Have Your Say in the Learning and Teaching Systems and Services Consultation Part 2


** This survey is now closed. If you have any questions, please email the Learning and Teaching Systems and Services Committee at lms@ryerson.ca.

It’s been a year and a half since implementing the university’s learning management system, D2L Brightspace. We’re now ready to launch phase two of our consultations – and you’re invited to be part of it.

Please share your thoughts with us by completing our survey by Friday, March 17, 2017.

Why is a consultation needed?
We’d like to ensure the university’s online learning and teaching software continues to be flexible and robust enough to meet the evolving needs of students, faculty and staff.

What are the goals of the consultation?
The goal of this new phase is to identify gaps in the current Brightspace system and other eLearning tools at Ryerson. While Brightspace offers many features and functionalities, we’re aware that there’s additional tools Ryerson may need to acquire and offer separately.

What kind of feedback are we looking for?
We’re interested in hearing:

  • what kind of teaching tasks you do now or want to accomplish in the future
    • teaching tasks include content authoring, content organization and management, content subscription, communications, collaboration and group work, assessment, personalized and adaptive learning, class engagement, gamification, reflection and portfolio
  • whether the right tools are available to you in Brightspace or other systems at Ryerson
  • whether existing tools need improvement
  • whether new tools are needed

What’s the consultation process?
Step 1. Survey for faculty, contract lecturers and TAs/GAs to help identify tools currently used for courses at Ryerson, any missing functionality that could be improved with existing tools and any gaps where a tool is needed and not currently available.

Step 2. If more input is needed, a series of town halls, focus groups, and presentations will follow. The outcome of these, combined with survey results, will help us prioritize the most important gaps and proceed with the funding request and acquisition process for the most needed tools.

Sponsors and contacts
Phase two of this consultation is initiated by The Advisory Committee on Academic Computing (ACAC) in partnership with:

“Have your say by taking the survey here.” 

For more background, process and timeline information, please see the previous blog posts below. If you have any additional questions, please contact the Learning and Teaching Systems and Services Consultation Committee at lms@ryerson.ca.

Contract signed with Desire 2 Learn

We are pleased to announce that Ryerson University has reached an agreement with Desire to Learn (D2L) to make Brightspace Ryerson’s new Learning Management System.
Computing and Communications Services (CCS) has been piloting Brightspace since January, with about 25 faculty members and approximately 1800 students and we are on track to replace Blackboard with Brightspace prior to the Fall 2015 term.

In preparation for the fall term, CCS will integrate Brightspace with other systems at Ryerson so that students will be enrolled in course shells much as they were with Blackboard. CCS is also in the process of working to help ensure smooth integration of Gmail and Google Docs, Turnitin, Ares e-reserve and a number of other systems. In addition, we will be offering support through a variety of training sessions and lunch and learns for Faculty.

The decision to adopt Brightspace was made after a multi-year consultation process that considered issues of privacy, security, accessibility, platform features, and cost effectiveness. More information on the consultation process is available on the consultation blog at http://lms.blog.ryerson.ca. We are excited that the process led to the adoption of a new learning management system for Ryerson University. We hope you enjoy using it to help optimize your teaching and learning experiences!
Mohamed Lachemi
Provost and Vice-President, Academic

Janice Winton
Vice-President, Finance and Administration

Letter of Acceptance

January 29, 2015

To:  Dimitri Androutsos, Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Chair, Advisory Committee on Academic Computing
Brian Lesser, Director, Computing and Communication Services

From: Mohamed Lachemi Provost and Vice President Academic
Janice Winton Vice-President, Administration and Finance, and Chief Financial Officer

Re: Recommendation to replace Blackboard LMS with Desire2Learn’s Brightspace

On January 16, 2015 we received a recommendation from Ryerson’s Advisory Committee on Academic Computing (ACAC) to replace the university’s current learning management system, Blackboard, with Desire2Learn’s Brightspace, provided the successful completion of a pilot phase, further internal risk assessments and a definitive agreement with the new vendor.

