April 23, 2014

Why learning management systems are not going away

Listen with webReader

Will new LMSs change the teaching and learning environment?

Contact North has just published online a series of six short papers (10-12 pages) under the title of Learning Management Systems: Disruptive Developments, Alternative Options and the Implications for Teaching and Learning. The papers are:

Module 1 - Learning Management Systems in Ontario: Who’s Using What? (also covers all Canadian post-secondary institutions)

Module 2 - Thinking About Choosing a Learning Management System?

Module 3 - From Wikis to WordPress: How New Technologies Are Impacting the Learning Management System

Module 4 - Making Decisions About Learning Management Systems: Building a Framework for the Future

Module 5 - Different Approaches to Online Learning and the Role of the Learning Management System

Module 6 - 8 Basic Questions About Learning Management Systems: The Answer Sheet

These papers need to be read together – for instance modules 2 and 4 are separate bits of the same topic. Module 6 gives the short answers but just reading that will not provide the evidence on which the answers are based – and like all evidence, it is open to different conclusions.

How the study was done

My colleague Keith Hampson and I were responsible for developing these papers, which aim to go beyond comparing different LMSs by looking at their future, especially in the light of other developments in learning technologies, such as web 2.0 tools.

Keith did most of the original research, interviewing senior managers from the LMS companies and collecting data about the use and choice of LMSs in Canada. I focused on new technologies, and how they are being used, with examples drawn from mainly from Ontario (see Contact North’s Pockets of Innovation) but also from British Columbia.

What the results mean to me

This was an interesting experience. As with all good research, the outcome was not quite what I had anticipated (I had thought before the study that LMSs would go the way of the dinosaur) and here are my personal views on the future of learning management systems.

1. LMSs are here to stay. There are several reasons for this:

  • Most instructors and students need a structure for teaching: what learning outcomes to aim for, what topics to cover and their sequence, what activities are needed for students to achieve the learning outcomes, the timing of work for students, and a place for assignments and assessment. By definition, LMSs provide such a structure (note this applies equally to classroom teaching; I see the use of some kind of digital LMS becoming standard for organizing most post-secondary teaching)
  • Instructors and students need a private place to work online. This came out frequently in the interviews. Instructors wanted to be able to criticize politicians or corporations without fear of reprisal; students wanted to keep stupid comments from going public or wanted to try out ideas without having them spread all over Facebook: password protected LMSs on secure servers provide that protection.
  • The choice is not either an LMS or web 2.0 tools. Web 2.0 tools can be used not only outside an LMS, but also with an LMS (through links) and can even be embedded within some LMSs. We are really talking about structure rather than tools – the tools sit within the structure. This is particularly true for the new generation of LMSs that are emerging which are in reality a flexible combination of tools.
  • However, the main reason is that institutions are becoming increasingly reliant on LMSs. They are increasing looking to LMSs to integrate data from teaching with administration, to provide data on student performance, for appeals against grades, and for reporting and accountability purposes. Learning analytics (or rather data analytics) in particular will drive increasingly the dependency of administrations on LMSs. I’m not saying this is a good thing, but it’s the reality. I will be discussing in a later blog some of the downside of learning analytics, but the drive for accountability is not going to diminish, and LMSs are a valuable tool for administrators.

2. Although LMSs are valuable for providing a structure or framework for learning, the significance of web 2.0 tools such as open source content management systems (WordPress), blogs, wikis, etc., is that we should be thinking more broadly than just the LMS. Instead we should be thinking about virtual learning environments and how these can be used to increase student engagement, develop learning skills as well as manage content, and bring in the outside world into our teaching, while at the same time providing the privacy and security that most instructors and students feel is an essential condition for learning. LMS will be just one part of that equation – but they will still be an important part.

Conclusion

We deliberately tried not to be directive, but to provide frameworks for discussion. So enjoy reading these papers and let me know your reaction to them.

Further reading

Demski, J. (2012) Rebuilding the LMS for the 21st Century Campus Technology, March 29

This excellent article asks (and answers) the question: Can the goals of 21st century learning be met by retooled legacy LMSs, or does the future belong to open learning platforms that utilize the latest technology?

