CMS Driving your Course? Should it?

As an adopter of the Flipped/Hybrid course philosophy, I am very blessed in that I come for a background in computer science. Why is this such a  blessing for me is that I don’t fall into the trap of my teaching being limited by the tools at my disposal. While access to ready made tools allows for the rapid creation of online course materials including grading rubrics, distribution, and multi media these may not be enough.

For example, in one of my courses students are required to get approval from external customers for changes. This can not be done within a traditional CMS. It is important however so how should it be handled? Does the teaching faculty ask for emails from stakeholders that they enter approvals for? How are the approvals recorded? It is completely outside of the scope of ‘stock CMS’ programs. In my case I was able to write custom webpages and databases for doing the work.

That leads to another common problem however, don’t reinvent the wheel. Once we start creating ‘special’ ways of doing things, we can can run the risk of only doing our custom methods costing large amounts of energy.

However, the choice between custom and generic is hard to make. Experience is the ultimate tool in making the decisions. For me, I have done everything custom for the last 10 years but this year I have finally began to include Canvas (a CMS) as a piece of the puzzle. I have found it to save me a lot of time with only minor impacts to the quality of the course.

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