Posts Tagged ‘lms’
Sometimes I am consulted by agencies outside my own about adopting “future ready” platforms.
While there are many ways to address this issue based on different contexts, I find myself repeating one answer. I tell them to avoid an enterprise learning management system (LMS) like Blackboard.
LMS tend to be expensive and their cost will only go up over time. Even without extras they are bloated with features most instructors will not need or care for. Where there are missing features, you will pay handsomely for them to be included. Upgrades will tend to become more complicated rather than easier to use.
Your buy-in will eventually lead to lock-in. The LMS will be the go-to place even when it ceases to be relevant. It will influence pedagogy (instead of the other way around) and entrench itself so that your organization will find it hard to let go.
You will likely end up with a closed system that is great for administrators or technical-minded staff. This does not serve the needs of learners or instructors who may require lifelong learning or more open resources.
Providing more open resources and services is not just being future-ready; it addresses what is needed here and now!
To adopt a traditionally oriented LMS is like adopting Singapore’s paper coupon parking system even when electronic forms exist.
This ridiculously antiquated system requires you to tear tabs from paper coupons to indicate the date and time you park, and leave the correct number of coupons on your car’s dashboard based on 30 or 60-minute intervals.
Such a system allows people to cheat, does not take into account the actual time you need, is a source of litter and a waste of paper, and when you consider the policing mechanism, is unnecessarily human resource intensive.
On the other hand, the electronic reader system can charge you more precisely or in the same blocks of time, does not generate paper waste (with the exception of top-up receipts), and is more convenient for the user.
An LMS is like the paper-based parking system. It is designed not for learner needs but to satisfy what an administrator wants. Like the parking authorities/companies who make a profit, the only ones who are really happy the LMS are the ones who make money from it.
To be future-ready, we should refine the electronic parking system and abandon the old paper-based one. To be future-ready, we should avoid LMS that are designed with a different time and purpose.
The only strategy Blackboard has is a business one. There's no pedagogy behind it, no concern for minds or understanding, no teacherly soul.—
Mark Sample (@samplereality) September 17, 2011
On a side note, one might be just as concerned that Bb might suffer from some serious security flaws.
There will be changes in Bb’s offerings, especially as one pays expensively to move from version 8 to version 9. But these changes look more like reactions (and late ones at that) to offerings like Google Docs, YouTube videos, etc.
At the risk of sounding technologically deterministic, I believe that the Bb tools are not just tools; they have certain usage, practices and even philosophies in mind. Just like the way a construction worker’s sledgehammer, sculptor’s mallet and carpenter’s hammer are used by different people for different things. (My other rambling thoughts on LMS or Bb   )
So the adoption and integration of some of these “new” tools will bring some added affordances and perhaps some of the “teacherly soul” that the tweet mentioned. But I cannot help but feel that Bb is just playing catchup and that it is not offering what more progressive educators have already discovered outside the confines of LMS.
I have written before that I generally do not favour LMS because they are closed systems. When you are done with a course, you are DONE with it. You do not have access to it later.
Providers of LMS will say that it is up to a systems administrator to make those course available. That is true. But that belies the fact you have to flush the courses out because a) you need to make space for new courses, and b) users don’t want to see long course lists on their pages.
If you want to nurture lifelong learners, you need lifelong resources. Content and resources locked in LMS are not lifelong resources.
Resources created, curated and/or shared in more open platforms like blogs, wikis and social bookmarks are.
Oh, Blackboard, how you amuse me!
Granted, the cancellation may not have been entirely BB’s fault, but in the larger scheme of things, anytime-anywhere learning has been absent because of limited affordances of the LMS.
There are some things to like about our implementation of Blackboard (BB) as an LMS.
Database integration. It is relatively easy to create courses in BB because the entire student teacher database can be divided into tutorial groups and assigned to courses. This feature is convenient.
But you can also do this yourself with other tools like PBworks wikis, or if you do what the rest of the world has started doing, rely on self-subscriptions. A model of how this operates is Edmodo. You provide your learners with a join code and they sign up on their own (just like they might do with any other online service). If your learners do not sign up, they do not benefit from the resources and have no where else to submit their assignments!