We are extremely pleased with the extensive process of community consultation that the committee has undertaken. Since January 2013, the committee has consulted broadly to determine if Blackboard should be upgraded or replaced to ensure that the university’s online learning and teaching software is truly flexible to meet student, faculty and staff evolving needs. The introduction of a community “test-drive” of the two short-listed products was an innovative approach to allow the community to try out the two systems and provide feedback on their experiences.

The committee has our full support to roll out a pilot phase of Brightspace between now and August 2015, and to work towards a negotiated agreement with D2L. We look forward to the outcomes of that process.

We thank Dimitri Androutsos, Chair, ACAC, and Brian Lesser, Director, CCS for their leadership on this very significant project, and would like to recognize the important contributions of the Learning Management System subcommittee of ACAC:

  • Restiani Andriati, Manager, Digital Media Projects Office
  • Naza Djafarova, Director, Digital Educational Strategies, The Chang School
  • Heather Driscoll, Director, Office of the General Counsel and Information and Privacy Officer
  • Paul Dunphy, Manager, Information Technology, Ted Rogers School of Management
  • Dalia Hanna, Manager, Learning and Teaching Office
  • Michel Kouadio, Director Technology Planning and Innovation,
    Faculty of Communication & Design
  • Karen Kwan, E-Learning Designer, Human Resources
  • Melanie McBride, MA Candidate, Communication and Culture
  • Jason Nolan, Professor, School of Early Childhood Studies
  • Robin Riley, Documentation & Training Specialist, Human Resources
  • Maureen Reed, Professor, Department of Psychology
  • Mugino Saeki, Information Systems Security Officer (ISSO), Board Secretariat
  • Nancy Walton, Director, e-Learning
  • Fangmin Wang, Head of Library Information Technology Services
  • Sally Wilson, Web Services Librarian
  • Leonora Zefi, Manager, E-Learning Initiatives and Course Development, The Chang School

Acceptance Letter in PDF Format

ACAC Recommends Replacing Blackboard with D2L Brightspace

On December 9, 2014 the Advisory Committee on Academic Computing (ACAC) voted unanimously to recommend that Ryerson replace Blackboard with D2L’s Brightspace integrated learning platform. Here is the final text of the letter of recommendation.

The Advisory Committee on Academic Computing (ACAC) initiated a consultation process  beginning January, 2013 regarding the future of online learning and teaching systems and services at Ryerson. The consultation included:

  • use of the http://lms.blog.ryerson.ca/ site to provide information and solicit feedback;
  • a Learning Management Systems Demo Week where the community was invited to see demonstrations by LMS vendors and by university professors who use those systems (including the latest release of Blackboard);
  • an online requirements survey (a summary of the results are available here);
  • a follow-up open request for use cases that an LMS should support;
  • input via the lms@ryerson.ca email account.

Based on community input, a Request for Proposal was posted on January 31st, 2014 on the Merx public tender site. An RFP evaluation committee was struck which evaluated the written proposals and arranged for vendor presentations in front of a group of faculty, staff, and students. The evaluation committee ultimately selected two LMS products for broader review by the Ryerson community. The short list did not include the Blackboard LMS. Following the selection of the short listed products, a public meeting was held on September 11, 2014 to launch the final phase of the consultation and to answer any questions about the process to date. A video of the session is available online.

A community test drive of the two short-listed LMS products was made available inside the my.ryerson.ca portal, where faculty, students, and staff were all encouraged to try out the two systems. CCS collected feedback from these stakeholders via email to lms@ryerson.ca,  via focus group sessions and surveys. In addition, CCS undertook the completion of security and accessibility tests for the two short-listed systems. Based on this further input, the RFP evaluation committee selected D2L’s Brightspace product as the best all-round choice for Ryerson. Since then, the selection has been unanimously endorsed by both the LMS subcommittee of ACAC and by ACAC itself.

ACAC is, therefore, recommending that Ryerson replace Blackboard with Brightspace, provided the successful completion of:

  • a pilot phase between January 2015 and August 2015 (for which a pilot agreement has been negotiated between Ryerson and D2L);
  • internal risk assessments (privacy, security);
  • a definitive agreement with D2L.

