Reasons for using a Learning Management System

I pointed out in my previous post that the LMS is a legacy system that can inhibit innovation in teaching. Also in an earlier post I had pointed to the articles about the future of Blackboard and other proprietary LMSs, and commented that 

what surprises me is that in an age of multimedia and social media…. anyone is using an LMS at all.

This provoked an unusually large number of comments, both on my blog and on Twitter, some supporting my position and many more critical of it. 

The main critical points made were that LMSs have many advantages:

  • convenience: an LMS is the most effective way to organise teaching materials, activities, grievances, tracking students;
  • linked to convenience: it is too much to expect instructors to integrate a range of tools from scratch; the LMS is a simpler way to do this;
  • compliance and security: an LMS is safer than general, public apps (less open to hacking), protects student privacy, and allows for audit/management of grievances.

I will try to address these points below, but note that none of these advantages has anything to do with improving students’ learning – they are mainly instructor, legal, administrative and institutional benefits.

I do not underestimate the importance of convenience to faculty and administrators, and of privacy and security for students, but I would like to see this balanced against the potential learning benefits of using something other than a learning management system. I will also argue that there are other ways to address convenience and privacy/security issues.

What do I mean by an LMS?

One of the issues here is definition. You can define an LMS so broadly that even a physical campus institution can be considered a learning management system. I want to make the distinction in particular between a ‘course’ and an LMS. By LMS I mean basically the off-the-shelf, proprietary software platforms such as Blackboard, Canvas, Brightspace, Moodle that are used in 90% or more of post-secondary institutions, at least in Canada. I don’t include specific platforms developed on a one-off basis for a particular institution or academic department, or by an individual instructor, as I see these more as tailored rather than bespoke. 

Until quite recently, I believed that any of these proprietary LMSs was flexible enough to allow me to teach in the way I wanted. I could post content, determine a schedule for what had to be covered each week, set student activities such as graded or ungraded assignments, communicate individually or in a group with students, set up discussion forums, choose topics for discussion, monitor the discussions, set and mark assessments, grade students, post their grades to the student information system, and give individual or group feedback, all in a secure online environment. 

However, I no longer wish to teach like that. With an LMS, I am given a tool then required to fit my teaching within the boundaries of that tool. I will shortly describe why I want to teach differently, but the essence here is that I want software solutions that fit the way I want to teach.  I want to decide how I want to teach, and more importantly, how I want my students to study, and then find the tool or tools that will allow me and them to do that. If I can be persuaded that an LMS can meet that requirement, fine, but I don’t believe at the moment that this is the case.

Why I want to change my approach to teaching and learning

Basically, in my previous approach, the focus was on me defining the curriculum/what had to be studied, the transmission of this knowledge to students, helping them to develop understanding and critical thinking about this content, and assessing the students. There was a focus on both content and skills, but a limited range of skills. In particular, I was the one who primarily defined what students had to know, and provided or directed them to the relevant content sources.

In a digital age, I don’t believe that this is any longer a satisfactory approach. I was doing most of the hard work, in defining what to read, and what students should do. They were limited in particular to writing or online multiple choice assessments to demonstrate what they had learned. Of course, students liked this. It was clear what they had to do, not just each week but often daily. They had a clear choice: do what I told them, or fail. 

I have written extensively in Teaching in a Digital Age about my ‘new’ approach to teaching and learning (although actually it’s not new – it is a somewhat similar approach I and some other teachers used in teaching in elementary schools in Britain in the 1960s, which was then called ‘discovery learning’ – see Bruner, 1961).

In essence, there is too much new knowledge being generated every day in every discipline for students to be able to master it all, particularly within the scope of a four year degree or even seven years’ higher education. Secondly, information is everywhere on the Internet. I don’t have to provide most of the content I wish to teach; it’s already out there somewhere.

The challenge now is to know where to find that information, how to analyse it, how to evaluate the reliability and relevance of that information, then organise and then apply that information in appropriate ways. This means knowing how to navigate the Internet, how to behave responsibly and ethically online, and how to protect one’s privacy and that of others. I used to do that for students; now I want them to learn how do it themselves.