The integration of anti-plagiarism tools. Any institute of higher learning that is worth its salt will be concerned about plagiarism. LMS like BB allow system administrators to add tools like TurnItIn and SafeAssign so that it seems seamless.
That said, there are many other anti-plagiarism tools that are freely available. Here are a few resources that I collected in Delicious.
I think that the use of anti-plagiarism technology should be the last line of defence, not the first. The battle against plagiarism starts with instructor modelling and education. An anti-plagiarism tool should be a weapon of last resort. Rely on that tool too much and it becomes a crutch.
Mobile Learn. BB has mobile apps for the iOS, Android and Blackberry platforms and Mobile Learn is something both staff and student teachers here in NIE will get to use this coming semester. The tool set is not very strong yet, but it can only improve with time.
What excites me the most is the potential for the mobile platform to help change pedagogy. How?
Our student teachers can now access BB on the go. Now, you could design lessons for them the same way as before, but why would you if their learning context has changed?
Let’s say an instructor is still comfortable with lectures. I say flip the classroom. The lectures can be listened to anywhere else other than a lecture theatre or tutorial room. When the student teachers are on campus, discuss issues, deal with common stumbling blocks or engage them in some activity that is not a lecture but leverages on the lecture they already listened to.
Now let’s imagine an instructor who has moved past lectures (or doesn’t require them as much). Student teachers could be asked to perform tasks in place, e.g., collect interview, photo, audio or video data. The artefacts are collated online and they return to campus to analyze and evaluate them.
In other words, use class time for more effective face time. Use “homework” time to create space for the learner to consume and reflect at a self-selected pace.
Does this sound familiar? That is because you can do this already with many other Web 2.0 and/or mobile services. BB is a latecomer to the game but a player nonetheless.
What might BB do next?
It could rename itself. It is going to be acquired by another company but it still calls itself Blackboard. When I hear that I wonder what century they are living in and I hear fingernails going across the board.
Those old enough to remember what fingernails raking a blackboard sounds like might cringe at the recollection.
To be honest, I cringed a little when I met with the folks from Blackboard (BB) twice last month.
To be fair, I feel that way about LMS in general and not just BB in particular. But as BB is probably the equivalent of Google or Microsoft in the LMS world, I associate LMS with BB.
There are many things not to like about LMS in general. Here are my pet peeves from the point of view of someone who has to make decisions on e-learning for teachers-to-be.
LMS do not provide opportunities for our student teachers to practice being educators or facilitators in the online realm. Being a moderator of a discussion thread or a leader of a discussion group is not enough. Our teacher trainees need to do what their tutors do: Administer, plan, design, find meaningful resources, create, upload, manage, facilitate, evaluate, troubleshoot, etc.
LMS have tools built with an increasingly outmoded model of teaching in mind. One expert puts resources online (typically Word documents, PowerPoint slides and URLs) for students to download and consume. There might be an enforced discussion (post X times by Y date) whether or not the topic is meaningful to the learner.
What’s wrong with this? The structure imposed by LMS influences its use by tutors who then model these behaviours for student teachers. The latter then tend to teach the way they were taught.
Admittedly this is not entirely the fault of any LMS. People can make the conscious decision to change the way they teach. But they won’t do this when the tool does not encourage or allow them to change.
LMS create limit access and closed environments. Once a semester is over, learner access to a course is removed. How soon this happens depends on the policy of an institute. This is a necessary evil because the LMS cannot support an indefinite number of learners and indefinite access. Companies like BB charge by the user and it is prudent for an institute to limit access.
But what happens when the learner needs to access the resource again once they have become teachers? They might be able to download every file and copy every discussion point, but they lose the context and the connections a course affords.
LMS are also closed in another sense. The resources and interactions are limited to a class. A person in class A cannot contribute good ideas to class B. Their tutors restrict the sharing of resources out of fear or because of copyright issues.
These are not what education is about. Education should be open and encourage open-mindedness, not the opposite. Yes, I am an idealist, but I’d rather be driven by ideals than by fear or stuck by inertia.