Brian Lesser
Director, Computing and Communications Services

Dimitrios Androutsos
Chair, Advisory Committee on Academic Computing
Associate Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering


Announcing the LMS Short List

After reviewing proposals from Learning Management System(LMS) vendors, Ryerson has selected two LMS systems for further evaluation by the Ryerson community. They are:

Community Test Drive

We are inviting students, faculty and staff to participate in a test drive and exploration of the two finalists. Our goal is to gather your feedback so that we can make a well informed choice in the Fall term.

To test drive the two systems, please log into the my.ryerson.ca portal and click on the LMS Test Drive tab. It contains the links to the test drive systems, documentation, schedules for lunch & learn and facilitated hands-on events. You will also find a link to our sign-up sheet to participate in focus groups and a form to request your own course shell in each system.

Project Timelines  

  • Summer to mid Fall 2014 — Test drive of the finalists; this includes user testing, integration testing, customization testing, use case testing, etc.
  • Sometime in the Fall 2014 — Select and announce the winner
  • Mid to late Fall 2014 — Finalize contracts and plan for pilot testing
  • Winter 2015 term — Pilot testing with a group of courses
  • Summer 2015 term — Preparation for full implementation; this includes full migration and training
  • Fall 2015 term — Full implementation of the selected LMS and retirement of the Blackboard system.

The selection of a new Learning Management System for Ryerson is part of the Learning and Teaching Systems and Services Consultation sponsored by the Advisory Committee on Academic Computing (ACAC).

Update (2014, 07, 24)

In response to requests, the full-text of the LMS Request for Proposal is now attached to this post:

2013-091-BS Learning Management Systems and Services (final)

The document contains 49 pages of requirements and specifications, including ten pages of detailed use cases that vendors had to respond to. The information requested of vendors was largely compiled from faculty, staff, and student input to this consultation blog, our online survey, written submissions (for example from HR) and with additional input from the Digital Education Strategies group in the Chang School, and other members of the Learning and Teaching Systems and Services Consultation subcommittee of the Advisory Committee on Academic Computing.

If you have questions regarding the consultation process please write to us at: lms@ryerson.ca

Summary of Ryerson’s LMS Survey Results

This summer the Learning and Teaching Systems and Services Consultation Committee conducted a survey of the Ryerson community and asked “What Do You Need from Ryerson’s Online Learning and Teaching Systems?” 1293 students responded to Ryerson’s survey.  87% of these student respondents are currently using Blackboard.

337 responses were received for the faculty and staff survey but only 66% of these respondents are currently using Blackboard.

Have used or are currently using Blackboard: A column graph of student and instructor responses Students: 1119 Yes, 158 No, 16 No response Instructors: 223 Yes, 107 No, 4 No response  Type of class delivery: A column graph for instructor and student responses Instructors: F2F about 60%, Hybrid about 15% and Distance about 25%. Students: F2F about 50%, Hybrid about 20%, and Distance about 30%.

Only 66% of instructors surveyed actually use Blackboard — approximately 20% fewer than the 87% of students surveyed.  Common feedback from instructors not using Blackboard was that they “did not use Blackboard this year because it is too confining and cumbersome.” Only 68% of instructors surveyed believe that Blackboard has actually improved the learning experience.  70% of students surveyed believe that Blackboard has changed their learning experience in a positive way. Only 6% of the overall student respondents believe that Blackboard has negatively impacted their learning experience and approximately 24% do not feel that Blackboard has changed their learning experience in any way.

The majority of instructors and students using Blackboard are doing so primarily as part of courses delivered face to face in the classroom, in comparison to using it as part of a mix of classroom (hybrid) or distance courses.

Students cite frustration that their experience with Blackboard varies drastically from course to course or from one instructor to another. Many respondents want a consistent or standardized use of Blackboard in their courses.

The most common qualitative feedback in the surveys was around the poor usability of Blackboard, and the need to improve the user interface to be more intuitive and user friendly.  Feedback indicated that Blackboard is frustrating to use.