I therefore want students not only to know things, but to be able to apply their knowledge appropriately within specific contexts. I want them in particular to develop the skills of independent learning, critical thinking, problem solving, and a broad digital literacy, because these are the skills they will need once they have left post-secondary education (or more accurately, skills that they will continue to develop after completing a formal qualification). 

I realise that this approach will not suit all instructors or fit well with every subject area, although I think these are challenges that most subject disciplines are now facing in a digital era.

What do I need to do to teach in this way?

I think it will help to use the concepts of ‘inside’ and ‘outside’. ‘Inside’ is within the relatively safe, secure confines of the institution (I am still talking digitally, here.) To be inside you must be a registered student (or an institutionally employed instructor). What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Students can discuss with other students and their instructors maybe highly controversial issues in an open, academic way, without fear of being sued, imprisoned or ridiculed. Their work and grades are secure (unless they choose to make them public). The same applies to instructors. They can communicate individually with students or to the class as a whole, but it is confidential within the boundaries of the institution.

‘Outside’ is whatever is available publicly through the Internet. This can be open educational resources, public reports, open data, open journals, open textbooks, publicly available You Tube videos, Wikipedia, social media, such as Facebook. It can also be student blogs and wikis, student-made YouTube videos, and those parts of their e-portfolios – a record of their studies – that they choose to make public. Students may also choose to use social media as part of their studies, but they will need to know that this is public and not private or secure, and what the risks are.

For me, most student learning will be done outside: finding, analysing, demonstrating and testing what they have learned. Some inter-student discussion or engagement with external sources such as the general public may take place outside, but students will be provided with guidelines or even rules about what is appropriate for discussion in public forums. Again, instructors will vary in the amount of learning they want done outside, but in my case I would like to push as much as possible ‘outside’ without compromising student security or safety. However, managing risk is a critical part of the learning process here for student and instructor alike.

It will still be necessary to provide a structure and schedule for the course, in terms of desired learning outcomes, student activities and when they are to be completed, and assessment rubrics. These guidelines can be strict and rigid, or open and vague, depending on the needs of the students and the learning objectives.

Student assessment will be mainly through written or multi-media reporting, organised probably through e-portfolios, which will have both a private and a public section. The students will choose (within guidelines) what to make public. Assessment will be continuous, as the e-portfolio is developed.

Is an LMS necessary for this kind of teaching?

This is where I need help. I am not an IT expert, and I’m not up-to-date with all the tools that are now available. If you can show me that I can do all these things within one of the current proprietary LMSs, then that’s fine with me, but unless they have changed significantly since I last used one, I will be surprised. I will though accept that perhaps for the ‘inside’ work, an LMS might be suitable, but it has to be integrated in some way with the outside work.

Here’s where I need the feedback of my readers. Many of you have to grapple with these issues every day. What I am NOT willing to do though is to compromise my vision of teaching to fit an institutional, proprietary software platform.

So can a current proprietary LMS meet my needs?

Over to you!


Bruner, J. S. (1961). ‘The act of discovery’ Harvard Educational Review Vol. 31, No. 1, pp: 21–32.


  1. When we launched the world’s first fully online MBA in 1993-4 we didnt really have an LMS we could deploy. We chose to go with Lotus Notes so that we could do the kind of teaching you describe – highly collaborative, project based learning, resource curation, co-creation of materials etc. Here we are in 2018 – guess what platform the MBA at AU is using? Lotus Notes. It does everything we need it to do. Interesting eh (as we say in Canada)?

  2. Tony,

    I think you’re absolutely right. You are describing an approach founded by the idea of learning on the Internet rather than learning via a single application like a learning management system.

    At the OERu, we have been prototyping a component-based environment comprising best of breed open source applications distributed across the web and tools to aggregate discussions and interactions. This page provides an overview:

    For us, it is particularly important that we do not force any learners to sacrifice their data by creating accounts on proprietary services. These environments facilitate teaching approaches similar to what Jim Taylor has described as a “pedagogy of discovery” where learners source OERs and open access materials in pursuit of their own interests to achieve the learning outcomes.

