Our institution is planning ahead for what could be a major upgrade to its course management system (CMS) later this semester. Since we’re part of a state system of universities and colleges that uses the same CMS, we’ve agreed to upgrade concurrently. This means that sometime in December faculty members at all 14 institutions will go to sleep having worked on one version of the CMS and see a very different version when they log in the next morning. While the changes won’t be cosmetic in nature, the underlying functionality could be very different and will undoubtedly create some dissonance when faculty try to upload content or create instructional modules. This week, I thought I’d offer some suggestions to help colleagues navigate the upcoming sea of change.
1. Be informed. Upgrades don’t typically happen without some formal announcement detailing the overall process. Keep an eye on your email and stay on top of upgrade announcements. Usually, institutions will offer some suggestions about backing-up grades or will detail the times that the CMS will be down. Following these instructions will help you avoid headaches down the road.
2. Be resilient. Change is a natural part of life and increasingly becoming a standard component of technology. New devices are always being released and new software versions are always being introduced. The key to navigating these changes is to be as resilient as possible. Sure, it may be stressful to see that menu options have changed within the CMS or that some tool that you love now functions differently. How we react to these changes is critical. It’s okay to get a little angry or frustrated by the change. But remember, upgrades don’t occur to create stressful situations for individual faculty members. A CMS upgrade will offer increased functionality and security. Recognizing the motivations behind the upgrade may help some faculty cope with the change. It may also help them better prepare for the next upgrade down the road.
3. Get help. I’m sure that our institution is not unique in planning training sessions ahead of the upgrade. Attend a professional development session and talk to your instructional support team to find out what changes will occur. Learn how your courses will be impacted by the upgrade and find out how the new system will operate. The instructional support team is there to help you through this process. You just need to seek out their assistance.
4. Plan ahead. Our CMS upgrade will occur days before I start teaching a new online class. While I’m concerned about the upgrade, I plan to organize the content in the course to give myself time to get acquainted with the system. The first couple of days of the semester will involve “low risk” types of activities that will not be drastically impacted by the CMS upgrade. I also have a list of modifications that I need make quickly. For instance, I typically use an orientation video to introduce students to the CMS and the course. With significant changes to the CMS, I will need to rerecord the video to reflect the new system. Keeping a list of the most critical elements that will need to be modified will help me tackle the upgrade thoughtfully and proactively.