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FAQs during the evaluation period

During the process of selecting a new learning management system, the university community will have opportunities to further evaluate these providers and participate in the evaluation process as we work to bring Texas State the top learning tool for the future.

Please read the following for more information about the project. See the glossary for terminology definitions.

Why are we reviewing our learning management system TRACS?

As part of our long-term strategic plan, the university recognizes the need to redesign, replace, and expand components of our learning environment to establish a next-generation digital learning environment (DLE). Pedagogies today are moving from a course-centered approach to a more learner-centered approach. Learning environments must change to meet those changes, and evolutions in hardware and software technologies. A new Learning Management System (LMS) is a core component. It can support remote services, such as proctoring and adaptive and personalized learning, while leveraging learning analytics. The goal is to support student success initiatives with real time, actionable data.

What is a Digital Learning Environment? 

A digital learning environment is based on an ecosystem of integrated applications and services that can support a variety of pedagogies.  

A DLE should: 

  • Have a core LMS not limited to only vendor created tools.   
  • Have a flexible and highly interoperable core LMS, with emerging digital learning tools.  
  • Support an ecosystem of tools that integrate with each other using industry standards. 
  • Support new tools and services that evolve and grow with the university’s instructional needs. 
  • Be capable of evolving at a pace to best serve new learners and pedagogies. 

Is something wrong with Sakai, the current LMS software that we call TRACS? 

The university Teaching, Research, And Collaboration System or TRACS is our brand, and the name we use to identify the learning management system. 

Sakai, the software that runs TRACS, is an open source tool that was developed by a consortium of universities consisting of University of Michigan, Indiana University, MIT, and Stanford with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation with intent to produce open source Collaboration and Learning Environment (CLE) software. (reference) 

Sakai was implemented at Texas State University as TRACS in 2006 in partnership with the four founding universities with the intention of fostering a community-driven LMS. 

Identified Risks 

Loss of original founders 
In recent years, the original founders of the Sakai project have left and moved to a commercial LMS. This vacuum of innovation and collaboration impacts Sakai's ability to stay up with the underlying infrastructure needed for a mature DLE.  

Lack of Service Provider Integrations 
Faculty have requested a growing number of LMS-related capabilities and integrations that are difficult to implement because services providers have no interest in developing solutions for Sakai; an LMS with a declining market share. 

Risk Mitigation 
The future of the Sakai platform for use at a university our size is an identified risk to the university. As a result, we are seeking to bring a more robust, modern, and responsive LMS. 

Potential benefits of a new system 
Over the course of the project, we’ll be evaluating features and integrations, to find a core system that provides or has the potential to provide: 

  • Common user interface that meets accessibility and universal design needs. 
  • Industry standard integrations of component applications that support teaching and learning. 
  • Personalized learning analytics for both student and faculty, analytics geared towards advising, and student-centered experience over course-centered.  
  • An environment that can grow and evolve as the university grows and evolves. 

How are faculty, staff, and students are being consulted? 

Past Surveys 

  • Faculty were surveyed about their current LMS use and desires in April of 2017. An executive summary of that survey is available on the LMS website.  
  • The results of the survey, an inventory of TRACS capabilities, and a backlog of requested TRACS features were the basis for the requests for proposals released to potential solution providers in October 2017. 
  • March 2018 Public Demos 
  • Faculty were surveyed again after the demos. Their responses were measured and scored as part of the project assessment rubrics. 

Future Surveys 

  • Sandbox Environments. Both Canvas and Brightspace will provide a “sandbox environment” where interested faculty will be able to explore and discover. Specific use cases will be tested, and faculty will have an opportunity to participate in user feedback surveys. 
  • Pilot surveys will also be conducted in spring 2019.  

What is the LMS Advisory Committee?

Advisory Members 
We have a 25-member LMS Advisory Committee, representing the academic stakeholders. The committee is co-chaired by the Associate Provost and Associate Vice President of Instructional Technologies. Additional members consist of faculty, Graduate College student, Student Government, Office of Disability Services, and Office of Distance Learning. This advising body is an integral part of the project and project team.  

  • Faculty are embedded in project working teams based on their interest and area of expertise.  
  • Dr. Stan McClellan, Director of Ingram School of Engineering, and Dr. David C Wierschem, Associate Professor and former Associate Dean of McCoy Undergraduate Program, are part of the Project Technical Review team. 
  • Dr. David Wierschem along with Dr. Scott Bowman, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, Dr. Minda Lopez, Associate Chair of Curriculum and Instruction and Mr. Dana Willett, Director, Distance and Extended Learning are working with the Project Team on current assessment efforts as well as advising on outreach to the University Community. 

LMS Office365 Public Group 

  • We have created an Office 365 Public Group where faculty, staff, and students can get consistently updated information and conduct forum-based conversation. 

Could you tell me more about Project Sites and Data Migration Evaluation?

Data migration
Both Canvas and Brightspace have experience in moving course content from Sakai to their platforms. While both providers addressed this during the public demonstrations, the project team will be further evaluating migration during the pilot process.

We are committed to:

  • Identifying the potential impact on course migration.
  • Developing and supporting plans to mitigate the impact of data migration.

Project sites
Project sites are a significant part of TRACS. Questions were included in the RFP to identify how solution providers manage sites which are not related to delivery of instruction, courses, or projects related to courses.

How Canvas and Brightspace accommodate what we call project sites is part of the evaluation process.

The project team:

  • Has a clear understanding of the features, composition, and statistics of how TRACS has been used, and is being used, for sites considered "Project Sites."
  • Included questions in the RFP to identify how solution providers manage sites which are not related to delivery of instruction, courses, or projects related to courses.
  • Will be evaluating “project site” features and capabilities as part of the pilots.
  • Until pilots are conducted in proposed solutions, we would not know what capabilities are inherent for potentially addressing project site use.

More questions? Email us