    Tony – I like your thinking!

  3. Hi Tony, I absolutely agree with your new approach to teaching – especially for, but not only for, the more experienced fully online learner, and I agree that what you describe as an LMS is no longer fit for this new purpose. I believe they were created to enable campus based learners to acces, re-access and use materials and they are not easily adaptable for today’s needs wet enabling better student learning.

  4. Thanks for sharing your views so clearly and concisely.
    I disagree with your views on pedagogical models, specifically on discovery learning being a broadly effective strategy for teaching undergraduate students.
    Rather than lay out the case at length here, I’ve compiled a brief bibliography of the main arguments and some evidence to support them, including by Richard E. Mayer, who you cite and mention extensively in your book, Teaching in a Digital Age, and critiques on how Facebook is an unsuitable platform for learning.


    Clark, R. E., Kirschner, P. A. and Sweller, J. (2012) ‘Putting Students on the Path to Learning: The Case for Fully Guided Instruction’, American Educator, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 6–11.
    Kirschner, P. A. (2015) ‘Facebook as learning platform: Argumentation superhighway or dead-end street?’, Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 53, pp. 621–625 [Online]. DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2015.03.011.
    Kirschner, P. A. and Karpinski, A. C. (2010) ‘Facebook® and academic performance’, Computers in Human Behavior, Online Interactivity: Role of Technology in Behavior Change, vol. 26, no. 6, pp. 1237–1245 [Online]. DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2010.03.024.
    Kirschner, P. A., Sweller, J. and Clark, R. E. (2006) ‘Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching’, Educational Psychologist, vol. 41, no. 2, pp. 75–86 [Online]. DOI: 10.1207/s15326985ep4102_1.
    Klahr, D. and Nigam, M. (2004) ‘The Equivalence of Learning Paths in Early Science Instruction: Effects of Direct Instruction and Discovery Learning’, Psychological Science, vol. 15, no. 10, pp. 661–667 [Online]. DOI: 10.1111/j.0956-7976.2004.00737.x.
    Mayer, R. E. (2004) ‘Should There Be a Three-Strikes Rule Against Pure Discovery Learning?’, American Psychologist, vol. 59, no. 1, pp. 14–19 [Online]. DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.59.1.14.
    Tuovinen, J. E. and Sweller, J. (1999) ‘A comparison of cognitive load associated with discovery learning and worked examples’, Journal of Educational Psychology, vol. 91, no. 2, pp. 334–341 [Online]. DOI: 10.1037/0022-0663.91.2.334.

  5. Hi Tony,
    I am completely with you!

    I did a little research on how to take out the most from Moodle and e.g. Mahara, but after reading this blog post ( I decided to come from the different angle- what would I like my students to have?

    So I came up with a suggestions of a somehow three-folded environment including a virtual library for all the resources (coming from teachers and students), a (protected) web space to fill with whatever students need to learn, collaborate and present that can be made public, but also an LMS for private stuff like grades ;-). I am working on that right now and I hope we will be able to implement it into our new curriculum.

    I wrote about it, but it’s in German:

    Thanks for all your thoughts and inspirations!

  6. I think you are moving in a fruitful direction, Tony.

    Here is a related segment from a paper that we in the Educational Informatics Laboratory (EILab@UOIT) wrote a couple of years ago. It describes the Fully Online Learning Community Model that was developed by EILab personnel. I’ll give the reference at the end of the segment.

    “Historically, two primary theories guide practice in distance and online education: 1) the theory of transactional distance (Moore, 1993), and 2) Community of Inquiry, CoI (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000). The theory of transactional distance builds on Dewey’s (1910) and Garrison and Archer’s (2000) concept of learning as a transaction. It recognizes that learning occurs in an “interplay” of context, environment, and individuals (e.g., students, teachers, parents). In distance education, Moore (1993) suggests that transactional distance is not about geography, but pedagogy, and his six instructional processes/practices that support teaching and learning at a distance underpin many of the same principles outlined by Miller (2014).

