Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Most e-learning content today is designed, authored, delivered, and managed via centralized learning management systems (LMS), learning content management systems (LCMS), course management systems (CMS), or content management systems (CMS) such as WebCT, Blackboard, Moodle, ATutor, ILIAS, Plone, or Drupal as static-packaged online courses and modules. A common idea behind these systems is that different tools are integrated into a single system. Consequently, learners have to spend some time to get familiar with such complex systems. Jay Cross and Stewart mader also point to the drawbacks of those centralized, feature-rich, and often difficult to use systems. Jay uses the Swiss Army Knives metaphor and states "Too many software suites aim to provide ever feature they can, a holdover from the days when naive purchasers made decisions about which LMS or word processor to buy by checking off boxes on a features list. Over-stuffed software is like a Swiss Army Knife. They do a lot of things but do none of them as well as a dedicated tool. It’s handy to have a Phillips screwdriver and a corkscrew in your pocket; you never know when you’ll be in need. However, if I’ve got to drive a dozen Phillips-head screws or uncork several bottles of wine, I’ll use a screwdriver or a real corkscrew. Most of the time, single-purpose tools and software work better than toolkits-on-a-knife or bloatware". In the same direction, Stewart writes "I've used both Blackboard and WebCT in my own teaching, and helped several schools set up both. I initially liked the idea of a single virtual space to enhance and extend a traditional course, but that perception has changed over time. Although the CMS combines everything from discussion board to live chat, file management, assignment submission, online quizzes, etc., you feel like you're spending less time actually using them and more time learning all their quirks and particular ways of doing things. This is my biggest frustration with the CMS".

I believe that we do need a more natura
l and learner-centric approach based on personal learning environment (PLE) and the freeform use of a set of lightweight tools that belong to and are controlled by individual learners. Rather than integrating different tools into a centralized system, the idea is to provide the learner with a myriad of tools and hand over control to her to select, combine and use the tools the way she deems fit.


Stephanie Biscow said...

This is a very interesting article. I found myself agreeing with every thing you assert about LMS systems.

LMS applications like BlackBoard and WebCT are increasingly complicated with what they have to offer. However, I feel like this growth just emulates what is going on in every other sector of the world as a result of technology.

I don't really see your point about focusing on PLEs instead of LMSs. Using separate, less complicated tools seems like it leaves two potential pitfalls: one, the fact that you are dealing with multiple systems in and of itself is complicated, and two, I feel that integrated systems are the now and the future - we should be able to integrate these into our lives and train ourselves to get used to the volume of attributes these types of applications can provide.

Thank you for the post though, insightful read.

-Stephanie Biscow

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