If you don’t know what EduPunks are – well, you probably are one if you are reading this blog. Or, at least one at heart. We’re all probably EduPunks here at EGJ (even though I personally hate the label). We want to bring change to the online education world, and some of us are even advocating leaving Learning Management Systems behind in favor of do-it-yourself classes created in blogs, wikis, and probably a whole slew of Google sites.
In the comments section of my last post on LMS problems, a colleague of mine (Chris) made a comment that got me thinking: why are LMS programs the way they are? The hard reality we EduPunks have to face is that Ed Tech products, just like almost any other tech product, are consumer-driven. They are the way they are – in large part – due to end user demand. Even something as dense as BlackBoard still had someone sitting there saying “our customers want this!” Yes – many got it wrong – but even those that got it wrong sometimes still thought about what customers wanted at some point. And many companies do ask for or at least listen to customer input. Some times customers either just get complacent and satisfied with what they have, or they leave a product or service without saying why (or worse yet, raising a huge stink). If companies think everything is okay with the status quo, they won’t change it. And if you rave like a crazed banshee because of something – they probably won’t listen either.
But it’s those that leave that make companies worry the most. When the powers that be saw the EduPunks leaving the LMS for blogs and wikis and other tools – what do you think they did? “Hey – we need to add those tools to our product!” Instead of seeing these as tools to be connected with, they started seeing them as competitotrs. The sad truth is – EduPunks are probably more responsible for creating the “walled garden” effect than anyone else. The more we leave the LMS behind, the more they are going to try and assimilate what we are leaving for… rather than trying to understand why we are leaving. That’s just the way businesses work. They usually want to add more features to an existing product rather than re-think the whole thing from the ground up.
So the battle to change online education tools is really within the confines of the LMS… not as a rebellious outsider. We need to try to win other professors and EdTech people to our cause from the inside. We need a tool that is native to professors (as Chris suggested), that allows them to teach in a way that their learners need to learn. Once the demand is there… once there is enough buzz being generated to get the attention of educational software companies… then we will probably see the changes we need.