You are here:

Factors affecting selection of Learning Management Systems in higher education institutions

, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, United States

Doctor of Philosophy, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign . Awarded


Learning Management Systems, or LMSs, are widely used throughout higher education to deliver a range of instructional services including content delivery, discussion boards and collaborative work space, testing tools, and gradebook functions. LMSs can be used asynchronously or synchronously in support of online learning, classroom-based learning, and blended or “hybridized” learning which combines face-to-face and online instruction. An institution-wide Learning Management System can represent an investment of several hundred thousand to several million dollars, require significant staffing resources, and potentially affect most, if not all, faculty and students at an institution. Selection of an appropriate LMS for a college, university, or state higher education system is a consequential process.

This study investigates two closely related areas of inquiry pertaining to the selection of a Learning Management System for institution-wide use at a college, university, or state higher education system. The first area of inquiry concerns the LMS selection and decision-making process employed by the institutions represented in this study and the role their senior IT leaders play in that process. The second area of inquiry investigates the possible impact that intellectual property rights (IPR) litigation, relative to Learning Management Systems, may have on the thinking and decision-making of these IT leaders when helping to select their institution’s LMS.

Interviews with fifteen Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Learning Technology Directors from a range of Carnegie classification higher education institutions were conducted, and transcripts from these in-depth interviews were coded using qualitative analytical methods and techniques developed by Strauss (1987) and others. Analysis of this data generated topics, themes, and dimensions related to the two major research foci of this study. Theoretical works pertaining to the diffusion of innovations, evolutionary theory of individual and organizational behavior, and research on intellectual property protections like patent and copyright and their possible impact on innovation are used to help frame the analysis of these areas of research inquiry.

Litigation by Blackboard Inc., the largest Learning Management System manufacturer, against one of their commercial competitors, Desire2Learn Inc., citing patent infringement, helps provide context for portions of this study. The Blackboard v. Desire2Learn legal case was selected because it directly related to the IPR legal enforcement issues being investigated; it was timely, since the case was being prosecuted at the time of the interviews; and it was familiar to most higher education IT leaders due to the widespread publicity and debate it had generated. Having this common frame of reference across interviews and respondents helped facilitate the collection, organization, and analysis of the data used in this study.

This research contributes information about the process higher education institutions employ when selecting a Learning Management System for institution-wide use. It investigates who is involved in the selection process, how selection decisions are made, and the role institutional IT leaders play in that process. Findings from the data also reveal the impact that IPR legal protections like patent and its enforcement have on the selection process, and what these senior IT leaders think the impact is on the open source and commercial LMS marketplace, and on innovation. Additionally, the CIOs and Learning Technology Directors consider other means of IPR protection which may be better suited to software-based technologies like Learning Management Systems—innovations which have developed through a cumulative and collaborative invention process.


Spelke, K.A. Factors affecting selection of Learning Management Systems in higher education institutions. Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Retrieved January 24, 2021 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 22, 2013. [Original Record]

Citation reproduced with permission of ProQuest LLC.

For copies of dissertations and theses: (800) 521-0600/(734) 761-4700 or