Blackboard Usage by Students

Students commonly cite the ability to view assignment grades online as one of the most important features of Blackboard.   Student responses are generally more concerned about access to view their grades, whereas instructors were more concerned with feedback mechanisms for improvement rather than simply providing grade outcomes.

Links to external readings and supplementary information such as video, podcasts and websites was also rated with high importance by students.  Posting course material such as lecture notes, recorded lectures, lab manuals, handouts, practice questions, sample quizzes, and exams from past years were frequently cited.

Blackboard’s wiki and blog features had the largest amount of ‘do not use’ responses.  Most students cited that collaboration tools were the least useful Blackboard features listed in the survey list.  Chat and virtual meetings, wikis, and blogs were the only tools cited by students as being less than useful

Regarding how their use of Blackboard has changed over time, many student responses were similar in the belief that Blackboard has not kept pace over time with how students want and expect to use technology tools in learning. One student remarks that “Blackboard was very good when it started out, but technology has matured and Blackboard needs to adapt as well.”  In other examples, students expressed that their Blackboard use has decreased over time because Blackboard does not run well on smartphones, or because better tools already exist outside of Blackboard that students prefer to use.

Blackboard Usage by Instructors

The top instructor uses of Blackboard are for posting announcements and course outlines.  Almost 85% of Ryerson instructors on Blackboard utilize these functions.  Students feel that the most important use of Blackboard is for posting course outlines and lecture notes.  Overall, the survey results indicated instructors are primarily using Blackboard in the ways that students believe to be most useful to their learning success and that there is a good deal of the alignment between instructors’ actual use of Blackboard and students’ perceived usefulness of Blackboard features.

Top 5 instructor uses of Blackboard and how the perceived usefulness ranked by students: Communications-announcement: 84% current use by instructors, ranked #5 perceived usefulness by students; Content-post course outline: 83% current use by instructors, ranked #1 perceived usefulness by students; Communications-messaging and email: 75% current use by instructors, ranked #8 perceived usefulness by students; Content-post lecture notes: 70% current use by instructors, ranked #2 perceived usefulness by students; Assessment-grading and marking: 65% current use by instructors, ranked #3 perceived usefulness by students.

The way in which instructors are using Blackboard has not changed over time, and a majority of instructors do not feel they need more functionality than what they are already using in Blackboard.  Most instructors’ first use of Blackboard was for posting announcements and course outlines and those are still their top primary use.  There is a slight increase in instructor use of posting student assignment (8%) and the gradebook to mark and track the assignments (4%).

LMS Features

Six of the top most important LMS features as determined by the instructor responses are related to assessment.  Some, but not all, of the features listed on the survey are available in the current implementation of Ryerson Blackboard.  The most frequently cited ‘very important’ feature, by over 66% of instructors, is the ability to automatically contact students based on certain performance indicators.  The other popular assessment features are related to automation and integration such as exporting marks to RAMSS (57.8%) or importing test response system results (47.8%), and the integration of markups and comments within a document with the gradebook (49.3%). The survey results suggest that staff and faculty view emerging learning analytics and assessment functionality (47.4%) as key components in an LMS, more so than content, delivery and collaboration tools.  The 6th on this list is the ability for instructors to release content adaptively based on student’s performance (45.3%).

Top 6 LMS Features Instructors Felt to be

Students ranked mobile access as a top five ‘very important’ feature of an LMS, while a majority of instructors viewed mobile as ‘not important.’  The same occurred for the ability to view recorded lectures, which students perceive to be almost as important as mobile access, but which instructors ranked as a top-three ‘not important’ feature.   This is consistent with many of the qualitative responses received from instructors where the perception seemed to be that online lectures discouraged students from attending classes in person.

Blackboard Training

A generalization can be derived from some of the recurring themes that appear in Student perceiveness of Blackboard's ease of use: A pie chart of students perceiveness of Blackboard's ease of use: 19% very easy; 47% easy; 14% not easy; 2% very difficult; 18% did not answer.the instructor responses to the question on training.  ‘Clunky’ is a word that appears frequently to describe Blackboard.  Some instructors believe they do not have time to learn a new LMS, while others think that a change is justifiable only if the new system is truly more user friendly than the current one, and that the learning curve on the new system is low.  Many staff and faculty are happy with the current training and support options provided for Blackboard.

