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From: Brian D Voss <bvoss@LSU.EDU>
Subject: Re: CIO Blackboard buys out Angel
Date: 5/8/2009 7:59 AM

I didn't do an ROI per se, but let me at least tell you where the money went.

When LSU made the move to Moodle, our philosophy was to keep the budgetary footprint the same, but make some advancement in the 'humanware' we were directing toward faculty support. We also wanted to "uncap" our ability to add more courses and make more use of LMS (because with Bb we would have had to pay 'by the course' for those additions).

We were spending about $350K a year on Bb – and like you, had the hosted service. We also had a Bb administrator position in the budget.

When we went to Moodle, we kept that same budget and instead spent it as follows – I don't have detailed numbers here, but if you need them I'll put you in touch with folks in my shop who have kept them (I'm a bottom line kinda guy). We funded:

!. MoodleRooms service for our environment. MR charges on a headcount model. A key advantage to us, then, was that we now pay for all heads, which gives us room to grow our use of LMS. As I mentioned, with Bb we were paying more or less 'by the course' so if we expanded use, we expanded costs. Our MR service lets us expand to the limit of the headcount. This upward flexibility was a real value for us, given we don't have the penetration of LMS use that we want (only about 50%), and feel we need to have.

2. We funded two developers to work on module development. We set up something called MDAC – Moodle Development Advisory Committee – consisting of mostly faculty who review requests we get from faculty for enhancements. They work with the developers to size efforts and then prioritize them in our queue. Sidebar – we developed a gradebook application which the Moodle community has subsequently included into the base core code. While some of our faculty still are grumbly about our gradebook (and we're working on changes), I can at least point toward this honor from the Moodle community and say "Our gradebook sucks less than anyone elses!"

3. We funded 3.5 new faculty support personnel. Planets aligned and the folks who supported faculty use of LMS and other technologies were moved into ITS at this time, from Academic Affairs. So we started with that nucleus of staff and augmented it with these 3.5 positions. Also at the same time, I made some investments of a small amount of strategic money I had received, and we added two more positions and fully funded the other half – that makes 6. I scrounged around another position internally, and we met the strategic plan item on faculty support (suggested 7 additional FTE) with these coordinated moves.

4. We retained the budget for the LMS administrator and transitioned them from Bb and our homegrown system to Moodle administration.

A caveat to these numbers – I needed to fund only the salaries for these positions. LSU manages personnel a bit differently ... we get positions from administration that have 'benefits loaded' on the empty lines, and we just need to pay the salaries. This saves us about 35% on each. Now if you're having to fully-fund the lines (as most responsibility centered environments would require) your not going to get as many positions (only 3 rather than 4). I had some empty lines sitting around, augmented with lines from our inclusion of the former OAA folks; so I didn't have to go "buy a line" here. So all that to say – your mileage may vary. The average salary we paid was about $40K-$50K range in our market. And we augmented that a bit, again, due to the 'aligning of planets' I mentioned and the fact the timing allowed us to factor in campus-funded raises as well.

So for us, this worked out. Of course if you're trying to save money, you won't get the benefit – or maybe you have robust faculty support already, and thus won't need to spend savings on that. In the end, my view is this worked out great. We got an expandable platform (we can now add faculty/courses in without additional cost due to how MoodleRooms charges), we got more control over our enhancements, and we made strategic advances in our support of faculty use of IT in teaching & learning. And that last part should pay dividends for years to come. While the first year has had those folks concentrating on migration and training, as that task passes, we can devote them toward more broader engagement with our faculty.

That is ... if the State's budget nightmare doesn't hit us. I will say that in my models for cutting up to 20% from my budget, I've worked hard to preserve as much of this new faculty technology center support as I can.


Brian D. Voss
Vice Chancellor for Information Technology & CIO
Louisiana State University and A&M College

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