By Melody Buckner, PhD, University of Arizona

Melody Buckner, PhD, University of Arizona

Now that I have your attention, let me explain the title of this article. I will begin by addressing the acronyms: DAM stands for data asset management, and LMS denotes the learning management system. The purpose of a DAM is to hold assets or files often used for brand management, library archives, production management, and streaming for on demand delivery of digital content. The LMS is a system specifically designed to administer, track, document, and deliver educational materials. In some cases, LMS have a built-in system allowing users to share assets or files in the learning environment. However, most of the asset systems located inside of the LMS are not robust enough, are not user-friendly and miss important shared assets of an organization. This is why a couple of years ago, when our university started to explore a new solution for a DAM, I realized this was an opportunity to start thinking about how the LMS might benefit from a campus-wide shared DAM solution.

"The benefit of is the ability to push content changes to all courses"

The introduction of a DAM to our campus would allow us to share assets across a typical siloed culture. The stakeholders interested in a DAM consisted of the university libraries, the university brand and communication department, the athletics division, our museums, the public service television and radio stations, student services and the Office of Digital Learning, which oversees our online course production. My role was to represent this last stakeholder and explore ways in which the DAM could benefit the online academic community.

Many assets are created across our campus, which range from text-based documents to rich media experiences. We wanted to engage a system that would enable us to share all of these assets across a multitude of colleges, departments and units on campus. While this effort quickly turned into a complex project, this article only focuses on how the DAM could enhance the faculty and student experience within the LMS. As we began the project, we decided to limit assets to the following types of files: syllabus, videos and learning activities. We also worked on a seamless integration between the DAM and LMS. This integration was a collaborative effort between the company who supplied the DAM, the LMS provider and our own university programmers. We needed the final product to be simple, elegant and most of all searchable. Even though the assets were located within the DAM, we wanted our faculty to access the DAM from inside of the LMS. The assets could be accessed in the DAM, referenced in the LMS, or downloaded and used anywhere. We also needed to protect the rights of the creators, so we assigned permissions inside of the DAM. A creator could allow everyone to access the asset, essentially making it open source, or there are various levels ranging from “only share with my college or department/unit” to “must retain my written permission.”

We identified three significant benefits for in adopting a DAM within the LMS. To fully explain the first benefit, I have created the following use case. An instructor in the business college is looking for a module addressing ethics to use in her online course. Using the LMS integration, she searches the DAM and finds a complete module on ethics, which was created by an instructor in the philosophy department. She reviews the module and finds content that would benefit her student learning outcomes. She finds that there are permissions attached to the module allowing her to download the module and use it in her course if she gives the instructor credit and does not make any changes to the module. If she wants to make changes, then she will need to contact the instructor and gain permission. The instructor’s contact information is provided, or a form is available inside the system for making this special request. This process not only allows sharing of assets across the campus, but also introduces colleagues to each other’s work and allows them to engage in conversations that could possibly lead to further collaboration.

The second benefit of incorporating the DAM into the LMS is the ability to push content changes to all courses. This would solve issues arising from a policy change on campus that affects all courses. A few examples include new or updated orientation modules, accessibility policies, academic integrity statements, technology requirements or emergency announcements. This could be a real game-changer, not only for the institution to stay current and in compliance with up to date policy, but it would alleviate the pressure that faculty often have to be responsible for communicating these policies to students. This feature would also eliminate the possibility of errors that can occur when information is passed along from college level to department level and then on to the students.

The third benefit of using a DAM to store and access course content is the ability for organizations to more easily switch to a new LMS. It can be a daunting challenge to migrate content from one LMS to another. This would be one less barrier preventing organizations from exploring and changing learning environments.

I will go even one step further and make a suggestion to the LMS industry: Design your systems to be more like a smart phone. Be the elegant container of student data that needs to be protected, but do not provide all the bells and whistles that third party applications could provide to the environment. Allow these applications to be downloaded and plugged in seamlessly to the system. This would enable creative innovation experimentation to flourish for the next generation of learning management systems.



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