    Generally recognized as a framework for “facilitating deep and meaningful [collaborative-constructivist] learning in a computer conference environment” (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000, p. 93), the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework identifies three presences essential to supporting distance education: Social Presence, Teaching Presence, and Cognitive Presence. The FOLC model, however, is grounded in the General Technology Competency and Use (GTCU) framework and considers that a technology object serves as an interface between the user and: 1) other users, 2) stored information, and 3) information processing tools or software” (Desjardins, 2015).

    The GTCU framework identifies four interrelated orders of technological competency, namely, the Technical, Social, Informational, and Epistemological orders, which may be examined through use of the GTCU survey instrument. Thus, the FOLC offers an alternative to CoI and related models (e.g., PLE, PLN) in that it is squarely situated within the South-East quadrant of Coomey & Stephenson’s (2001) teaching-learning paradigm model. As such, the FOLC requires the co-creation of the learning environment in a collaborative, constructivist manner.

    As a process model with a specific control orientation, grounded on established praxis at a Canadian university, and built upon strong constructivist foundations (Dewey, 1897, 1916, 1933; Piaget, 1959; Von Glasersfeld, 1989; Vygotsky, 1978), it is important to distinguish FOLC from its generic cousin, the CoI (Garrison, 2011, 2013, 2016).

    Several key distinctions are apparent. From a technology perspective, FOLC construes the digital space and enabling technological abilities as integral to the online learning experience, not as indirect or exogenous variables (Garrison, 2011). Furthermore, from a communications modality perspective, FOLC does not recognize asynchronous, textbased discussion as necessarily better serving the goals of collaborative inquiry (Garrison, 2013). Rather, it draws attention to the evidence-based strengths of both synchronous and asynchronous technologies in relation to sociocultural contexts and learning goals of particular online communities (Rockinson-Szapkiw, & Wendt, 2015).

    Moreover, FOLC recognizes the profound strengths of synchronous video-conferencing technologies for allowing members of an online community to experience community members as embodied human beings. This supports key facets of the social presence (SP) aspect of the GTCU, including the building of mutual respect for the identity and cultural differences among community members; the development of trust among community members; and the use of emotionally rich and responsive communication via intonation, facial expression, and body language. Additionally, FOLC engenders a democratized and emancipatory control orientation, coupled with a constructivist, epistemological perspective that varies with CoI.

    This has significant implications for FOLC’s operationalization of teaching presence (TP) and cognitive presence (CP). With respect to TP, FOLC distributes leadership responsibilities, and collapses facilitation dynamics into the broader functioning of social and cognitive presence (Armellini & De Stefani, 2015). As described earlier, this implies that all members of a community share power, control, and responsibility respecting the nature and direction of collaborative learning; including elements such as selection of relevant information sources, choice of preferred digital devices and learning environments, negotiation
    of outcomes, and participation in processes of assessment.

    Within this democratized context, the professional educator, like a servant-leader, pursues the functional responsibility of empowerment (Parris & Peachey, 2013; Perkins & Zimmerman, 1995; Zimmerman, 1995), and replaces directive communication with communication that promotes mutual exploration, questioning, and challenge.

    With respect to CP, FOLC does not privilege any particular model of inquiry. In fact, CoI bases its operational definition of cognitive presence on Dewey’s (1910) practical inquiry model, considering it a generalization of “the scientific method” (Garrison, 2016, p. 76). Given that the existence of a canonical “scientific method” is highly contested, in FOLC, the establishment of credibility criteria for judging knowledge claims becomes a collaborative community endeavour. Consistent with this epistemology, FOLC fosters cognitive development through individual knowledge construction and collaborative discourse, rather than through the development of cognitive outcomes established by professional educators’ direction and control (Akyol & Garrison, 2014).

    vanOostveen, R., DiGiuseppe, M., Barber, W., Blayone, T. & Childs, E. (2016). New conceptions for digital technology sandboxes: Developing a Fully Online Learning Communities (FOLC) model. In Proceedings of EdMedia: World Conference on Educational Media and Technology 2016 (pp. 672-680). Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE), June 29, 2016, Vancouver, B.C.

