5.4.5 Instructional Management System - Teaching, Learning, Technology Roundtable - St. Cloud State University

5.4.5 Instructional Management System


Given the rapidly increasing demand for online course delivery, SCSU needs to assure a stable and robust instructional management system (IMS) for the campus. In Fall 1998, a group within LR&TS began working with WebCT as an IMS. The software was set up on a server, and a pool of faculty was recruited to test WebCT with classes in Spring 1999. Within a year, 55 faculty were developing or offering classes involving 1,177 students through WebCT. By Fall 2000, these numbers had increased to 65 active courses with 5,148 students; two years later, in Fall 2002, approximately 200 SCSU courses involving more than 8,000 students were offered using WebCT. WebCT is currently used to deliver some entirely online courses although most instructors use WebCT to enhance traditional on-campus classes. Combined, these two approaches result in classes affecting over half of the student population of SCSU.

Although WebCT is the IMS supported on SCSU's campus, it is not the only IMS used. Some faculty use Anlon or Blackboard. Other faculty use systems they have designed themselves with the IMS features they need. Still others use publishers’ sites that provide the portion of the IMS that they want to use. Clearly, an IMS has become an important resource for course delivery at SCSU.

WebCT requires an annual license fee and a dedicated server, both initially funded by LR&TS. Beginning in October 2000, MnSCU provided funding for its three-year IMS initiative; through that, SCSU received $199,788 for instructional support for WebCT, which was used to upgrade the WebCT server and to create a server administrator position to provide greater IMS support on campus. SCSU has continued the license through August 2004.

This year MnSCU has been reviewing whether it will provide any future funding or support for an IMS for campus instructional use and, if so, what platform(s) it will support. MnSCU may choose to support a single IMS platform so that students can move among MnSCU schools with the same IMS system. There is the expectation that an IMS in such a seamless system will provide e-learning (or distance learning) for students throughout the state as well as "customized training" for the workplace. Once MnSCU has decided upon funding and support of an IMS, SCSU will need to be ready to move forward with short- and long-term IMS plans.


In the next five years, we should

  • institute an IMS committee derived from the TLTR committee charged with assuring a stable and robust IMS platform for the campus
  • make sure that users are kept up-to-date about changes and developments in campus instructional systems
  • facilitate ongoing communication with campus users about IMS development given the potential for technological changes and the presence of external forces (such as MnSCU, the legislature, and the workplace)
  • ensure that the processes of planning, evaluating, and providing feedback about an IMS and system support involve all campus users.

Specific Actions and Timeline

These specific actions and timeline are dependent upon the actions of MnSCU in relation to IMS support beyond 2002—2003. Therefore, the committee will adhere to the following schedule rather than the standard timeline for carrying out and reporting on specific actions:

  • Before May 2003, an IMS committee should develop a preliminary plan for short-term (2003—2004) IMS support. (The group should include the Associate Dean of LR&TS, IMS student and faculty users, and support technologists.) The short-term plan should include various budget scenarios covering no/partial/full MnSCU funding of an IMS so that SCSU is prepared to move forward and adjust plans as information becomes available from MnSCU.
  • Once MnSCU’s future IMS support plans are known, the IMS working group should develop a long-term (2004 —2008) plan that considers continued integration of a supported IMS into courses, workshops and training sessions at SCSU, as well as a clear strategy for implementing changes related to IMS use.
  • The IMS committee should develop specific operating processes for enacting the following basic principles:
    • involving all campus users (faculty, students, support staff) in developing the plan and providing feedback about IMS so that the system remains responsive to users
    • developing an ongoing reporting process that actively involves the Technology and Pedagogical Resources (TPR) committee (and through it, Faculty Senate) and the Administration (on the resource level)
    • communicating to all campus users changes in IMS use resulting from the plan
    • monitoring on an ongoing basis changes in IMS support, initiatives, licensing, etc. at MnSCU; monitoring the marketplace for IMS developments; and monitoring users to determine their needs
  • Biennially (May 2004, 2006, and 2008), the IMS working group should submit to the TLTR and to the Provost a report evaluating the current status of the IMS and recommending future support and developments.


Costs associated with housing an IMS on campus for course and training use include a server, server maintenance, system administration, annual software licensing, training sessions for users (including instructors and workshop materials), and ancillary software to assist in integrating materials into the IMS. At this point, MnSCU has not decided whether it will provide any funding or support for an IMS for campus instructional use, and if so, in what form and for what system(s). The status of MnSCU’s support should be clear by June 2003; prior to that point, SCSU should develop a short-term plan that enables us to react quickly to maintain a stable and robust IMS platform for the campus.


  • Do we have a long-term plan for integrating IMS into courses, workshops, and training sessions?
  • Are changes in IMS support at MnSCU, developments in the marketplace, and user needs monitored regularly?
  • Are changes in the IMS on campus communicated to users in a timely, effective manner?
  • Are mechanisms in place so users can provide feedback regarding the IMS?
  • Are faculty using the IMS trained and supported by InforMedia Services faculty?
  • Have faculty/departments assessed the IMS to help clarify how teaching and learning are affected by these systems and to help determine appropriate IMS use?
  • Has the committee completed a final report?
  • Has the committee developed recommendations for the next technology planning cycle?

Revised: May 2003