Content Management Systems (CMS) of many kinds have been playing a greater and greater role in how many of the UMW faculty approach their classes and the material produced by students. A specialized type of Content Management System is the confusingly initialed Course Management System (sometimes also abbreviated CMS). Familiar Course Management Systems include BlackBoard, WebCT, and the open source Sakai Project. Content Management Systems, by contrast, cover purposes more oriented toward creating, managing, and sharing a variety of types of documents. Some popular CMSs include PostNuke, TYPO3, Drupal, and the KEEPToolkit.

Drupal‘s blogging feature was a prominent part of Steve Greenlaw’s Economics 300 course during the fall 2005 semester, where students blogged about their learning, which also means that the students were teaching other students. The blogs recorded the successes and struggles of all the students throughout the semester and created a community forum to augment the community within the walls of the classroom.

TYPO3 is the content management system behind the online museum exhibit titled “A Walk through Time: 100 Years at Mary Washington,” produced by John Pearce’s Museum Exhibitions course. TYPO3 offers a very rich set of templates for creating media-rich presentations for a variety of content. With the interest we have heard from many parts of the campus about producing an online record of the histories of different subjects, this looks like a powerful environment.

The KEEPToolkit, used by Marcel Rotter’s Visual History course (an index to their projects is here), takes a slightly different approach to content management. It provides templates for creating one-page bites of content they call ‘snapshots.’ Snapshots can be divided into regions on the screen, and can include images, video, or other files. Individual snapshots can also be easily linked together, allowing a very sophisticated collection of material to grow organically from many separate sources. View some of their work (and brush up on your German!): Nathan Smith, Liz Ihle.

There are other CMSs to discover, just as there are many varieties of fascinating content being produced by our faculty and students. The possibilities of finding just the right fit between material and presentation are exciting, and we hope they will keep us even busier over the next year.