Section IV: Historical Information Regarding the Initial Selection of D2L

Last Updated: 08/08/2013


This section contains a synopsis of the process to initially select and implement D2L for the CU-Boulder campus.

Process to Initially Select D2L

In 2008, CU-Boulder evaluated options for a new Online Learning Environment (OLE) to replace the campus’ existing system, CULearn (i.e., Blackboard technology).


The selection process was transparent and open and engaged faculty in the selection of the next generation OLE. Input to this selection process included an initial evaluation of peer and next-level academic institutions' OLE selection processes.

Process Overview

This process called for two committees to develop a joint recommendation for a collaborative learning environment that would fully support innovative teaching methods and effective teaching, learning and research on the CU-Boulder campus. The first committee consisted of functional stakeholders, including faculty, students and representatives from the Chief Information Office (i.e., Academic Technology and the Architecture and Analysis unit). The other committee consisted of technical stakeholders for the OLE, including the CIO Office (i.e., team members from Academic Technology, Architecture and Analysis, OIT and Security) as well as team members from the Libraries and the Registrar's Office.

The functional stakeholders met during the fall semester of 2008 to describe high-level requirements, a process for evaluation, and to set broad direction in the area of types of technologies chosen. The technical stakeholders, IT staff from OIT and campus departments, also met in the fall of 2008 to determine costs, benefit, support needs and development processes to roll out a solution.

The two groups formed a joint report to the IT Council, CIO, Deans, Boulder Faculty Assembly and Provost for the new OLE. This process culminated in a limited fall 2010 rollout.

Process Details

Functional Stakeholders

The functional stakeholders group consisted of faculty and students, and included Academic Technology representatives (i.e., Director, Manager, Academic Technology Consultant) as well as staff from the Architecture and Analysis group.

The functional stakeholders group met during the fall 2008 semester to make a philosophical commitment to an open source or off-the-shelf solution. This group conducted a cost-benefit analysis of top two to three contenders in each category. The group refined a list of functional needs, through faculty focus groups and work by the procurement committee, a group of faculty and staff working with the procurement service center (PSC).

The procurement committee worked on a request for proposals process, and chose products for a comparative evaluation of OLE products. High-level OIT staff determined the appropriate steering committee/processes for development, implementation and ongoing maintenance of new system.

Faculty-led Evaluation Team Members

Faculty members participating on the team included those from: Architecture, Arts & Humanities, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, Business, Continuing Education, Education, Engineering, Journalism, Law, the Libraries, and Music.

Goals of the Faculty OLE Evaluation team included:

  • Develop functional requirements document based on team discussions, informal input via team members, peer institution research, and "road show" data.
  • As necessary or desired, recommend additional information gathering mechanisms and discussion to ensure breadth and depth of strategic discussion.
  • Mesh functional requirements document with technical requirements document.
  • Make recommendation about OLE product.
  • Volunteer to guide development and implementation of new OLE as part of a standing OLE Advisory Team.

Technical Stakeholders

The technical stakeholders group met during the fall 2008 semester to complete a cost-benefit analysis of the top two to three contenders in open-source and off-the-shelf categories. It determined the staffing, communication, training, and technical partnerships and infrastructure needed for development, implementation, and sustenance of a new system.

The Technical OLE Evaluation team, or technical stakeholders, included these individuals from:  IT Architectures/CTO; OIT; Development & Integration; Law; Continuing Education; Business; Systems; and Security.

Goals of the Technical OLE Evaluation team included:

  • Develop technical requirements document.
  • Combine technical requirements document with functional requirements document.
  • Recommend an OLE product for CU-Boulder.
  • Volunteer to guide development and implementation of mew OLE as part of a standing OLE Advisory Team

Joint Group Activities and Reports

The teams met jointly, twice during the semester. In addition, significant work occurred by OIT staff to prepare for the meeting and decisions.

A joint report was drafted by the leadership of the two groups and presented to IT Council, the CIO, the Provost, Deans and the Boulder Faculty Assembly at the end of the fall 2008 semester. This report provided evaluative criteria.

A comparative analysis was held during the spring semester of 2009. The next generation OLE was selected shortly before the end of the spring semester of 2009. An additional joint report was delivered to IT Council, the CIO, the Provost, Deans and the Boulder Faculty Assembly at the end of spring 2009.

A pilot and deeper evaluation of the next generation OLE was held during the summer of 2009. The pilot and evaluation continued in the fall semester of 2009. A transition methodology was determined, and communications and training began shortly thereafter.

Final Selection Criteria

Final selection criteria for D2L included:

  • Experience, background and qualifications
  • Features and usability
  • OLE administration
  • Product environment
  • Product roadmap
  • Financial considerations

The four criteria bolded, above, received the highest scores (i.e., what D2L as a system scored highest in) from the team.


In the spring semester of 2010, the transition from CULearn (i.e., Blackboard technology) to the next generation online learning environment began. There was an opt-in period for early adopters. Early adopters’ courses were transitioned into the new format between fall and spring semesters.

During the summer of 2010 through spring semester of 2012, adoption of D2L continued. CULearn was retired from service during the summer of 2012, at which time D2L became the university’s official OLE.