A Plurality of Solutions @timholt2007 @woscholar @slaleman @jennifermiller9

Source: http://www.accuratedemocracy.com/A_Plurality.jpg

While some of us are debating the merits of one course management system over another, others may suggest that the CMS/LMS debate is fruitless in itself. Will Richardson recently shared this Clay Shirky quote:
“Institutions will always try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.”
As I've pointed out previously, solutions like Project Share (and now, OpenClass) and Moodle are fit to problems that school organizations perpetuate. Arguing about which solution is the best one to an old problem--delivering instructional activities to students, tracking them, etc.--won't really address the challenges K-12 learners and their teachers/administrators are facing--schools and those who work in them are increasingly being "disintermediated." Or, to put it another way, it's a waste of time arguing about the most comfortable chair to sit on while the Titanic sinks beneath us.

In Shirky's blog entry, he points out the following:
In the future...It’s tempting, at least for the people benefitting from the old complexity, to imagine that if things used to be complex, and they’re going to be complex, then everything can just stay complex in the meantime. That’s not how it works, however.
This happens with tech, doesn't it? But we've seen consistently "complex" technology replaced by even simpler tech. From HTML web sites maintained with Dreamweaver to blogs and wikis, it's gotten a lot easier to maintain a web presence. From Blackboard/WebCT/Desire2Learn to Moodle, it's gotten easier. Is the progression from Moodle to Pearson's OpenClass (or, in Texas, Project Share) the next logical step? I don't think so.

When I recently examined Canvas/Instructure, Sakai--other free open source course management systems--and OpenClass, I had hoped that these systems would simplify what needs to be done in Moodle and provide all the functionality provided by feature-rich sets. Alas, it wasn't to be. In spite of my hunting for a feature-rich set of tools that found a home in greater simplicity, there was none. Then, it occurred to me that the problem isn't with the tools but the questions those tools are "answers" to. 

Are we asking the right questions in Texas public schools? Should we be building or advocating course management systems that preserve the problems they are a solution to, or is there another way ahead?

After reviewing different course management systems, I turned back to Moodle's feature-set with a new appreciation of the problems it allows educators to solve. If we--who embrace Moodle as the solution to problems that are relevant in Texas schools--are urged to use other solutions with different feature-sets, maybe schools need to be focused on different problems...different problems for which solutions like Project SHARE and OpenClass ARE appropriate for.

Here are some of the problems that Moodle helps school organizations solve:
  1. Facilitating a virtual classroom environment with a wealth of activities that can be graded.
  2. Tracking of online activities in an electronic gradebook that allows exporting of data in a wide variety of formats (excel, libreoffice, csv) to ensure compatibility.
  3. Easy addition of tools like blogs and wikis within the context of activities, or 
  4. Easy embedding of discussion forums (a variety of choices here, too)
  5. Easy embedding and hosting of media in a variety of formats
  6. Single sign-on through LDAP authentication, as well as a variety of other authentication approaches.
  7. Create online learning communities that are closed and don't have to be run through an external hosting provider.
Finally, it's important to note that while this discussion may be perceived as an either-or (PS or Moodle for the sake of debate) proposition, schools have the option of using Project Share, Moodle, and many other systems simultaneously to match solutions to the kinds of problems their institution has to solve.

the use of terms like “Learning Management System” and “Virtual Learning Environment” are misleading. The correct term should be “Course Management System.” These programs should really only be used for administrative purposes – class roles, grades, content repository (all classes need some content – even though it should be kept to a minimum), etc. Also, tools need to be provided for student safety when sensitive topics are discussed. Some topics should be discussed in a closed corner rather than out on the world wide web in some cases. 
To say a program manages learning or is a learning environment will give the impression that it is a closed place where learning is imprisoned. It doesn’t have to be that way. Use the LMS program as an adminstrative hub for your class – and then insert a link to something else and get the students out there learning. (Read EduGeek Journal - The Death of the LMS)
Let's not be so divisive about the tools available to us, and instead embrace a plurality of solutions that empower us--the stakeholders in public schools--to solve the problems our students and teachers have.

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


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