The majority of students reported being self-taught on Blackboard.  Others learned via other students, professors, online help, or at another institution.

Cloud Hosting

Over half of the students and instructor responses cited that they expected to be either satisfied or very satisfied with a cloud-hosted LMS solution. Most of the negative feedback related to cloud hosting expressed concerns over privacy and security. There was also a stated preference for internal or at least domestic (i.e. Canadian) data storage, where respondents perceived privacy laws to be better enforced.

Student and instructor anticipated satisfaction with cloud-based LMS: Student: Very satisfied 12%, Satisfied 39%, Not satisfied 16%, Very unsatisfied 6%, Did not answer 27%. Instructor: Very satisfied 19%, Satisfied 35%, Not satisfied 11%, Very unsatisfied 8%, Did not answer 27%.

Other Instructional Tools

Some commonly cited LMS features that respondents believe are not currently available in Blackboard but that they would like to use as part of an LMS are listed in the figure below:

Features respondents want in an LMS currently they do not use: Student respondents: Instant messaging; Web meetings and screen sharing; eTextbooks; Customizable notifications; Cloud storage; Accessibility; Synhed calendars; Integrated course selection; Personalization and customization; Integration with web tools. Instructor respondents: Formula calculations; Virtual classrooms; Video conferencing; Course archival; Pinboard functionality; Seamless tools integration; Multimedia feedback; Predictive models; Multiple profiles; Tablet annotations; Integrated search; Programmable rubrics; Customizable UI.

Both instructors and students are interacting with video and YouTube to meet learning objectives.  For an LMS to be successful at Ryerson, it should seamlessly interface with YouTube, for example by allowing embedded video or easily accessible links.  In addition, integration with Turnitin for assignment submission is also an important feature.  The high usage of DropBox suggests that instructors and students needed some kind of secure data storage for transferring and sharing information. (With the recently available Google Drive, there may be changes to the usage of external Ryerson solution.) Other tools used by students and instructors are listed below:

Other tools used by students and instructors for course related purposes: Students list from highest response to lowest: Turnitin, YouTube, Facebook, Clickers, DropBox, Scantron, Skype, Twitter, GooglePlus, Wikis, WordPress hosted by Ryerson, Adobe Connect hosted at Ryerson, Blogger, Ryecast, Webex, and E-Portfolios; Instructors list from highest response to lowest: YouTube, Turnitin, Scantron, DropBox, Twitter, Skype, WordPress hosted by Ryerson, Clickers, Adobe Connect hosted by Ryerson, Ryecast, GooglePlus, Wikis, Facebook, Blogger, E-Portfolios, and Webex.


From the survey, we learned that majority of instructors and students at Ryerson use the LMS for its basic features, however there is a clear desire to use more advanced tools such as social networked learning and learning analytics, provided these features work well and are integrated seamlessly with an easy to use LMS.


This post is a summary of a full report written by Brad Stewart, MBA as his Major Research Paper in the Ryerson MBA program.  Brad assisted the committee with analyzing the survey results.



Tell Us a Story – What Should An Online Learning and Teaching System Do?

The Learning and Teaching Systems and Services Consultation committee is preparing a Request for Proposal (RFP) for learning and teaching systems and services. Depending on the responses we receive we may upgrade Blackboard or replace it, and may also add other services needed for learning and teaching online. The committee would like to invite you to submit stories (use cases) about how you would like the system to work. Our goal is to incorporate a variety of use cases into the RFP so that we get more information back from vendors about how flexible and usable their software really is than we would get by simply asking them to complete a checklist of features.

One way to write a use case is to imagine one way you would like Blackboard (or other systems you use) to facilitate the work of instructors and students. It could be something Blackboard doesn’t do at all or that it should do differently. The key is to focus on a specific story or scenario that describes how the system would facilitate learning and teaching.

