Imagining an Integrated LMS / Project Management Platform

How an instructional designer might design an online course development application.

October 17, 2019

Are you a higher ed person who works on designing and developing online or blended courses?

Are you part of a collaborative course design team?  One that might include an instructor, a subject matter expert (usually but not always the instructor), an instructional designer, a project manager (often in one person), a media professional, and maybe an assessment expert?

Most online and blended course teams are small.  They have a professor and an instructional designer.  Most courses don’t even have that, with the professor on her own to design, deliver, and evaluate the course.  But in most online programs, instructional designers collaborate with faculty.

Okay….so let’s say you are part of that team.

What platforms do you use to coordinate your online course development?

My guess is that the answer for the majority of teams would be e-mail, spreadsheets, Google Drive, and Office Docs sitting on people’s hard drives.

There is a good chance that the instructional design team has adopted some cloud-based project management platform to track the course development, build timelines, and collect course assets.  These platforms include Wrike, Asana, Trello, Jira, and Basecamp.  (What am I missing?).  Some teams likely use MS-Project, and for those folks my deepest sympathies.

What is less common, at least from what I have seen, is for the professor to also be deeply integrated into the cloud-based project management platform.  An instructional designer and/or project manager might work in the project management platform all day.  But a professor has her own workflows and tools that she uses, and seldom do these activities require a dedicated team-based project management platform.

The result is that the instructional designer spends time moving across the online project management platform and e-mail.  The work of online course design never gets fully integrated with the online platform, as much of the communications stays in e-mail and many of the documents stay on hard drives.

Is there a better way?

Would it be possible to bring all the features of an Asana, Basecamp, or Wrike to a learning management system (LMS)?

Can we imagine some sort of integration or extension to Canvas, Blackboard, D2L, Moodle, edX, or Coursera that would enable the course-level communication, documents, timelines, and deliverables to be integrated directly into the instructor/designer view of the course?

What I’m thinking of is an extension or integration with existing LMS platforms that would enable the course design team to never leave the LMS.

The LMS that I work in is Canvas.  What I’m fantasizing about is the love child between Canvas and Asana/Basecamp/Wrike/Trello.  A redesign of Canvas by Instructor that is aimed directly at online course development teams.

It seems to me that the work of online course development is never going to get out of e-mail, Google docs, and folders unless we eliminate the need for instructors to use a separate project management platform.  We need to give faculty one place to go to work - and that place should be the same platform in which the courses are taught.

The project management features built into an LMS would not need to be complicated.  The ability to build schedules, assign tasks, track communications, and aggregate and tag resources should be enough.  Developing lightweight project management tools that are specifically aimed at the needs of course development seems like a reasonable goal.

Does this idea already exist?

Which LMS has the best collaborative course development, planning, tracking, and developer team project management tools already built-in?

Would instructional designers and project managers be willing to give up their dedicated cloud-based project management platforms, adopting instead a simple set of integrated LMS tools?

Would having the option to integrate project management tools within an LMS be an attractive feature for schools that have large online learning programs?

Could existing cloud-based project management applications already be seamlessly integrated into LMS platforms?

Are there any LMS companies that would be interested in discussing this idea further?

What project management application does your online course development team use?


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