  7. More specifically with respect to the use of an LMS within Fully Online Learning Community (FOLC) environments, we, in the EILab, have moved away from using the university supported LMS to a much more flexible co-created environment where some digital resources/tools are brought to the community members by the course facilitator and many more by the other members of the community. The following is an excerpt taken from a 2016 conference paper. The reference is given following the excerpt.

    “Digital spaces, in environments defined by the FOLC, are co-created by all learners within the community. Initially, within the ESDT program at UOIT, the learner/designer begins to define the space by posting videos to YouTube and providing facilitated tutorial sessions in a browser-based audio-video conferencing suite. Subsequently, when working collaboratively in small groups, Open Educational Resources (OER) and other web-based applications are chosen by the learners according to two specific principles: resources used must be shareable, and the URL for the site(s) must be provided to everyone in the learning community. The tools and applications are a rich mixture of synchronous and asynchronous environments (including creative synchronous/asynchronous merging), allowing for greater clarity and effectiveness of the interactions than can be achieved using asynchronous technologies alone (Trevino, Lengel & Daft, 1987; Rockinson-Szapkiw & Wendt, 2015).

    In particular, the use of a browser-based audio-video conferencing tool, in which each individual is represented by a “real time” web-camera generated image, and by audio interactions through a microphone headset, provides a semblance of face-to-face interactions which allow participants to “present themselves to others as real people” (Garrison, et al., 2000). The use of visual cues, such as facial expressions and body language; audio cues from direct speech; and the incorporation of text-based backchannels allow for the promotion of SP, community, and ultimately, collaborative learning (Hrastinski, 2008; Rockinson-Szapkiw, Baker, Neukrug & Hanes, 2010; Rockinson-Szapkiw & Wendt, 2015).

    CoI views digital technologies and competencies as extraneous to the core model. It was thought to include the digital context as a dimension would make the CoI model unreasonably complex. FOLC resists this reduction, conceptualizing the digital space as a key sub-context for immersive online learning. According to FOLC, SP and CP cannot be fully conceptualized without considering the mediating influences of the digital space. Importantly, FOLC’s digital space is a negotiated, dynamic, globalized, and oftentimes unpredictable virtual context for online learning. It is not a neutral space but rather a space inhabited by applications and platforms that shape interactions. For example, Facebook may be chosen by learners owing to their level of comfort using the application. However, the discussion functionality was not designed for sustained collaborative inquiry, and therefore, limits are placed on CP. In a FOLC environment, this situation becomes a learning experience rather than a situation to be avoided. Kearney, Shuck, Burden and Aubusson (2012) emphasize that it is important to consider “what a pedagogical framework for m-learning may look like from a sociocultural perspective” (2nd paragraph). This theoretical perspective suggests that learning is affected and modified by the tools used for learning and that reciprocally the learning tools are modified by the ways in which they are used for learning.”

    Blayone, T., vanOostveen, R., DiGiuseppe, M. & Barber, W. (2016). Developing learning communities in fully online spaces: Positioning the Fully Online Learning Community model. In proceedings of the Second International Symposium on Higher Education in Transformation, November 2-4, 2016, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.

  8. Many thanks to all of you who have already provided such excellent, detailed comments. I am so pleased to have been able to stimulate such a useful discussion, so please keep the comments coming.

    I will wait a little longer before responding more fully (to the end of this week, 29 July), possibly in another separate post.

  9. There are two options for the LMS – to grow into a red giant or to shrink to become a white dwarf. The red giant model is still the norm where it becomes the all-inclusive system for teaching and learning, full of tools and functions. But the white dwarf model is to me the key to the future of the LMS. This includes the safe archiving of all assessed work, student profiles and sensitive material. Outsourcing this to the “cloud” (ie commercial interests) doesn’t seem so sensible today. Universities are legally bound to archive student data in case a student appeals against a result and suchlike. The LMS is the secure core for the students’ academic record whilst all the teaching and learning can take place using other tools. However anything that is assessed must be uploaded to the LMS for archiving.
    Could this be a future scenario?

