Tuesday, December 18, 2007

No Learning Management System?

Kevin sent me this one, with the comment, "A" is wise.

He also writes, 'In my wilder moments of late I have started to wonder if we could really do without formal learning management system altogether, instead relying on a string of social networking tools to create learning communities. I think there are some compelling reasons that won't happen any time soon, but the direction is intriguing.'

Maybe, someday. The college uses an LMS (Bb, Moodle, Angel, whatever) to manage enrollments, provide a consistent and familiar interface for instructors to use, as well as for branding. Colleges and other organizations have bought the Bb solution for many of those reasons. I wonder if instructors need the consistency and familiarity more than students?

The Web 2.0 tools enable instructors and students to access more resources, communicate more easily and broaden the discussion in ways that are limited by whatever LMS is being used. So, the trick (or the current state of the art) is to craft a blend between the two when building our courses.


  1. A,

    I have the same question. It seems to be that having a class build a wiki and/or maintain a blog on the subject(s) at hand is just the sort of thing we ought to be doing with Web 2.0 technologies. It is time to move away from the hierarchical approaches. Nothing would make me happier than to set up a class website, wiki, and blog and let students go to town (and I've done just that in my classes at the UW).

    There is a tension between the openness of Web 2.0 technologies and the closed "Learning Spaces" created in LMS's. Do you want "everyone" to be able to see and comment or there some happy medium between openness and "closedness" to be had?

    I think the UW Catalyst Tools successfully navigate this tension. Their strength is in their modularity. Using them is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Rather, the prof chooses what modules to use in their classes. Access can be open or restricted to enrolled students based upon nightly roster pulls.

    Having said that, the one thing I consistently hear from my students is that they want more standardization in their LMS rather than less. Did you read that piece in The Review earlier this quarter decrying the fact that faculty set things up differently or actually use the technologies differently? According to the author, like some faculty, it seems that SOME students are not agile enough to easily adjust. One hopes that, as they mature, they will be better able to tolerate such ambiguities.


  2. One of the learning objectives that is 'hidden behind the curtain' is tolerance for ambiguity.


    In the accounting classes that I teach, we have an answer book and students associate getting the right answer with learning and the ability to do accounting. Perhaps that is so at a fundamental level, but more important skills to acquire are the abilities to understand multiple pathways to develop a solution to unstructured problems, and then to communicate that solution in a way that someone else can understand. That's a tall order for many of us!

    We don't do our students a favor by standardizing formats and delivery modes, when that standardization gets in the way of their development of those more important skills.

    We are coaches and we need to get the students to practice to stretch their agilities!