A brief history of SharePoint at WSU

FacOps started it. They needed a document management solution that could serve as an integration platform for the wide range of data sources that they use to manage WSU facilities. They were running the 2003 version, and evangelizing it in various ways. FacOps, ITS and several Colleges that had started exploring SharePoint hosted the “SharePoint Summit” in the summer of 2004. ITS’s contribution to the show was a demonstration of how SharePoint could be used to re-implement the functions currently served by Oracle in myWSU. What I saw in that demonstration had some big implications for CTLT.

1) The myWSU demo had a link to a SharePoint site for a class and I realized that if SharePpint could be used for a class site, that potential would be discovered by some of the Colleges beginning to host it. I argued that the potential existed for Colleges to begin using SharePoint for classes and CTLT needed to be prepared to consult with faculty and/or provide students with helpdesk support. My subsequent exploration of SharePoint with the help of Roxie Mitchell from Microsoft (winter 2004-05) convinced me that SharePoint could serve as a Learning Management System at least as sophisticated as “The Bridge” [an LMS that CTLT had created in 2000 and was retiring in favor of WebCT (now Blackboard CE)].

2) The other exciting piece of the SharePoint Summit demos was the MySite feature. When developing myWSU, we had looked at Oracle’s personal site and collaboration tools. They did not seem completely developed when we looked (2003) and the licensing costs prevented WSU from acquiring them. The SharePoint Portal tools were coming as parts of centrally purchased licenses, which changed the cost. Since the licensing resulted in zero cost to Colleges, individual Colleges might launch their own portals with mySites. WSU’s history with the adoption of Microsoft Active Directory and Microsoft Exchange made me believe that College adoption of Portal and MySites was probable. Exploring this idea with those colleagues, I found that the challenge for Colleges to give students MySites was that the students might use College resources for non-College purposes. That suggested that students needed access to MySites as a central resource — and a role for CTLT to play.

Concurrent with these events, CTLT was exploring the Open Source Portfolio (OSPI) tools, looking for an ePortfolio platform to offer the university. The SharePoint platform as ePortfolio was more appealing than OSPI for several reasons: 1) support and scalability, 2) overlapping skills/training (if faculty were being moved to SharePoint for enterprise-wide business reasons, the skills they learned would transfer to ePorfolios without needing to learn another tools 3) worldware (skill students built in SharePoint would more likely be applicable on the job than skills built in OSPI. 4) Personal control of a collaborative resource that was outside of any course, and could span a student’s career at the university (and possibly beyond).

By Spring 2006 CTLT had formed a partnership with ITS where ITS would deploy, and CTLT would provide user support for, SharePoint 2003 Portal (and MySites) for all current students and employees. At the same time we collaborated to create a SharePoint LMS offering — with the rationale that if faculty had MySite, they would (and already have) used it for their classes. The problem for the institution with classes in MySites is that its harder to provide central support (such as automatically arranging the student enrollment) and providing backup for records retention (since quite likely that the institution will have no knowledge of the class in the faculty’s MySite). Bellevue Community College was a year ahead of WSU with SharePoint MySites, and was having this experience. Thus, the MyClass LMS offering was initially motivated by “self-defense” against classes in MySites.

SharePoint for classes, while powerful and using the same SharePoint skills and training, is limited because it lacks a gradebook for sharing scores between instructor and student and a quiz/testing tool, which is popular as a testing strategy in some online courses. SharePoint is presently better suited to courses with discussions, project collaboration, or for courses where the instructor needs to share documents to students and the interaction otherwise takes place in the classroom.

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2 Responses to “A brief history of SharePoint at WSU”

  1. Matt Kushin Says:

    Nils,

    Came across your blog doing some research into Sharepoint and ePortfolios. I know this is an old blog post but couldn’t resist dropping a line. I actually attend WSU and am a PhD student in the School of Comm. I’ve been by CTLT a # of times and have worked with Jayme & Theron on some projects. I’ve been using Shareponit a lot to develop my course material and for some other projects. Just thought I’d share them on your blog:

    ePortfolio in Sharepoint utilities: template, tutorial & instructional videos:
    https://mysite.wsu.edu/personal/mkushin/com420/LR/SitePages/ePortfolio_instructions.aspx?PageView=Shared

    My course website: https://mysite.wsu.edu/personal/mkushin/com420/default.aspx

    Feel free to grab a look. Thanks,
    Matt Kushin

  2. SharePoint LMS at Washington State : Online Learning Says:

    […] Peterson at UWS comments on the Washington State move to Microsft Sharepoint LMS in One small step for man. Project started in 2003 (?) and this posting is from November, 2007. Filed Under: […]

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