I seem to have been spending a lot of time talking and thinking about learning management systems (LMS) lately – mostly as a result of participating a group considering an evaluation process for schools to use in selecting an LMS.
My problem is that I think it’s a futile exercise!
There are dozens of evaluations that have been done already, comparing the features and functionality of different LMSs and CMSs (Course management systems) – and most of the time concluding that the decision will depend on the context within which the management system will be used.
Further – I think that the concept of an LMS/CMS is an outmoded one, and attempts to evaluate them using criteria that may have been relevant when they were designed simply reinfoces the problems.
Fact is, we’ve moved on – gone are the days when a LMS existed simply to assist us with the management and distribution of course content. That’s now only a part of the picture – we’re also focusing on collaboration, interaction, participation etc., and with this emphasis comes a variety of tools that we might want to use – not all of which may be found in any one LMS.
The point being that we need to be thinking of more than the “closed box” solutions of the past – the enormous, monolithic, one-size-fits-all approach to creating systems that are designed to cater for any eventuality.
Scott Wilson is on the mark with the work he’s been doing, describing a Future Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) that is capable of incorporating any number of tools and features depending on the needs and wishes of the user. His old design for an eLearning Aggregator provides another picture of how the essential considerations of eLearning – people, context, communication, resources – may be catered for. This work is all consistent with the Services Oriented Architecture approach that is being promoted throught the ELF at present.
Reinforcing all of this for me is a recent Educause article titled From Course Management to Curricular Capabilities: A Capabilities Approach for the Next-Generation CMS . The authors do a wonderful job of identifying the limitations of the current LMS approach to eLearning, and their “uncritical acceptance of the traditional, classroom model of education” – resulting in what they call the “classroom on steroids” approach.
The article proposes an approach to eLearning based on the development of learner capabilities:(1) a critical thinking capability, (2) a self-confidence capability, (3) a peer-learning capability, and (4) a knowledge management capability. All of this is entirely consistent with the view of learner-centred-ness that I adhere to and promote in my work.
The article then goes on to describe what the authors call the ‘curricular capabilities’ of a CMS which are (1) a discovery-based learning capability, (2) a 360 degree out-of-the-course capability, (3) a knowledge asset capability, and (4) a teach-to-learn capability.
The common thread that runs through this discussion is the importance of thinking through the more profound pedagogical implications of the CMS for student learning ?? not being content with the traditionally cited gains in administrative efficiency and end-user accessibility.
For those who are still intent on evaluating existing LMS/CMS packages out there, a recent article on Godfrey Parkin’s blog is worth reading. Titled The LMS selection process in a nutshell , Parkin shares the approach he follows when asked to help a company decide which Learning Management System they should use. The advice is constructive and well considered – however, I couldn’t help but note one of the comments posted in response to the helpful advice Parkin offers. It reads:
“Good article, but when I showed it to a colleague who went through this last year she said:
…and after you’ve done all this work, ignore it and go with the vendor who takes the client to see Man United from corporate box seats.”