  10. Another point in defence of the LMS (though I agree with your critique almost completely) is to protect the identities of some students. We have students with protected identities because they live under threat from stalkers or violent ex-partners. They cannot risk their identities becoming uncovered and need a secure learning space. I’m not sure that opne spaces can offer the same level of protection.

  11. In the online course, I was enrolled in the past 3 years, the LMS was indeed used as the secure administrative location for Handing in and receiving assignments, along with a meeting place for live class discussions with the instructor. Our group did indeed go out of the LMS to complete our assignments using commercially available apps. Adapting to the new software took some time for some, but others in the group helped. It was helpful to our studies to expand our knowledge of different tools and satisfying that we could use real-world tools in our studies.

    In the future, it might be useful for the LMS and helpful to teaching to interface to the commercially available software to interface with the LMS as a plug-in or license. For example, rather than going outside the LMS, I could launch the chat application within the LMS. This way institutions/instructors could also monitor student activity which is increasingly becoming important.

  12. IMHO, when you said that “It will still be necessary to provide a structure and schedule for the course, regarding desired learning outcomes, student activities and when they are to be completed, and assessment rubrics.” that, to me, immediately jump “LMS”. — That is what LMS is affording, structure.

    You are not required to; and there are other ways to achieve the same structure, but that structuredness is what LMS is about. IMHO.

    Having said that, I think, that apparent (or prominence?) of structuredness is actually can prohibit innovation; or if we do not like to use the word “prohibit,” I probably can use the word “prescribe.” It pushes the innovation into a direction, but not opening all boundaries for free-form innovations. If that makes sense.

    The digitization of content is one; it is a good one, is it necessary or high-impact for learning? I do not know, I would say, depends on what is the content about. The digitization of internal organs maybe can be very crucial for Med students to comprehend, it can be a means for them to practice, analyze, etc. higher order learning. The digitization of differential equations probably offers little improvement to the Sci students in learning electromagnetics.

    So, to restrict our discussion in the learning aspect, not administrative convenience; then yes some would value less than others for some use case.

    However, I would imagine there is a place for a type of learning, where more like a workshop type. Where there are tools, digital tools, available. But nothing on the board, there is a case presented, and students work through it, work through the concepts, interacting and acting with content and peers and the academics (and external experts may be), within specific lesson time or across days. Even possibly students of different courses/programs can participate in the same class offering different conflicting? Complementing? Insights.

    If they have to be looking at an LMS, you will end up with just one huge page of many things. Since none of that is a structure, other than learning objective and resources.

    But starting from that free-form learning experience, if you then require them to present weekly; you are adding structure. Thus a weekly online chat or online video conference will be added to the structure. If you require them to post their results at the end of the period, then that is a structure which the LMS will at least have some administrative purpose; or can be the enabler to facilitate that activity (depends on what LMS are you using).

    Sorry, the posting seems more like a free flow of thoughts, but I am very interested in evaluating the role of LMS critically. I think there is an instance of mismatch (or missed opportunity) between what we thought the tool is affording us and what we need.

  13. Hi Tony,

    Great post and great discussion. I would take issue, though, with your concluding question:
    “So can a current proprietary LMS meet my needs?”

    I won’t elaborate, but I think a better question is:
    “SHOULD a current proprietary LMS meet my needs?”

  14. Moodle isn’t proprietary; it’s open source. A great community, always innovating. Supports portfolios ( and competency-based learning ( A good system, but it takes some effort to discover and exploit all it can do. People tend to try invent hacks that mimic something they’ve done in the past rather than fully use what Moodle offers. Faculty using Moodle need to work closely with learning designers and other professionals, which is what they need to do for any effective online learning environment. For most faculty, Moodle is a great choice.

