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This is How We Do Things Here: Developing a Policy Manual for CMS Usage - page 7 / 8

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Auxiliary Software:  Many special-use software packages are designed to run in conjunction with CMS systems, including software for online testing, browser “lock-down” software, and videoconferencing systems.  While such programs can greatly expand the usability and effectiveness of the CMS, policies related to software evaluation and purchase recommendations, as well as installation and maintenance, can prevent many organizational headaches down the road.

As noted previously, the categories and topics suggested are a starting point for discussions of responsibility and authority, but are unlikely to be comprehensive and applicable to all institutions.  Each institution must base policy decisions on factors specific to the student population, technology infrastructure, staff resources, and faculty needs.  Once the policy document is drafted, careful review by administrators (including legal counsel), by users (teachers and students), and by support staff (technical and instructional) will help to avoid problems after the policies are implemented.

Once the policy document has been read and approved by the appropriate parties, the next question concerns its dissemination.  Should the document be given to every faculty member?  Should it simply be made available to anyone who’s interested?  Keeping in mind that the policy manual is unlikely to ever truly be completed, but will evolve based on need, it may be appropriate to maintain it solely online.  This way, the most recent version is always available and users will need to refer to the virtual copy, rather than a printed edition that may quickly become obsolete.

Summary

Policies – the philosophical and procedural bases for decision-making – exist whether they’re written down or not, but the process of articulating these ideas provides an agreed-upon framework for managing a complex system.  The preceding discussion offers a simple structure for protocols regarding administration, site management, academic concerns, and technical issues that can easily be expanded or modified as CMS usage grows or changes direction.  Unfortunately, a long list of must-do activities can take precedence over creating a policy manual, but the best time to develop policy is before it’s needed.  The hours spent formulating a consistent set of guidelines for supporting, managing, and maintaining a course management system will pay off with fairness, time savings, and increased program credibility.

Zvacek, Susan M.

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