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This is How We Do Things Here: Developing a Policy Manual for CMS Usage - page 2 / 8

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owed, or other variables.  

Another reason to adopt a set of policies is the timesavings that can be realized.  By not having to consider each decision as a unique situation, administering a course management system becomes a relatively uncomplicated process in which procedures can be implemented without waiting for dictates from upper management.  When a new staff member comes on board, the “how we do things here” element of managing a CMS can be quickly learned.  Another advantage includes the potential for enhanced program credibility, particularly when policies are approved and backed by high-level administrators – the Provost/Chief Academic Officer or CIO, for example.  Finally, having policies codified reinforces and facilitates the collaborative nature of e-learning support.  Successful implementation of a course management system requires communication among entities responsible for instructional, technical, resource/library, and administrative support, at a minimum.  Clarifying how (and when, where, why, and by whom) decisions will be made can be a significant team-building exercise.

Who should create policy?

In most cases, the logical choice to formulate CMS policy are the staff members who work with the system every day and who understand the needs of the end-users, the technical limitations of the software, and/or the organizational processes that govern how things get done.  (Frequently, these are separate individuals.)  Getting feedback from technical support staff can ensure that policies aren’t based on unrealistic expectations for system performance, while faculty representation offers an end-user perspective on how the software actually gets used.

What types of policies are needed?

For those institutions using a CMS to supplement face-to-face classes or to provide resources and tools for hybrid courses, a relatively limited range of policies and procedures may suffice to guide decision-making, at least initially.  (Full-blown distance education programs would require a much broader range of policies dealing with everything from student registration to financial aid to whether an independent academic calendar is to be followed, for example.)  Although the focus of such policies may be narrow, it is critical that they be carefully integrated with existing institutional policy.  In addition, a clear understanding of the purpose and audience for the policy document will help to determine appropriate categories (e.g., if the policies are to be used primarily to guide decisions regarding technology upgrades, this document will look very different from one used mostly for recommendations related to faculty development and training).  In any case, the following categories suggested for inclusion will rarely, if ever, all appear in the same document and there are certainly others not listed that may be essential at some institutions.

The broad categories of policy proposed here -- Administrative, Site Management, Academic Concerns, and Technical Issues – provide a structure with which to begin.  Administrative could be considered the “legalities” area, and includes policies related to licensing, access and security, copyright, and intellectual property rights.  Site Management is pragmatic in scope and deals with creating, maintaining, archiving,

Zvacek, Susan M.

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