  15. I think you’re absolutely right. You are describing an approach founded by the idea of learning on the Internet rather than learning via a single application like a learning management system.

  16. Thank you very much for your article. I think that is is still good for the teacher to have a LMS (to manage learning). However, I do not know really good solutions within LMSs to support a learner-centered approach. As the Moodle community puts it in, the ePortfolio module of Moodle “allows students to create portfolio contributions, with a structure set by the teacher”. At Danube University Krems (Austria) we use Mahara as an ePortfolio tool for students. Mahara is an Open Source solution, can be combined with Moodle or used stand-alone. As Mahara ePorfolios are truly student owned, students can keep their ePortfolios private, share them with peers only or with a whole learners group. If desired, the portfolio can be shared with the whole WWW. Whichever learning companion you use, I am convinced that the decision of the learner when to share what with whom is important. It is also important for the learner to be allowed to his/her own structure of managing information as this is one of the bases for lifelong learning. I have to admit that for teachers a truly learner-centered tool is hard to manage, so we always combine the ePortfolio (Mahara) with a LMS (Moodle) in order to have an easier managerial overview – for assignments and assessment. IMO it is very important that the learner can keep his/her ePortfolios – like one would keep in former times copybooks – if s/he wants. As ePortfolio pages/collections can help to structure information collected online, and to reflect on them, a teacher could be hoping that students like to come back to their ePortfolio collections and look up information, but also learning artefacts which they have assembled earlier on.

  17. Tony

    My colleagues and I at Contact North | Contact Nord have been following closely your blog postings on the challenges for innovators in higher education.

    You have raised central issues about accreditation agencies, legacy systems and LMS systems. In your final post in the series, you use the Wisdom et al 2014 innovation adoption framework as a basis for raising issues about how we can enable greater innovation at all levels.

    The posts are stimulating a great deal of discussion within Contact North| Contact Nord

    Thank you for highlighting Contact North I Contact Nord’s Pockets of Innovation series in your blog. We are, as you know, showcasing ground-breaking practices faculty members from around the world can adopt and adapt.

    I think the key to unlocking innovation in higher education, in Canada at least, is your point in this paragraph:

    “The real issue lies with faculty and especially departments moving to blended or hybrid learning that do not understand the need for learning design or the needs of students who are not on campus all the time. The integration of online and campus-based learning will often highlight the inadequacy of prior campus-based teaching methods. There is much that campus-based faculty can learn from distance education, in terms of more effective teaching.”

    This speaks to the need for investments in faculty development and instructional design capacities. For the last decade or so, Contact North | Contact Nord has sought to encourage and enable faculty to take risks and develop their skills and capacities, both through our own efforts but also through sharing best and next practice.

    There are examples around the world of real innovation taking place, with te widespread use of leverage of OER in emerging economies for technical and vocational education; new uses of AI for a variety of learning related activities (not just predictive analytics); new approaches to assessment only qualifications and competency-based learning; new approaches to peer to peer learning. Online learning is changing quickly and our own institutions here in Canada are watching and in some cases triggering these developments. A great of innovation is taking place here – as our Pockets of Innovation series makes clear – but it is not yet a system change or systematic, which is your key point.

    In the past we have raised issues about quality assurance and the need to rethink the role of the regulatory bodies which govern this work in Canada; we have raised issues about instructional design and assessment and provided examples of real opportunities to rethink this work; we have focused strongly on articulating the need for student engagement and peer to peer interaction as a key component of online learning; and we have explored innovative course design, development, deployment and delivery strategies. Most recently, we have documented policy developments related to online learning, examples of the use of AI/Machine Learning to support differentiated instruction and looked in depth at what is happening with respect to enabling student retention. But your four part-series connects these “dots” and issues well and is well worth developing into a background paper we could share with our partner institutions and government.

    Tony, once again your work provides support for our own work as a team here at Contact North | Contact Nord as well as encouragement and inspiration to all who work in online learning.

    Maxim Jean-Louis
    President-Chief Executive Officer
    Contact North I Contact Nord


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