To continue the series on a new vision for Learning Management Systems, I want to turn our attention to the new direction that I think the LMS program should go. Instead of going more complex by adding more and more buzzword tools, I want to see LMS companies go the opposite direction: more streamlined. In my opinion, the way to go is a simplified user interface that is focused on active learning, constructivism, and openness.
As I stated in an earlier post about this subject, we need to start seeing the LMS as the control panel of a subway system. As trains go all over the place, they relay information back to the control panel so that the head conductor can know where they are going and what they are picking up on the way. In other words, use the tool to make the instructors job easier while also launching students out on to the web to learn. You can visualize it like this:
The Learning Management System would become more of a hub than a walled garden or gated castle. Students might go there to view grades or get initial contact information, but leave and go out on to the web to learn and share. Instructors would use the LMS program to track student learning and centralize communications. Think of the dark red circle in the diagram above as the hub. There is some information in that hub, but most of the tracks are heading out in different directions. Information is relayed back to the hub, where the instructor can examine in, critique it, grade it, and send back information to the various tracks.
Some debate may arise over what tools should be “inside” the hub and which ones should be “outside.” To me, a grade book and centralized listserv-like email broadcast system should definitely be in there. The main tool in there should be a dashboard of sorts that collects information and submissions from all over the Internet. This tool would allow the instructor to grade these collections and maybe even share them with other students. Maybe there could even be a closed chat area for interaction that can exclude any outside interface. But I would put every other tools – discussion boards, blogs, wikis, etc. – outside of the circle.
I know that privacy concerns are an issue in moving to an open class like this. In a few classes (and only a very select few) – privacy may need to be considered. However, when students are privately communicating with professors, no one else benefits from the knowledge that is exchanged. And it becomes difficult to bring in outside voices to a closed system. You can always bring guest speakers and debates in to a face-to-face class – why not an online course?
Most online classes that I have worked on were not ready for this level of openness and active learning – but the transition would be pretty easy if needed. So on top of this new vision for Learning Management Systems, we would also need to re-think the design of courses.
The great thing is that most of the technology to create this new vision already exist. They just need to be put together in new ways, which is what I want to blog about next time: what would all of this actually look like.