One of the reasons I feel that the EdTech community needs a new vision for the Learning Management System is because I’m not totally comfortable with the two dominant visions that I see out there. Much like in politics, so many seem to fall in to one of two extremes. One extreme is that the LMS is fine the way it is. Some like it this way because they like having a place to securely store a large amount of content. The other side is the one that wants to totally dump the LMS and go totally do-it-yourself. This is where the EduPunks seem to camp – the LMS is too constraining and limiting on their teaching. I suspect that most people are somewhere in the middle – just the same way they are in politics. But they just aren’t sure what that means.
I want to look at what that middle ground means – the position that is calling for change and progress, but doesn’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater.
So, looking at the need for change, I want to look at why I used this image of a castle when I referred to “walled gardens” in my last post on this subject:
It’s not really much of a garden, huh? To me, walled garden is a good metaphor, but not totally accurate. For one, in most gardens, you can find your way around pretty easily. That’s not usually the case with learning management systems. As many have stated, LMS programs are more like boxes inside of boxes inside of boxes. Or, even worse – like a an old castle with a funny layout – including hidden passageways and trap doors. So that was one reason for choosing the castle image.
The other reason has to do with the walls. No matter how tall the walls around a garden are, you can still find a way to see over them because there is (usually) no roof. LMS programs are pretty closed systems from every angle, with only one way in – and that way can be removed at any time by the owner of the castle. Hopefully, now the usage of the above image makes more sense.
But let us also look at this thought of throwing out the baby with the bath water. Many people want to just dump the LMS and use Web2.0 tools to adminstrate everything. They usually quote their own experience as proof that the LMS is lost and in such a horrible state that it needs to be totally dumped. I want to take an honest look at this “in my experience” concept – something that I am just as guilty of doing. If you were able to look at even one school per day for five years – by visiting them, reading a new blog, making a phone call, etc – even on weekends, you are looking at 1820 schools. Even your most active full time conference speaker wouldn’t be able to accomplish that – so this is like the “gold standard” of experience. According to U.S. Census results, there are 129,404 schools and colleges in the U.S. So, even the “gold standard” of experience would only really interact with 1.4% of all schools in the U.S. in 5 years time – if they had no life! And this is just looking at schools – there are 6.8 million teachers in the U.S. alone. Each of them with a unique classroom situation of some sort.
Let’s also be honest about “birds of a feather flock together.” When we speak from our experience, we are probably mainly getting this experience from interacting with people that are like us. We tend to go to conferences that match our interests – so it would figure that of course we would run in to people that believe like us. I just say this to submit the idea that maybe our “experience” is extremely limited and possibly skewed a little bit. Maybe even a lot. Even those that travel a lot and read massive numbers of blogs.
We need to realize that our experience does speak to us that something needs to change – because if we want something different, someone else probably wants it, too. But we also need to realize our viewpoint is always limited – so don’t make it hard for those that the system is working for.
I think that this is a concept that those of us that like to look forward and innovate have a heard time swallowing: the system does work for some students the way it is. It just needs to be expanded and diversified to accommodate those that it doesn’t work for.
So what would that look like? Well, I laid that out in the last post on this subject, but I will expand on that further in the next post.
Formerly in this series:
Death of the Learning Management System? (part 5)
Death of the Learning Management System? (part 4)
Death of the Learning Management System? (part 3)
Death of the Learning Management System? (part 2)
Death of the Learning Management System? (part 1)
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.