LMS part 2

I received three comments on my LMS post, and I decided that I owe those three people — and anyone else who might want to read it — my thoughts in light of those comments.

First came Ezra’s comment.  He is an LMS administrator and talks about the importance of managing.  He said, in part:

One site which provides it to all students and the faculty is easier to manage than dozens of confusingly related items.

I agree with him.  It is, without a doubt easier to have one pace where all students and all faculty go to access their courses.   I saw that this semester when one group of students seemed to have trouble figuring out what got posted where.  I realized that I needed to do two things:  1) not move back and forth between the different platforms so much and 2) make sure I explain and explain and then explain again what each platform is for.  I accept the vast majority of the “blame” for the confusion in this case.  I am attempting to design things better for fall and summer.

Next comment came from Charles, who said:

A better question is, Is a blog, wiki, or LMS useful (for a particular purpose)?

That’s when this all started to make more sense to me.  It is obviously a question of the right tool for the right job.  Looking at it that way, I can see that an LMS makes sense for some jobs.  It is a secure site for exams and grades and such.  I am not sure of its usefulness for some of the other tasks I need to do, though.  Blogs are great for writing for an audience and for discussion.  Wikis are good for collaboration.  Each tool has is own value.  And I thank Charles for pointing that out.

John then joined the conversation, agreeing basically with Charles and adding:

I find the LMS a misnomer because I don’t think any learning is managed, but it does provide a nice place to post some material for the students to use as they need it. I just wish they designed the LMSs better for teachers and students and they didn’t take so much of my time managing them.

And that, I think is part of the problem for me.  It takes a lot of time to set up a course on an LMS.  It takes a lot of time to set up the assignments and then eventually to download, grade and upload them again.  Having set up a course for the summer on a blog and then having copied the material to our LMS, I can say without a doubt that it took me less time to come up with the idea for a unit and flesh it out in the blog than it did to take that same material and put it into the LMS.

Part of the problem with an LMS — or at least the big commercial ones — seems to me to be that they try to do too much.  They want to be all things to all people.  I don’t need that.  What I need is something smaller and more flexible.  I want something that I can see when I want to see it (not when someone else decides to make it available to me)  so I can learn from it,  borrow from it and and add to it.  I guess part of my problem is that I want to manage my own teaching and learning environment.

I think it will be a long time before Ezra and other LMS administrators are out of work. It will probably never happen.  Even I am not advocating eliminating LMSs from the world.  (Although, if I had the chance, I might try to eliminate all of the proprietary ones in favor of Moode and other open source alternatives.)  But I would like to see education move away from thinking that an LMS is THE way to do online or hybrid education. As Charles and John indicate, an LMS is a useful tool.  But, I would argue, it isn’t the only tool.

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