Some Notes on Writing a Use Case

Don’t worry about getting all the details of the story right. If you teach, start by describing a pedagogical scenario, including the objectives and activities or simply outline a process and list the players/actors in the story. For example, the objectives could be to develop student critical thinking and the activities may include peer-review. The players could be instructors, teaching assistants, students, and any others. Actors can also be components of a system like a bulletin board, gradebook, or calendar. If you are a student, you may want to start by describing a learning activity such as the need to submit a e-portfolio assignment, loaded with video, design and graphics. You may then want the instructor to review your project and insert video or other relevant feedback.

Don’t worry about how the system should work when there is a problem. Just focus on how people should work with the system in order to get the job done. Tell a story that ends in success. If we decide to add your use case to the RFP we’ll follow up with you to get more details if they are needed.

Here’s a relatively simple example of a use case followed by questions we are working on including in the RFP:

A professor wishes to add significant events to the online course calendar. The events include assignment release and due dates, extra test preparation seminar dates at times that are not in the official course schedule, test dates, and events that advise students when they should begin working on various stages of an assignment.

In some cases a course shell may include multiple course sections – each with different dates for each event.

In other cases individual students may wish to create events in their own course calendar.

  1. Describe in detail the options, and any required workarounds, to accomplish all of these scenarios in your system.
  2. Describe the options and any required workarounds to share this information with the student’s Ryerson Google calendar. Make sure you include as one option how a Google secondary calendar for the course could be populated and made visible to the student.
  3. Ryerson already populates student’s primary Google calendars with course schedule information. If Ryerson wanted to ensure that the information provided by the LMS would not duplicate this information in a secondary Google calendar but did want the information in the LMS course calendar, how would that be accomplished?

How to Send in a Use Case

Please email your use cases to lms@ryerson.ca by Tuesday November 12 and please accept our thanks in advance!

– Learning and Teaching Systems and Services Consultation Committee

What Do You Need from Ryerson’s Online Learning and Teaching Systems?

Update June 5, 2013: Please note these surveys are now closed.

Ryerson is re-evaluating the use of Blackboard, and is considering replacing Blackboard with a different Learning Management System (LMS). We want to hear what you think about this potential change and what you want from an LMS. What features are important to have in an LMS? How are you using Blackboard and is it meeting your needs? What other types of online services do you need? What do you think of switching to an LMS “cloud service” where information is hosted off campus?

Please take the time to fill out one of our online surveys. The surveys require that you log in using your my.ryerson.ca user name and password so that everyone can only fill out the survey once and so we can group responses by faculty, staff, and students. Although you must log in, your Ryerson ID will be removed from the survey database after the survey closes so that your response will be anonymous.

If you are a student taking courses please complete the Student Survey:


If you are an instructor please complete the Instructor Survey:


Note: If you not a student, please complete the Instructor Survey. If you are staff at Ryerson and provide in-house training or have another instructional use for a Learning Management System we encourage you to complete the Instructor Survey.

The surveys are part of a consultation process regarding the future of online learning and teaching systems and services at Ryerson. The consultation has been undertaken by The Advisory Committee on Academic Computing (ACAC). More information about the consultation is available at:


The surveys use tables to display some questions. More accessible versions of these surveys are available here:

For instructors: https://survey.ryerson.ca:443/s?s=2658
For students: https://survey.ryerson.ca:443/s?s=2669

Announcing LMS Demo Week

Should Ryerson replace Blackboard? If we do, what should we replace it with?

We invite everyone in the Ryerson Community to join us for a series of learning management system (LMS) demonstrations from April 2nd – 9th. We are calling it LMS Demo Week and it is your chance to see how some of the competition stacks up against Blackboard. We have scheduled demonstrations from Desire2Learn, Blackboard (a new upcoming release), OpenClass by Pearson, Canvas by Instructure as well as demonstrations of Sakai and Moodle. The format will be 1 hour of live demonstrations followed by 30 minutes for audience Q&A. The focus is on seeing how each system helps to facilitate learning and teaching.

We have also scheduled special presentations featuring guest faculty and staff who will discuss their experiences using various LMS solutions at their Universities. Whenever possible we plan to record the demonstrations and make them available on this site later.

