New Vision LMS and Personal Learning Environments

I have to admit that I am not an expert in Personal Learning Environments. I really don’t follow much of the thought on them, not because they aren’t important, but mainly because I tend to focus on other areas of education. But when it comes to the “New Vision for Learning Management Systems” discussion, they are very important… so I want to talk about where they fit in the New Vision equation.

In many ways, the Learning Management System is the antithesis of the Personal Learning Environment.  So, as we talk about creating a new vision for the LMS, are we talking about something that competes with or super-cedes the PLE as well as the LMS?

I hope not, and here is why.  The New Vision for LMS is not meant to create a new way of managing learning, but rather it is meant to get rid of the current idea of an LMS totally and go in a different direction.  That different direction would take the focus off of a centralized learning management system and place the focus on the personal learning environment.  The difficulty of that is the personal part – what you personally choose to use might not easily interface with what I choose, or might require a lot of work for me to find. Then multiply that by 30 (or more) for the instructor.  We want to begin to think of the LMS as a PLE aggregator.  The main reason for this is to make it easier for instructors to track student learning and to assign grades or give feedback, but another good reason is to also help other students track each other more easily.  Sure, there are systems now (such as RSS feed readers and bookmarks) that can help us track everyone’s personal stuff, but these weren’t really designed for educational purposes. I don’t know about you, but I am tired of cobbling together stuff that was made for other purposes in to a franken-monster collection of good ideas that kind of works. I want something made by educators, for educators!

Of course, even though we are working on a sample idea of how this would work (built on top of Moodle), we also envision that this will not take on the form of one “New Vision LMS” program that everyone would have to use.  We would like to start seeing all LMS solutions drop the LMS label and go for the SLE (social learning environment) approach.  We would like to see an SLE built on top of Google Wave… and as plug-ins for WordPress… and as a whole host of options that aggregate PLE in different formats, so that you can choose which SLE design works best for your class.

Ultimately, we don’t just want to see the students get a personal learning environment – we want to see teachers get to choose a personal teaching enviornment.  Wouldn’t it be great if, someday, your institution doesn’t have to choose a program for delivering classes online?  As an instructor, you choose the one you want, plug-in a custom code from your school, and then your Personal Teaching Environment (where ever it resides) would be plugged in to your school? Students would be automatically enrolled, grades would be ported back and forth, etc.?  Student authentication / log in would be handled by a central program on your school servers maybe, but clicking on the link for your class takes them to your class where ever you choose to host it.  Maybe it is in a Google Wave, maybe on your own website where you self-installed your own program, or maybe even on a third party hosting solution.  The technology exists to do this now – we are just trying to get it all put together. Just wish that it didn’t take so long to get the first Alpha release out there!

Matt Crosslin
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

2 thoughts on “New Vision LMS and Personal Learning Environments

  1. I don’t quite have a coherent thought around this just yet but want to share my first reaction. When I finished reading the last paragraph, the first thing that jumps to mind is open social, open authentication (OAuth) etc. I think that definitely ties into this somehow, just not sure how.

    Something along the lines of using OAuth to connect an individual’s personal accounts to institutional LDAP servers and an institutional learning management database or tool of some sort? Something that would allow learners/teachers to specify what tools they’re actively using for a given course? That information is then made available internally via the course system? As an instructor, if I ask learners to set up a blog, they can choose whatever system they want and indicate in the course system where that page is and on the instructor backend, I can then access that page and feeds as needed. (As I think too much about this, I’m starting to mentally blend in what I’ve already heard you talk about and present ;-)

    -Chris

  2. Matt Crosslin

    I am blending the ideas together, too – so that is great by me :) Some of this is really rough draft kind of stuff, so I am not sure about all the logistics. But it seems like you are on the right idea. I need to get a diagram about this, I think.

    The New Vision started off basically taking student work out of the LMS prison and getting it out there on the web, thus enabling students to use their PLE/PLNs as they see fit. This new idea would go even a step further – taking the New Vision idea off of any one particular platform and letting instructors choose a PTE that aggregates student PLE/PLNs. Different instructors at the same institution could choose different New Vision-style PTEs, each one tailored to their class needs or personal preferences. Students would still need to prove that they are who they say they are, and that they are authorized to take the course. So some kind of system that speaks to the PTE would need to be devised, one that says “here are the names of all the students in your course” and then, when a student signs in, it says “yes, this is the student in question.” Once logged in to the PTE, students would then start adding RSS feeds, embed codes, widgets, links, etc to the objects from their PLE.

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