Should I Stay or Should I Go? Conducting a Comprehensive LMS Review At Your Institution

Concurrent Session 1
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

Conducting an LMS review can be daunting, but it's easier if you have clear guiding principles. In this session, learn how one institution centered their review on being open and transparent, inclusive, ethical and compliant, locally grounded, and future-proof. We'll also share examples to use in your own LMS review. 


Jason Rhode, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Instructional Technology and Executive Director of Extended Learning at Northern Illinois University (NIU). In his role he serves as chief online learning officer, oversees NIU's Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, and provides strategic leadership and long-range vision for development and delivery of academic credit-bearing online and off-campus courses and programs.
Stephanie Richter is the Director of Faculty Development and Instructional Support for the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois. She consults with and provides professional development for faculty on integrating technology into teaching and supports the online teaching and learning initiatives at NIU. She holds a Master of Science in Education in Instructional Technology and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics Education, and is currently pursuing a doctorate in Instructional Technology at Northern Illinois University. Research interests include online learning, online course design, social media and networking, faculty development, and faculty use of learning management systems.

Extended Abstract

Learning management system reviews are complex, time consuming, and challenging projects. It is tempting to begin by thinking about the activities of a review, but we would argue that the entire process can be easier if you start with a set of clear guiding principles and values. These principles can then drive the decisions throughout the process. 

Northern Illinois University (NIU) began the LMS review process in October 2020, with the initial formation of the LMS Review Task Force. Throughout the planning process, it became clear that the executive committee was guided by a set of principles that they were committed to following. It is our hope that this session is an opportunity for institutions to think about how these principles and values can serve as the foundation for their own future LMS reviews.  

This session will focus entirely on the guiding principles and process for NIU’s LMS review. The session will not discuss outcomes or opinions of any of the systems reviewed, but will offer recommendations for how institutions can conduct their own learning management system reviews to identify the system that meets their needs for many years to come. 

The principles that guided the LMS review process are outlined below, along with examples of the techniques that supported each one: 

Openness and transparency

  • Publish a detailed website that shares all details of the process that are not protected by confidentiality (  
  • Communicate frequently and openly via email, institutional announcements 
  • Periodic status reports to institutional leadership 

Inclusive participation

  • Build a strong task force and advisory committee representing each College and classification, including students and non-faculty stakeholders  
  • Present to institutional leadership and shared governance groups about the process 
  • Draft system evaluation criteria with inclusive input and feedback 
  • Create multiple opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to provide feedback through open demonstrations offered at a variety of times, online participation opportunities, and recorded sessions available on-demand 

Ethical and compliant decision-making 

  • Include an experienced project manager on the task force to track progress and compliance requirements (also supports openness and transparency by maintaining project files and timeline) 
  • Design an objective and defensible decision-making process utilizing quantifiable metrics and rubrics 

Locally grounded in institutional culture and context

  • Commit to a trustee mentality that meets institutional needs as opposed to individual agendas 
  • Weight feedback from faculty and students heavily in the decision-making process 


  • Identify future needs and priorities for the institution 
  • Include roadmap priorities and process 

In the spirit of our first principle of openness, we will also share templates and examples from our own review for other institutions to use for their own reviews. These templates and examples are shared via Creative Commons and can all be openly found at