Jones, D. (2012) Why learning management systems will probably go away The Weblog of (a) David Jones, April 6. A good counter-argument to my post.

For a good introduction to and comparison of LMSs, see: Chase, C. (2012) Blended Learning – Learning Management Systems, Make EdTech Happen, May 14

Comments

  1. Cary Harrod says:

    This was a timely article as I am smack dab in the middle of some healthy cognitive dissonance on this topic. As someone who has experienced Blackboard, Moodle and now Schoology, I’m wondering how the many LMS versions out there will continue to evolve as we wrap our brain around our new understandings of learning? I struggle with helping my teachers navigate the pedagogical shifts that need to occur to move from traditional to digital literacy on the one hand and then turning around and plopping them into 20th Century spaces in the form of a LMS. I don’t disagree that the need for some kind of structure is necessary but how do we find a balance between the need for structure and what we know about social learning and student-centered learning? It will be fascinating to see how all of this shapes up.

  2. Josie Fraser says:

    “we should be thinking more broadly than just the LMS. Instead we should be thinking about virtual learning environments” – apologies if I’ve missed your definition of a VLE, but in other parts of the world the systems you list in Module 1 – Learning Management Systems in Ontario are defined as Virtual Learning Environments. Here’s a video round up of some of the main issues from the very popular ‘VLE is Dead” session from ALT-C 2009 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6KnJPeAWog

    I’d suggest (as I do at the start of the video) that the alternative model we want to look (and many people already are) at is the Personal Learning Environment. I’ve argued before that PLEs are the first attempt to produce tools and platforms which make creating, organising, accessing and presenting distributed data from a variety of sources and for a variety of communities and audiences easier. As well as invoking an important and timely set of technical, organisational, and legal issues, PLEs represent a conceptual shift away from: 1. Object-oriented approaches to learning provision – PLEs primarily support production, collaboration, customisation, content and community mashup, 2. Predominantly institutional/single location based-provision 3. The credibility of thinking about or developing applications or suites of aps or environments in isolation from the range of choices available to learners, their preferences and needs.

    Some additional PLE related links:
    JISC CETIS PLE event (2006) http://www.elearning.ac.uk/news_folder/ple%20event
    2012 PLE conference, July Portugal & Australia http://pleconf.org/

    Sorry to add another TLA to the fire, and apologies if you are already aware of the history and current state of play in the Personal Learning Environment discussions – just think that talking about VLE when a chunk of the world is already using that to refer to that same systems you are calling LMS is a bit confusing.

    Best, Josie

    • Tony Bates says:

      Thanks, Josie. I’m sorry if my use of the term virtual learning environment to encompass a wide range of tools and approaches to teaching caused confusion.

      I am actually aware of the concepts and practices around personal learning environments. Furthermore, I agree that this is the way I would like and think post-secondary teaching should go.

      However, I deliberately used the term virtual learning environment because it captures better for me an environment where both instructor-led and learner-centered teaching can both exist. The fact that LMS companies and some universities claim the term for a narrower use of what can be done in virtual learning environments doesn’t make the concept necessarily unhelpful as long as others refuse to be bound by the terminology of these admittedly dominant stakeholders. As in any emergent field we are bedevilled by a lack of agreement on definitions, which is probably as it should be, otherwise the field would be stagnant.

      On another point, because I believe that LMSs are here to stay doesn’t necessarily mean that I approve of the way they are often used. I’m not against lectures in principle either – it’s just that they are generally done very badly and too often as a default. In particular, I think the new ‘breed’ of LMSs (again we could argue about whether they should be called LMSs) do offer more flexibility for both instructors and students, and could be at least a part of a personal learning environment.

      As always the issue is not so much the tools, but the way they are used. Whether you or I like it or not, there is still a dominant ‘instructor-led’ objectivist paradigm out there that is not going to go away, at least not in my lifetime. LMSs facilitate that type of teaching, but in any case even instructors who are looking for alternatives still need a structure or framework for organizing such teaching, and that’s what learning management is about.

