Over the past few months I have been working on a project for the NZ Ministry of Education looking at creating a set of guidelines for schools that are making decisions about the choosing a Learning Management System.
This is not a straightforward task, and we’re not the only ones who are working on coming up with a set of guidelines. BECTA, in the UK, recently released a set of guidelines they have developed for schools titled Requirements for Learning Platforms, which contains a set of recommendations as to what schools should be taking into account.
The problem is that, with an ever increasing array of products being developed in this space, it is not simply a case of simply providing a feature comparison chart, and leaving the consumer to decide which will give htem the biggest (and most appropriate?) “bang” for their buck.
The problem is more fundamental than that, and involves the convergence of two key influences. One is the changing nature of pedagocial practice – stemming from the way we regard knowledge and how we plan to “share” it. Many of the traditional LMS systems were designed to support (and reinforce) an essentially “transmissive” approach to knowledge sharing – focusing on enabling teachers/lecturers to upload course notes and students to download and read them, thus “learning”. It could be argued that this basic design concept remains paramount in most of what is being developed, even today.
The other key influence is the development of standards and specifications that allow the user (learner) a far greater degree of independence in creating and maintaining their own “learning space”. This can be seen in the emergence of so much “social software” on the web, in the use of RSS feeds between and among sites, and the increasing level of personalisation and customisation that many sites allow.
Following the influence of Scott Wilson from CETIS, I have been working on a model of the Future OLE (online learning environment) that illustrates this approach in the New Zealand context – as a means of engaging with principals and teachers about the thinking and understandings that will inform what these future learning environments may look like. To that end I’ve drafted a diagram and some thoughts in a paper titled A Learner Centred OLE which can be downloaded here. Any feedback and thoughts are welcomed.