The Ethics of Adopting a Course Management System

by Adam R. Pope


The Content Management Systems (CMS) has become a staple of modern university life. It seems you can barely find a university today who hasn't jumped on board with either a proprietary, open source, or commercial course management solution. Unfortunately, many universities and academic programs embrace a single CMS as a universal solution, a fix-all for the online learning space. In reality, the idea of a one-stop solution to course management woes is at best a myth. Looking through professional literature of developers, work by academics, or even the most basic of first-hand experience with a CMS makes it clear that the choice to go with a one-stop solution is far from an effective or even innocent one.

In this article, I argue that to accept without question a universal CMS solution is to allow to go unchallenged a serious threat to our teaching effectiveness in digital environments. If we are committed to giving our students the best tools and learning environments available for composition in a digital space, we must confront the universal CMS solution to digital learning as an ethically unsound position and offer our own alternatives.

In The CMS and the University I review the fundamental disconnect between the responsible development of a CMS and the universal application so common today. In The CMS and the Classroom I delve a little deeper into the intrinsic conflicts that a CMS can create when its design conflicts with an instructor's pedagogy. And, in The Open Source CMS I lay out what I see as our best option for providing a competative and effective alternative to the university-wide CMS, with most of the discussion centering around the open source CMS I've had the privilege to develop since the summer of 2010. Finally, I bring things to a close in my brief conclusion Composition and the Future of the CMS.