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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Goodbye LMS?

I had seen this paper (Social software: E-learning beyond learning management systems) before, but Jay Cross's take on the implications of the paper in LMS, we hardly knew ye is interesting:

LMS create a walled garden in an era when walls are falling down. Why not use
the real internet and real internet technology rather than some hokey
oversimplification? Furthermore, how can you manage serendipitous learning that
is inherently unmanageable?

I get the feeling that Jay and I are responding to what is happening out in the world of corporate use of LMS products and this is something I've been writing about before:

The paper about social software is definitely worth reading to get up to speed on issues such as Integration vs. Separation (or as I called it Point Solutions vs. Suites and Composition), their introduction to Social Software from a learning context, and their point that LMS products are incompatible with a learner-driven environment.

However, I agree with Jay that the bigger reason that LMS products are causing us grief in corporate learning applications is that while we want some aspects of what an LMS provides, we don't want our content to get stuck inside the LMS in the form of a course that makes in useless in other modes. Further, it causes us to think in LMS terms (course).

The counter argument for why we need an LMS centers first and foremost on tracking required learning and secondarily on helping to communicate learning requirements. This makes me wonder if we wouldn't be happier ourselves and for our learners to have a system with the following main functions:

  1. Invisible tracking - tracks the web pages that each individual visits and activity that it corresponds to. This is similar to web log analysis today, but would include tracking of the individual via cookies and analysis to say that if you hit particular pages, then a particular event occurs.
  2. Email blast utility - give us tools to communicate to individuals and allow it to base communication on event completion or selection criteria.
  3. Reporting - tell us who has completed what events

The advantage of this kind of approach is that it breaks down the walls so that content is just content and still gives us the necessary tracking and communication. You'll notice that I've not included any method of communicating about particular learning requirements. My assumptions is that you'll just create emails or web pages that tells people what they need to do.

If we believe that Course and Courseware Fading and that much of the learning content that we'll provide in the future will be in the form of things that do not look like courses, then don't we have to move to this kind of learning tracking and communication system?

Of course, The Innovator's Dilemma of Learning suggests that this solution may not not come from any of the big LMS players (see also Do You WANT an LMS? Does a Learner WANT an LMS?).

4 comments:

Shifting Semiosis said...

WebCT, when it was still small, was a wonderful scaffold for me, a teacher, as I learned how to use the web in my teaching and what I could do there. This was at my primary institution where great planning and interface set-up had taken place, students' names were dropped right into the couse, and templates and help were easily available.

Then I encountered an educational institution with an installation of WebCT where only a high level techie could get a course up and running. At the same time I discovered the Beta version of the wiki, Jotspot, and used that with the class, plus had them all on one Blogspot blog. It worked! I liked it and felt I was adding to students' learning by having them use learning tools that they would be encountering in their personal and business futures.

Now I use a Wikispaces wiki, an Elgg Community Blog, and, of course, email. The LMS is, as far as I'm concerned, dead.

Tony Karrer said...

Wow - what a fantastic comment / commentary!

Kelly Holdstock said...

As part of a small group of faculty trainers, we are still seeing lots of faculty saying "Hello LMS". I don't know if our college (about 17,000 students) is just that far behind, but in talking to other providers in our area, I don't think we are so different. I just did training to an entire group who want to get started with WebCT to post their grades in the gradebook. Even to do this simple task, there was a fair amount of resistance, however, because some of the other programs in their cluster are starting to do this, their students are asking (demanding) that they can get at marks online. I love the idea of assembling smaller learning components into a personal learning environment, but that is so far beyond what we are seeing right now - and I don't even want to get into how politics (or control issues) get in the way of incorporating new technology. Our corporate LMS is the only elearning technology that our faculty have access and support for - and it still feels like we are miles away from making use of that tool in any significant way. I don't want to sound to negative - I see the glass as half full - but I feel like I'm reading this post from somewhere in the past. Well, back to the cave.

Tony Karrer said...

Kelly - that's good commentary. I'm much more familiar with what's happening in the corporate world, but let me pose a question:

What will help faculty more with them being effective educators: the LMS or a Wiki?

At the same time, I'm not trying to say that you aren't correct about where things are today. I'm also curious how you would respond to the first comment in this post?