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Course Management Systems

Learning Objectives
• Define course management system and content management system.
• Distinguish between open source and proprietary course management systems.
• Discuss the use of course management systems (e.g., Oncourse, Canvas).
• Identify hardware and software tools related to course management.
• Identify the features and use of Oncourse and Canvas.

If you've taken an online course, you've probably used a course management system (CMS). Course management systems are also known as a virtual learning environments or learning management systems. These systems consist of a software system that help instructors manage course administration. Although generally associated with distance learning, CMS are often used to supplement blended or face-to-face courses.

Blackboard is an example of a popular commercial CMS.

Oncourse is the name of the IU’s system based on the open source course management system called Sakai. This system is being superseded by Canvas.

Canvas is an open source course management system. It is in the process of replacing Oncourse at IUPUI.

A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course with unlimited participation and open access to materials through the Web.

CMS Components

These large scale CMS often include

• announcements
• assignments
• calendar
• chat room
• courseload eTexts
• drop box • syllabus
• email archive
• forums /discussions
• gradebook
• matrices
• messages
• news
• podcasting
• postEm
• preferences
• presentations
• resources
• site setup
• tests and surveys
• web content
• wiki and other collaborative tools
•... and more!


Oncourse was designed specificially for use in the Indiana University system.

The advantage of a course management system is that all the learning and communication tools are in one place and generally use a shared navigation system. This makes it easy to use the resources and tools.

On the other hand, this can also be a disadvantage. There may be some tools you don't need. Or, you may not like the features of particular tools. For example, you might like the forum tool, but hate the wiki option.

Each instructor uses Oncourse in their own way. As a result, you’ll find that different instructors make use of different tools. It’s important that students are aware of the features in Oncourse and use the tools effectively.

Oncourse will continue to be supported through Summer 2016.


Canvas is in the process of replacing Oncourse at Indiana University's CMS. Many department courses are now using this system.

Canvas contains many of the same elements as Oncourse. However, many instructors and students find the system easier to use.

One of the primary advantages of Canvas is that it fully integrated popular social media tools and apps.

Course Management Systems & Course Management Systems

In addition to using a Course Management System (CMS) for your own graduate work, you may also be involved in using these types of systems in your professional work.

Many Content Management Systems (CMS) can also be used as Course Management Systems (CMS). This can be confusing because they’re both called CMS. A Content CMS may contain more generic tools such as forums and lack some of the specialized learning tools such as a gradebook found in a Course CMS.

The website Drupal Gardens provides an easy-to-use Content Management System that can be adapted for library use. It’s based on the Drupal open source software.

CMS in Libraries

Many libraries use CMS for library programs such as book clubs and even online, continuing education courses.

Go to the Austin Public Library in Minnesota. This website was constructed using an easy-to-use CMS called Drupal Gardens. Notice that many of the features you find in Oncourse or Canvas such as a calendar, resources, news, etc. can be found in a library website.

Learning Oncourse

Many online resources are available to learn more about Oncourse.

Press the IDEA buttons on the right to learn about the basic Oncourse tools.

If you feel confident in your skills, at least read the Oncourse QuickStart PDF.

Also, check out the Student Overview Video, Oncourse Basics Page, and Oncourse Features.

Learning Canvas

You'll also want to learn the basic of using Canvas.

Go to the Get Help with Canvas page for resources related to using Canvas at IU.

Go to the Canvas Help website for general resources related to learning Canvas.

Posting in Oncourse

It’s important that you create professional quality postings and assignments. When creating text for use in forums or other Oncourse activities, Microsoft Word text can be a problem. Unfortunately, Word contains proprietary/hidden characters that sometimes cause formatting problems in Oncourse. One solution is to paste your text using the Word Paste tool in the text toolbar. Notice the icon below the arrow.


A second option is to use the text editor that comes with your computer or mobile device.
For Windows, use NotePad and for Mac use TextEdit. Convert your text to plain text.

ePortfolio Requirement

All LIS graduate students are required to complete an ePortfolio during their program. It’s important to start collecting materials for this requirement. At the end of each course, think about the products you’ve created and how they reflect the goals of the graduate program. Oncourse is currently being used to house the ePortfolio. By the end of your first Fall or Spring semester in graduate school, you should see a project course listed in Oncourse titled SLIS MLS ePort.

You’ll be asked to submit and comment on products that reflect the goals of the program in the following areas:

At the end of your program, this eportfolio will be evaluated by the LIS faculty to check for mastery.


Oncourse and Canvas are the Course Management Systems (CMS) you will be using for your graduate course work.

Similar systems called Content Management Systems are used by many libraries to provide much of the same functionality as Course Management Systems.


| eduscapes | IUPUI Online Courses | Contact Us | 2014 Annette Lamb (Adapted from earlier s401 materials)

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