Do we need an LMS?
Yesterday I saw Stephen‘s link to a post called A Post-LMS Manifesto on The End in Mind. I read part of the post and moved on. Today, however, I felt a need to go back and read the post more closely. The reason: I spent all day working on putting a new course up on Blackboard.
My university — heck, the whole state of New Mexico practically — is switching from WebCT to Blackboard. I need to become familiar with Blackboard. I even decided to take a course on using Blackboard and Wimba, a “live classroom” that can be integrated in Blackboard. So for this course, I worked today on setting up a new course. And I realized that it is a lot of work for very limited benefit.
In his Manifesto, Jon Mott says:
There is, at its very core, a problem with the LMS paradigm. The “M” in “LMS” stands for “management.” This is not insignificant. The word heavily implies that the provider of the LMS, the educational institution, is “managing” student learning. Since the dawn of public education and the praiseworthy societal undertaking “educate the masses,” management has become an integral part of the learning. And this is exactly what we have designed and used LMSs to do—to manage the flow of students through traditional, semester-based courses more efficiently than ever before. The LMS has done exactly what we hired it to do: it has reinforced, facilitated, and perpetuated the traditional classroom model…
I don’t really feel a need to manage my students’ learning as much as facilitate it. I know that I do way too much managing, anyway, but I am trying to cut back on that.
I want my students to set up a blog and use it throughout their ESL coursework and beyond. I want them to have access to each others’ work and learn from it. I want to break away from that traditional classroom model as much as I can in a traditional classroom setting.
While LMS providers are making laudable efforts to incrementally make their tools more social, open, modular, and interoperable, they remain embedded in the classroom paradigm. The paradigm—not the technology—is the problem.
This semester I have been using our blogs and wikis much more than WebCT. I have really enjoyed the freedom I find there. Of course, I have a lot more experience with blogs and wikis than I do with WebCT or Blackboard, but I don’t think that is the only reason I prefer them. I really honestly and truly love the fact that people not associated with my class can comment on our work. I even like the fact that someone could actually participate along with us all semester long, even though they weren’t enrolled in the course.
If my online course for this summer “makes”, it will be taught not through Blackboard but through a blog. In the fall I intend to do the same. The only real reason I can see to use Blackboard at all will be for storage of large files and possible for students to have access to their grades. Aside from that, I don’t see much value in it.
Opening up my classes, though, is scary. In that regard it would be much easier to use Blackboard. Looking at my class blog, you may see that I haven’t done such a great job of getting my students to improve their writing. Looking at the wiki you can see that I only got a small portion of what I had planned done. I have a lot of great ideas and not as much follow-through. But I think it is important to be honest and open about my practice. I am not a perfect teacher. I don’t have all the answers to anything — much less to how to reach all my students and have them learn everything I think they need to learn. I don’t even know how to get past thinking that I know what they need to learn. But I know that the openness of blogs and wikis and the transparency they give to my classes bring me closer to solving that last problem than Blackboard does!
So my answer to the question, “Do we need an LMS?” would be “No.” What do you think?