled in a particular course are automatically registered in the CMS as participants in that course.
The decision to use a CMS in a traditional face-to-face course has implications for course design that often go unnoticed by instructors in their initial use of such systems. This module lists technical and pedagogical tips that instructors should consider as they place materials into a CMS. While it is intended primarily for instructors who are using a CMS for the first time, instructors who have already used a CMS in other courses might benefit by using these tips as a checklist.
The CMS will likely not only have different modules, but also allow you to select which of these modules you'll be using in the class. If you're not going to use a particular module (e.g., if you decide not to use online chat during the course), you should turn that module off so that it doesn't distract students from the modules you plan to use. (If you decide later to use a module that you've turned off, you can turn it on then.)
You'll likely be posting content to your site by inputting text into text boxes on a web page. If you're inputting text that's longer than a few sentences, you should type it first in a word processor and then copy and paste it into the CMS text box. Web browsers are typically less stable than word processors, and word processors often have auto-save settings that save text periodically as you type. If you develop the content in a word processor, you're less likely to lose everything if your computer crashes or the server drops a connection. If you save the file on your computer after pasting the content into the web browser, you have your own copy on your computer.
Make some decisions about how you're going to use the different modules of the CMS, and state these decisions clearly to your students.
Pay attention to how your use of a CMS might change your behavior in the classroom. For example, if you decide to post your lecture notes in the online environment, give some thought to how your lecture will be different if students have access to the notes. Your thinking on this will likely depend in part on whether you make the notes public before or after your class meets.
Center for Teaching consultants are available to work with instructors as they explore how they will integrate the use of a course management system into their teaching.
OAK (Online Access to Knowledge), which is powered by Blackboard, serves as Vanderbilt's course management system.