Google Apps for Education: Future LMS?

Technology writer and rabble-rouser Audrey Watters is a busy woman. She has written for a number of established publications such Edutopia, MindShift, Inside Higher Ed, O’Reilly Radar, ReadWriteWeb, and The Huffington Post. But her most interesting writing, I think, is on her blog Hack Education. It is obvious that her blog is the platform where she can roll up her sleeves, put up her dukes, and throw some powerful punches at the aspects of teaching, learning, and technology she finds lacking. And there are many.

I am a regular reader. You should be, too.

Her  post Google Apps for Education: When Will It Replace the LMS? this past April caught my eye because the question she poses is one I often ask. The VCCS has one of the largest instances of Blackboard Learn in the world. I think the US Army’s instance of Blackboard may be bigger. Regardless, our is  big. Each semester, Blackboard courses are automatically created for almost every class offered by our 23 VCCS colleges. These courses are used in distance learning, hybrid, and face to face courses. What is unclear to me is exactly how Blackboard is being used by our faculty and students and, relatedly, how much of it is used? Putting the question into business-ese: Is it a good ROI?

In Audrey’s post, Jonathan Rees, a Professor of History at Colorado State University – Pueblo, subtly suggests that, for the level of use Blackboard gets at his university, it not a good ROI.

 As I’ve been working on cultivating a reputation for principled reasonableness around campus, I think all I want to do here is point out that all the things professors use Blackboard for here most (as well as a few of the things that not many people use Blackboard for) can be done for a lot less money than whatever our Blackboard license costs. Sometimes they can be done for no money at all.

Perhaps. But is Google Apps really the best substitute for Blackboard or another commercial LMS? Or is an open source LMS like Moodlerooms (now owned by Blackboard) or a more flexible one like Canvas’s Instructure a better compromise?

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