Others have voiced their concerns about LMS more articulately than I have. The most recent was a Campus Technology article by Gary Brown. The is the even more critical Insidious Pedagogy by Lisa Lane. In 2007, Martin Weller outlined why the LMS is dead.
More thoughts on LMS tomorrow.
I read RRW’s article on Instructure’s Canvas, a cloud-and-browser-based LMS that claims to want to “get rid of the walled garden”. I could not have described LMS as a walled garden better:
That walled garden approach to learning management systems means that whatever content students and instructors upload – whether it’s handouts, homework assignments, discussions, tests, syllabi – is all trapped within a particular course. If you aren’t registered for a class, you can’t view it. When a course is over, you can’t view it. When you graduate, you can’t view it. As having a strong online portfolio is rapidly becoming far more important than a resume, that’s no good for students. It’s no good for education either, which despite the rising cost of tuition, should be about sharing, not restricting knowledge.
Canvas is something we’ll look into for stakeholders who share the same educational philosophies (the same stakeholders who are aware what century we are living in).
And if the claims about Canvas are true, I think it will gain enough critical mass so that it can resist being swallowed up by Blackboard.
[image source, used under CC licence]
Jane Hart asks “What is the future of the LMS?“
For a longer answer, see Jane’s blog.
[image source, used under CC licence]
I have mixed thoughts on this article, Insidious pedagogy: How course management systems impact teaching by Lisa Lane.
The article is based on the premise that course management systems (CMS) like Blackboard have an inherent pedagogy, which is limited to traditional forms of teaching, and this in turn impacts instructors. I do not agree fully with the premise, but I agree with much of the rest of the article even though it is built on that premise. It is an insidious article!
I think that the premise is technologically deterministic, that is, the outcomes of using a tool are defined by its design. But as I wrote earlier, there are technological, social and pedagogical affordances of modern technologies. Affordances are not guarantees of use. The pedagogical affordances of a CMS are but one aspect that influence its use. How they are used socially can make a difference.
Technology is largely neutral even if it is designed to harm. Let us take an ammunition round for example. It is designed to kill. It can be used in a mindless mall shooting. It can also be used to hunt in order to feed a family.
There are limits to a CMS but it is still neutral. It allows the pedagogy of the instructor to take centre stage. If you only know a delivery-oriented model, you will use a CMS that way. If you have constructivist leanings, you will use a CMS to that end. So while I agree with Lane that a CMS limits users, I think it does not determine how they teach.
I agree with her that novice instructors may know no other way of teaching than to attempt to deliver content. I also agree that CMS tend to support that model of teaching and that learning how to use a CMS might be a barrier to developing your own teaching style. So I agree with her advice to novices to ask themselves what they want to do first, rather than do what a CMS demands of them.
[image source, used under CC licence]
If you do, you might abandon an institute-sanctioned CMS like me. The CMS is Blackboard here in NIE. I stopped using it after one semester in 2006 and have been using blogs, wikis and other Web 2.0 tools in my courses since 2007. Why? I started blogging and using wikis in 2004 and began to see their potential for learning.
BlackBoard did include some of these tools as add-ons (in a desperate bid to stay relevant I might add), but they are closed off to the rest of the world. Worse still, my trainees would not have indefinite access to them. Worst of all, my trainees would be put only in the shoes of students, unable to administer, customize and add to the tool itself. I did not realize it then, but I was trying to get them to use what all of us already have access to: Get your own blog, your own wiki, your own online mindmap, your own VoiceThread, your own Google Docs, etc.
A technology learning curve is expected of any tool. It would help if the curve was shallow and short and if pedagogy took centre stage. Bringing in tools that students or teachers-to-be are already using is logical and necessary. (Think about Facebook as an example.) First, the tools are relatively easy to learn. Second, the learning and tinkering is already done outside of class. Third, you can focus on formal learning processes and content with your students or trainees. Finally, the learners expect to be able to use them at work and at play. This way learning becomes naturally seamless instead of just constrained to a time and place.
It’s about killing a few birds with one stone. A stone that has an expected use, but if used innovatively, might redefine how we teach.