As I continue to look at a new vision for online LMS programs, I want to start brainstorming what this could actually look like. But first, I want to share a quick story of a conversation I had with an online learning student this week that highlights my reasoning on why we need a new system. This student is taking two classes online – one hosted in Blackboard and one hosted in FaceBook, a few blogs, and a couple of other sites (an obvious EduPunk class). In our conversation, he pointed out that he knew that BlackBoard wasn’t that great and had some problems, but he really hated the way the EduPunk class was set up. “There just has to be a better way out there – it is just so tiring and time consuming to track all of these sites and figure out where to go each week.” I got the impression that he really didn’t like having a class in FaceBook.
So, my idea is to create a Learning Management System that is more like a Course Management Platform. There should be parts of it that are open to the web for public discussion on course subjects, and then a closed section that operates more like a centralized dashboard, pulling in RSS feeds and embed codes from around the Internet rather than trying to play keep up with every cool tool that is invented online.
But what would this look like? Maybe something like this blog. For now, EGJ is hosted in a Moodle installation with a hacked front page that pulls the blog entries on to the front page. The blog is public, but there are still many tools hidden behind passwords. I could see this being the way online classes could look: each class has a front page like ours – residing in a specific directory for that class. What goes on that front page would be controlled by the instructor – but they would have the ability to let blogs and some discussion threads reside in the public arena (this site does have a fully functional discussion board open to anyone who wants to register and post, but we don’t use it). So, for example, let’s say you have a college junior level English class online that is ENGL3301. You would go to this schools website at exampleu.edu/engl3301/ and that would pull up the public area for that class. Maybe a blog is there where the instructor posts about current literary issues, a discussion board where book authors can interact with students online, and a link to the course syllabus. Then, to the right there is a block to log in, and instructors would get an area that pulls in RSS feeds from group blogs and puts them in one place so they can be easily compared to the rubric for the assignment. Communication would be centralized there, as well as links and embed codes submitted for assignments. Students would also get a centralized place to look at and critique other students’ work, as well as tools that lets them export due dates and other information to whatever management tools they use.
Instructors would also have the ability to keep the class open after the course is over to extend learning beyond the date the class is over. They might want to hide some content to keep some students from cheating, but at least the communication tools could be left open.
I would also think that whatever you see behind the scenes once you log in would need to be in a centralized area that pulls in content from any class you are enrolled in. Most LMS programs have each class compartmentalized as a separate area. While that is not bad, it does cause problems when you start thinking about portfolios and keeping classes going after the date the class is over. Centralizing this system would allow students and instructors to keep track of older classes and assignments in portfolios. To this end, BlackBoard NG might be on the right track in their iGoogle-clone dashboard page – if they come through with their hype.
Those are some really rough ideas, I know. Any other ideas out there?
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.