August 22, 2014

Integrating web 2.0 and LMSs

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Mott, J. (2010) Envisioning the post-LMS era: the Open Learning Network Educause Quarterly, Vol. 33, No. 1

I’ve just caught up with this important article by Jonathan Mott of Brigham Young University, thanks to Richard Elliott’s excellent e-Learning Watch.

Mott’s article looks at the pros and cons of both learning management systems and web 2.0 tools for teaching and learning, and offers a ‘third way’, that ‘takes the best of each approach and mashes them up into something completely different, something better than just the sum of its parts.’

Just two points I would make about an otherwise useful article. I find the proposed title for the third way, ‘The Open Learning Network’, badly chosen. A simple Google search would have shown that there are already many well established Open Learning Networks around the world, which are mainly organizations that bring together institutions who offer flexible and open access to education. This terminology for a digital learning environment is confusing and inappropriate, given the widespread use of the term in other contexts.

Second, the solution proposed by Mott does not address the main problem with digital learning environments, and that is the way instructors choose to use them, which, as Mott himself convincingly argues, is mainly as an administrative tool and a content depository. No matter how fancy the new digital learning environments, if instructors don’t have an appropriate pedagogical model to guide their course design, the web 2.0 and learner-centered technology functions will just not be used. Too often technology designers believe that technology design will force instructors to use the tools the way the designers think they should be used. It just ain’t so, unfortunately, as the under-use of existing LMS functions, such as threaded discussion forums, illustrates.

Nevertheless, providing at least a technology environment that allows for more constructivist and learner-centered activities, while ensuring security and privacy and management of instruction, is a good start, and Mott’s article does provide some useful architecture for developing such an environment. The big task though is training instructors to teach in a way that encourages them to use such a digital learning environment to its fullest extent.

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