These events are part of the Learning and Teaching Systems and Services consultation process. For more information on the consultation please visit:


We welcome your comments and suggestions.

The complete demo week schedule is below.  We encourage you to drop in and see as many demos as you’d like, but in order to get a sense of community interest, we would appreciate if you could take a few moments to register for the events you plan to attend:

Register for upcoming LMS demos

LMS Demo Week Schedule:

Tuesday, April 2 in TRS 3-119

Wednesday, April 3 in TRS 3-119

Thursday, April 4 in TRS 3-119

Friday, April 5 in TRS 3-119

Tuesday, April 9 in TRS 3-119

We plan to stream as many of these events as possible. The current live stream schedule is available here: http://goo.gl/UVK5J

ASL interpreters have been scheduled for all but the last presentation.  We are attempting to work around a scheduling problem but cannot promise an ASL interpreter will be available for the last presentation. You will not be able to see the ASL interpreter in the live video. However, recorded video will be captioned and posted on http://ryecast.ryerson.ca.

Please note: the Digital Media Projects office’s Wed. April 3rd walk-in clinic for Blackboard and Google have been cancelled.

Learning and Teaching Systems and Services Consultation


The Advisory Committee on Academic Computing (ACAC) is initiating a consultation process regarding the future of online learning and teaching systems and services at Ryerson. The consultation is in partnership with:


In the late 90s Ryerson’s Digital Media Projects (DMP) office sponsored a consultation that resulted in the selection of the WebCT learning management system. Years later, a second consultation process, also managed by the DMP, led to WebCT’s replacement with Blackboard in 2003. Over the years, both systems have generated negative comments from faculty and students. The current Blackboard system is frequently cited as not offering the kinds of collaborative tools needed for teaching and learning. It does not offer full-featured Wikis, blogs, real-time interactive virtual classrooms, or a modern dynamic Web interface. The system has also proven to be so fragile that the Blackboard portal is no longer used by Ryerson to provide login services or present the my.ryerson.ca home page. Blackboard is only used to host online courses under the Online Courses and Organizations tab. Blackboard has also been difficult to safely customize and integrate with other applications like RAMSS.

When Ryerson adopted Google Apps for Education it got more than Gmail. Every student and instructor has the ability to share and collaborate in real time on documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Google Groups can be used to facilitate this sharing and can also be used for threaded discussions. Google’s collaboration tools surpass the usability and features of Blackboard’s collaboration tools. Consequently, it is not unreasonable to expect that Google Apps will increasingly be used for learning and teaching to complement Blackboard. While individuals who need advanced capabilities beyond what is available in Blackboard have been asking CCS for improvements for a long time, the Chang School’s Digital Education Strategies team is an example of an organization that also needs more capable tools. They offer an increasing number of sophisticated distance education course offerings. Not every instructor wants to make advanced use of online collaboration and sharing tools. Some find using Blackboard’s relatively simple interface to post a course outline, lecture notes and references is all they need.

Even though there have been few improvements in Blackboard’s software since Ryerson adopted it, the rest of the learning management industry has been evolving. Open source projects like Sakai and Moodle have matured as have hosted services by providers like Desire2Learn and Instructure. More recently, Google App Engine based LMS add ons to Google Apps have become available. While interest in large-scale online courses is a recent phenomenon (MOOCs) government interest in distance learning is not. In Ryerson’s Strategic Mandate Agreement with the Government of Ontario there are two sections of particular interest:

Expanding Technology‐Enhanced Course Delivery 

Technology‐enhanced learning provides students with a richer and deeper educational experience. Ryerson has a unique set of resources to address the technical, pedagogical and curricular challenges of integrating technology‐enhanced learning into existing course content. Ryerson has developed and implemented interactive tools such as online role‐playing modules, response‐driven quizzes, interactive case studies, competency mapping, communication assessments, interactive tours and videos. The University currently offers a range of courses featuring technology‐enhanced learning through hybrid and blended delivery that provides students with a mix of online and in‐class instructional delivery. Eight international institutions use Ryerson’s open‐source videos to deliver learning.