      In the end, I find myself against my better instincts taking a very post-modernist view. There are many ways to teach and learn, and there is no one right way. Therefore we need systems that are flexible and adaptable for various purposes. An LMS (either traditional or new) can play a useful role in teaching and learning, depending on how it’s used. But it is unlikely to be sufficient on its own for a growing number of instructors and learners.

  3. Well researched and informative. You make some excellent observations which align well with my professional experience using WebCT, Blackboard and Moodle.

    Best wishes,

    Larry

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Via http://www.tonybates.ca Comparte esta publicación: :TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestCorreo electrónicoImprimirMe gusta:Me gustaSé el primero en decir que te gusta esta post. « Previous post [...]

  2. [...] post is mostly in response to Tony Bates post “Why learning management systems are not going away”, but it is also inspired by this post from “Music of [...]

  3. [...] Why learning management systems are not going away My colleague Keith Hampson and I were responsible for developing these papers, which aim to go beyond comparing different LMSs by looking at their future, especially in the light of other developments in learning technologies, such as web 2.0 tools. Keith did most of the original research, interviewing senior managers from the LMS companies and collecting data about the use and choice of LMSs in Canada. I focused on new technologies, and how they are being used, with examples drawn from mainly from Ontario (see Contact North’s Pockets of Innovation ) but also from British Columbia. How the study was done What the results mean to me [...]

  4. [...] started. Apparently, they’ll be at about 500 employees by year end. Tony Bates states that LMS are here to stay and D2L’s success through being focused on that market supports his [...]

  5. [...] LMS as we know it is going away, as Australia’s David Jones suggests.  Or not, which is the persuasive if discouraging argument from Tony [...]

  6. [...] Why learning management systems are not going away My colleague Keith Hampson and I were responsible for developing these papers, which aim to go beyond comparing different LMSs by looking at their future, especially in the light of other developments in learning technologies, such as web 2.0 tools. [...]

  7. [...] Nantel Leave a comment Go to comments Last week, Tony Bates wrote a Blog post titled “Why learning management systems are not going away.” He cited the following reasons for his conviction that LMS are likely here to [...]

  8. [...] Why learning management systems are not going away My colleague Keith Hampson and I were responsible for developing these papers, which aim to go beyond comparing different LMSs by looking at their future, especially in the light of other developments in learning technologies, such as web 2.0 tools. Keith did most of the original research, interviewing senior managers from the LMS companies and collecting data about the use and choice of LMSs in Canada. I focused on new technologies, and how they are being used, with examples drawn from mainly from Ontario (see Contact North’s Pockets of Innovation ) but also from British Columbia. [...]

  9. [...] LMSs are changing, moving from a ‘course in a box’ to a loose collection of tools from which an instructor chooses (see: Why learning management systems are not going away) [...]

  10. [...] les ENAs (LMS) changent d’un ‘cours monobloc’ à une sélection des outiles dont on peut choisir (Why learning management systems are not going away) [...]

  11. [...] or some forms of them may survive seems more of a question of debate. Recent research by Bates (2012) suggests that LMSs will stay because they provide teachers and students a clear learning framework, [...]

  12. [...] Bates, T. Why learning management systems are not going away,Online Learning and Distance Education Resources. 4 April 2012. http://www.tonybates.ca/2012/04/04/why-learning-management-systems-are-not-going-away/ [...]

  13. [...] Bates, T. Why learning management systems are not going away, Online Learning and Distance Education Resources. 4 April 2012. http://www.tonybates.ca/2012/04/04/why-learning-management-systems-are-not-going-away/ [...]

  14. [...] Bates, T. (April 4, 2012). Why learning management systems are not going away. Online Learning and Distance Education Resources. Retrieved from http://www.tonybates.ca/2012/04/04/why-l… [...]

  15. [...] et õpihaldussüsteemi kui sellist on vaja. Seda mõtet pooldavad ka Tony Bates ja David [...]

Speak Your Mind

*