SDE identifies learning management system vendors

The State Department of Education has identified five vendors for school leaders wanting to buy a learning management system to help facilitate online or blended learning.

This summer the State Board of Education said a learning management system, or LMS, should be a priority for schools that don’t already have one.

The State Board issued the nonbinding guidance July 15 in an attempt to help school officials who were developing plans for blended or online learning during the coronavirus pandemic.

The State Board also recommends increasing the number of electronic devices for students’ schoolwork, expanding reliable internet connectivity and investing in professional development training to help staff members use and master the technology.

An LMS is one of four areas where schools can request a share of federal stimulus funds to help cover costs. But if a school already has an LMS, school leaders can keep the one they have and apply for stimulus dollars to use on devices, connectivity or training, State Board President Debbie Critchfield said.

Debbie Critchfield

“We didn’t want to keep districts from being able to take advantage of those stimulus funds if they already have the thing that we’re saying was a good idea to have,” Critchfield said.

Furthermore, everyone may not want an LMS. Results of a survey the SDE sent to the State Board on May 20 found that 48 percent of school leaders who did not already have an LMS said they would not want to participate in a statewide LMS. Notably, the state has identified multiple vendors and is not now pursuing one statewide system.

A learning management system is used to push lessons, instruction and curriculum out to students and share communication information and resources between schools and families.

“That is different than Google Classroom or Zoom. It’s a comprehensive tool for managing the wide range of a student’s academic needs,” Critchfield said.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri’ Ybarra’s State Board of Education moved ahead with identifying vendors for schools. SDE officials put a request for proposals out in the field July 14 and received nine responses — three of which did not meet the mandatory requirements, SDE Director of Communication Karlynn Laraway said.

A review committee then scored the remaining vendors’ responses for technical and functional requirements. Vendors were allowed to submit a single pricing structure or a tiered cost structure based on the number of student users, or software licenses, it would sell.

The five vendors the SDE identified are:

  • PowerSchool/Schoolology.
  • D2L.
  • Instructure/Canvas.
  • ItsLearning.
  • Otus.

There are a couple of other points to keep in mind.

  • Districts or charters can request a share of CARES ACT money to help pay for an LMS or to pay for devices, internet connectivity or professional development, Critchfield said. There are two pots of federal aid funding to help schools cover costs— $3.8 million in ESSER funding and $30 million through Coronavirus Financial Advisory Committee (CFAC) grants.
  • Although it is recommended by the state, an LMS is not a requirement and may not make sense for all schools, Critchfield said, particularly if a school can demonstrate that it doesn’t need one because of practices it already uses.



Clark Corbin

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