Course & Learning Management Systems: Blackboard, CSILE, WebCT and CCNet

Seriously, out of all of these, I would highly recommend CCNet.

Why Choose CCNet?

Well, the interface actually makes sense. True, it shouldn't be difficult to do correctly, but somehow it is extremely difficult for other products to get it right. Need to check your grades? Just login and click "Grades". Professors can automatically have an announcement emailed to the entire class that's registered. The interface is very light-weight, almost like it was designed by You don't feel your computer turning into molasses when you login. My only complaint is that there isn't a "common" site to all of your classes. So if you're enrolled in several CCNet classes and you want to look at the announcements, I think you'd have to browse your way to each class. Having said that, I'd rather receive an email telling me to look at anything that is important. I already check my email all the time, why would I want to have to check my email AND a LMS to see if there's any new info I need to be aware of. The system uses Javascript a bit too much as well, a simple link should be just a link, not a Javascript encoded link. Not an issue for most people, but an issue for those that want to open up multiple tabs at once or wants to download multiple lectures quickly. 

The best part about CCNet? It is actually designed and managed by people that you might consider your best #1 asset: Professors.  

The problem with Blackboard?

Everything. Seriously. Want to find out your recent "Grades"? You'd think such a thing would be important and up-front, but how wrong you are.  So, the obvious choice would be to click on "Communications". Wrong again. You actually have to click under "Tools". Huh? Since when are grades a tool? They're observations! It is possible that my University has configured it badly, but I think something like "Grades" should be hard-coded into the very first page someone might log in to in order to prevent such configurations. The site is clunky and difficult to navigate. I wouldn't be surprised if it was the most expensive too. And I'd hate to think of what the Total Cost of Ownership is when you factor in the time wasted trying to figure out what should be simple.

In fact, CCNet was created by a professor and student that were extremely unhappy with WebCT, which Blackboard had purchased. When the University of Toronto decided to switch from CCNet to Blackboard (for whatever reason), WebCT was having trouble handling the load, so the University actually had to go back to CCNet for a while. Interestingly, CCNet was able to run 1,856 courses on one PC under that professor's desk. Probably because a well-made LMS isn't actually complicated, unless it is made so. 

The problem with CSILE (Knowledge Forum)

Well, I've posted a review of Knowledge Forum already. Like I've said, it seems to be based on some probably reasonable academic theories, but the implementation is a disaster. They've done an absolutely horrible job of re-implementing something as simple as a web-forum. Imagine not even being able to view replies to a post, oh sorry, scaffold, unless you open a new window.  

Other LMSs that I haven't evaluated:

Desire2Lean & Moodle

Probably the Best Option:

Professors, if you're capable (or know someone that is), just run your own web-site. Basic HTML and FTP skills are all that is required. Post the lecture notes there, available via direct download. Configure your .htaccess file to prevent hotlinking if you want. Heck, it wouldn't even be difficult to ONLY allow access from within the university campus. Password-protecting them isn't difficult at all either, talk to your IT staff. If one is worried about others seeing their courses' notes, make better notes. Just post grades with student's student numbers, or some other assigned unique identifier that only _they_ know. Online quizzes are and always have been a bad idea, I don't know why they were created in the first place. 

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