While the University has a strong underlying infrastructure to advance technology‐enhanced education, developing enhanced content requires significant initial investment. Ryerson requests Government funding to accelerate the process of delivery transformation, to upgrade 75 degree courses per year over 5 years. This investment will support quality by providing a richer learning environment for students, increasing opportunities for interaction with instructors and classmates, and enhancing productivity by allowing instructional time to be used in a more efficient and focused manner.

Online Learning and Distance Education

Ryerson is a leader in online university education in Ontario, offering 282 degree‐credit courses, 186 non‐credit courses, 3 degree programs, and 23 certificates fully online, as well as 5 blended degree programs and 20 blended certificates. Ryerson’s substantial investment in online course infrastructure enables the cost‐effective development of 50 to 60 new online courses annually. Appendix Figure 6 shows the percentage of courses available online in Ryerson’s undergraduate programs. All of Ryerson’s online course content will be AODA compliant by Spring 2013. To support the Government’s commitment to expanding online learning, Ryerson will provide leadership and share expertise in online learning with other institutions. As an active participant in the Ontario Online Institute, Ryerson will double its annual creation of online courses, thus increasing the number of full degrees offered online. It targets producing 120 new online courses per year for five years, bringing Ryerson close to Athabasca University’s number of online offerings. OTO funds will be required to support this acceleration.

The full text of Ryerson’s Strategic Mandate Agreement is available here:


There are no predetermined conclusions for this consultation. In the end a decision may be made to keep Blackboard and integrate it with Google Apps or an entirely different approach may be adopted. Similarly, there is no predetermined decision about how learning systems and services should be provided at Ryerson. We believe a widespread and in depth consultation with the Ryerson community is important before the Advisory Committee on Academic Computing can formulate a recommendation on how to evolve Ryerson’s learning and teaching systems and services.

Consultation Process

To facilitate a consultation that has real opportunities for breadth and depth a subcommittee of ACAC has been formed that includes:

  • Brian Lesser, Director, Computing and Communications Services
  • Restiani Andriati, Manager, Digital Media Projects office
  • Sally Wilson, Web Services Librarian.
  • Fangmin Wang, Head of Library Information Technology Services
  • Catherine Beauchemin, Faculty, Department of Physics
  • Maureen Reed, Faculty, Psychology and Director, Learning and Teaching Office
  • Dalia Hanna, Manager, Learning and Teaching Office
  • Naza Djafarova, Director, Digital Educational Strategies, The Chang School
  • Jason Nolan, Faculty, School of Early Childhood Studies, and Director, Experiential Design and Gaming Environments Lab
  • Melanie McBride, MA Candidate, Communication and Culture
  • Michel Kouadio, Director Technology Planning and Innovation, FCAD
  • Dimitri Androutsos, Faculty Dept. Electrical & Computer Engineering, ACAC Chair

(Additional faculty and students will likely be invited to join the subcommittee.)

The process will begin in the Winter 2013 term and will likely include:

  1. A consultation Blog at LMS.blog.ryerson.ca
  2. Community seminars and presentations on issues like hosting options, privacy and the cloud, different teaching/learning approaches and demonstrations of software tools, use of learning objects and sharing across universities.
  3. Availability of other LMS systems for experimentation and discovery
  4. Community Requirements and Suggestions Survey
  5. Expansion of the Learning and Teaching Conference to discuss learning and teaching systems and services – especially as they relate to pedagogy.
  6. Request for Proposal
  7. Town Hall presentation of results and requests for comments
  8. ACAC recommendation to Ryerson’s Executive

We estimate that the earliest date that a new learning management system might be available would be as part of a pilot (or beta test) in the Fall 2013 term. If a new system is selected will not be widely available until sometime in 2014.

While the focus of this consultation is on facilitating learning and teaching, systems and services must also be assessed for alignment with Universal Design for Learning (UDL), accessibility, cost-effectiveness, privacy, security, reliability, and usability.

We invite you to participate in the consultation process and welcome your comments and suggestions.


Ryerson’s Institutional Vision, Proposed Mandate Statement and Priority Objectives: http://goo.gl/xDqPJ

Some Learning Management Systems

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)