Brice Bible is the Vice President and CIO of the University of Buffalo (UB). His executive position plays a critical role in advancing UB’s research and education mission and its global prominence as a progressive university that delivers a well-aligned, innovative, and robust interactive and immersive classroom environment. In this interview, he talks about the expectations of the students and faculties for a more immersive classroom experience.
In the light of your experience, what are the trends you’ve witnessed happening with respect to the LMS landscape?
As a research university, one of the trends that we see is the increased expectations from the students, faculty, as well as the university administration for a more diverse student population in on-campus and online classroom environments. Hoping that each of these environments leverages different solutions or software to create an immersive learning experience is hardly practical. The education sector wants to utilize an effective tool such as a learning management system (LMS) that can accommodate the requirement for both classrooms (traditional and virtual) and be cost-effective as well.
"The concept of an on-premise LMS is fading away, and it won’t be long till the only options available will be with modern features in a robust, up-to-date cloud environment where a vendor can offer capabilities much more easily than before"
What would you say are some of the major predicaments that you see in the LMS space today?
Faculty aspires to provide a higher standard of learning to their students by leveraging advanced technology and services, which were not easily found in the LMS environment in the past. Currently, solution providers are striving to deliver better products to fulfill the requirements of the industry that has been progressing rapidly in this digital age. Faculties want a solution that would help them track a student’s growth and progress in the classroom in real-time. Our vision is to create a more collaborative environment where students can consume and share educational content, but universities have faced limitations in the form of constrained LMS. When organizations try to package an LMS into a one-size-fits-all solution, they may include services that are not effective.
Students in this digital age want to engage with a platform that can adopt innovative technologies and want them implemented as quickly as possible. They want the solutions to be accessible across multiple devices such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones. I believe although LMS providers are making progress, they have been slow to get there. When both students and faculty are faced with these limitations, teachers actively search for a solution, outside the LMS space, to give the students a much better digital experience in their interaction with each other.
Apart from these hurdles, LMS today are expensive tools to come by, for an organization of our size, with over 30,000 students, the value of the offering should supersede the cost. If we have faculty who are not satisfied with the capabilities of the system, they may, at some point, choose to look for an alternate solution.
Could you talk about your approach to identifying the right partnership providers from the lot?
I think we can start with how the delivery of the product looks like, so the services the faculty expect should have easy collaboration tools, with multimedia options with voice and video capabilities. We look for products that are born in the cloud rather than solutions that are re-purposed from an existing software system to make it cloud-friendly or web-friendly or digital-friendly. The LMS needs to be created for a digital environment that allows API integrations, and that can be accessed from multiple devices such as mobile or computers and do so seamlessly. The solution should also be able to deliver features and functionalities in areas with low-bandwidth or with different device formats.
How do you see the evolution of the LMS space a few years from now?
The concept of an on-premise LMS is fading away, and it won’t be long till the only options available will be with modern features in a robust, up-to-date cloud environment where a vendor can offer capabilities much more easily than before. We are in the process of moving our LMS system to the cloud environment and largely to gain the digital features that are now available in the cloud environment that were not available before.
The second and more complicated aspect will be the evolution of the LMS as related to the non-traditional students who want to apply for continuing education, non-credit, or micro-credential courses. The current LMS system does not have the bandwidth to fulfill this requirement
The University of Buffalo has over 30,000 matriculated students, and yet we do over 50,000 non-credit activity on an annual basis out of our professional and health services in the school particularly. 50,000 non-credit contacts on a yearly basis is a lot and none of those run through the LMS, and so having the ability to have a media-rich delivery through an LMS or an evolved model that delivers these functionalities as well should be an area that vendors need to explore in the near future.