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Updated 10:00 AM April 11, 2005




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Collaboration environment
soon will reside in one toolbox

CTools, the enhanced and expanded course and project collaboration environment, soon will become U-M's single, campus-wide Web-based system to enhance teaching and learning. When this happens, users will be able to do research, projects and class work all on one system with a single signon.

The University's original course management system, UM.CourseTools, is scheduled to close down July 1, after six years. The project and research collaboration system, WorkTools, also is in the process of being decommissioned. The replacement system, the CTools ( environment, combines the course management capabilities of CourseTools with the collaboration features of WorkTools.

CTools is U-M's version of the next generation collaboration and learning environment Sakai, which is being developed jointly with Indiana University, Stanford University, MIT, the Open Knowledge Initiative, the uPortal Project and more than 65 other schools. U-M is leading the Sakai effort. See for more information.

"We learned a lot from the original CourseTools, and it was a very useful tool for course management and some forms of collaboration," says James Hilton, associate provost for academic, instructional and information technology affairs. "In the last few years there has been increased demand for collaborative systems like CTools, which offer many more features. With CTools, people do not have to learn separate tools to support both teaching and research. By initiating the open-source collaboration Sakai with other major institutions, we gain access to a much larger shared experience and feature set that promise to leverage collaboration and course management on our campuses."

One new feature that has resulted from the Sakai collaboration allows instructors to have more flexibility in the roles for various users. Additionally, it is easier to admit non-U-M users, such as guest lecturers, to CTools sites. Another feature, the syllabus tool, which will be incorporated into CTools in the near future, provides instructors with a template for posting course outlines on their sites.

"Running both CourseTools and CTools in parallel, as we have for the past two years, is very costly and confusing for users," says Kitty Bridges, associate vice president of Information Technology Central Services, whose unit produces both CourseTools and CTools. "Once CourseTools operations are migrated to CTools, students will no longer have to log in twice, as they did when some classes were in CourseTools and others were in CTools. All their course and collaboration spaces will be in one environment, with consistent browser functionality."

Beginning May 1 all CourseTools sites from Fall 2004 and Winter 2005 automatically will be migrated to CTools, so that the contents can be reused in future terms. Instructor-posted materials, including announcements, schedule items, assignments, resources and discussion topics will be moved as well.

Student assignment submissions and discussion responses will not appear on the new CTools site created in the migration process. At present, no new CourseTools sites for courses beyond the current term can be created.

Instructors who wish to reuse materials from an older CourseTools site from before Fall 2004 will need to request that the site be migrated to CTools. In addition, instructors can request a CD snapshot of any site containing a full archive of the course site, including student assignment submissions and discussion responses. Sites archived in this manner cannot be modified or migrated into CTools. It is possible to request both a CD for a site older than Fall 2004 and to have the site migrated.

To obtain a CD snapshot, request migration of a site prior to Fall 2004, or to learn more about the WorkTools migration, send e-mail to

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