Radical Revision: 1500 Courses in 4 Months

Concurrent Session 4
Streamed Session

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

What happens if you decide, four months before the cut over date to a new LMS, to radically revise over 1500 courses? Attend this session to learn how taking an agile approach to implementing course model changes sets students up for success in transitioning to a new LMS. 


Mary Elizabeth's career in education spans twenty-five years. She transitioned an on-campus course to online in 1998 and has been either teaching online or working in online learning roles ever since. She possesses strong skills in the strategic development and implementation of educational services for diverse client base. She is especially interested in growth mindset, weaving non-cognitive skills throughout a curriculum, and skills-based education. She has keen sense of humor and not-so-great singing skills.

Extended Abstract

All academic institutions strive to provide a frictionless, consistent, and meaningful student experience.  In May of 2019 the University of Phoenix was set to cut over to a new LMS, Blackboard Ultra.  A small number of graduate students were already completing courses within Ultra, but the way the content was mapped from the current LMS to the Ultra presented a challenge. The structure in Ultra consisted of layers of folders, which caused “click-fatigue.” 

The original plan, once all students were in Ultra, was to transition to a new course model, termed “base course model.” The base course model would provide consistency from program-to-program and provide the jumping off point for all other course enhancements.   

The University had recently adopted the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) and the mindset of being more agile was firmly in place.  Knowing that the current folder structure was causing student experience issues, the question was posed, “What can we do to positively impact the majority of students prior to the cutover?” The question prompted us apply SAFe principles to answer this question. 

The process that led to an answer included; 

  • Selection of a set of defined course features that were determined to have a significant impact on student experience. 

  • Sizing those features per course. 

  • Determining the number of resource groups needed to ensure the features could be applied to the top 100 largest courses. 

  • Expanding the scaled model to provide value to more students, in this case the addition of 1400 more courses. 

Session Goals:  

Individuals attending this session will learn how the application of an agile principles led UOPX to scale a new student experience to over 1500 courses in less than 4 months and how to utilize these strategies at their own institutions.