[CSG Winter 2010] Course Management Systems policy discussion

I didn’t live blog the CMS discussion at CSG on Friday because I was trying to actively participate in the discussion. In retrospect, what was most striking about the discussion was the lack of heat that it generated. There seemed to be general agreement among those in the room that course management systems were just another administrative system that campuses need to support, aimed at providing a common level of infrastructure to provide a home for courses on the web, and that they are not particularly exciting nor designed to produce or support innovative learning or instructional modes. People seemed to feel that the systems they are currently supporting (which included Blackboard, Sakai, Angel, and Desire2Learn) fill the needs just fine.

I thought the most interesting comments on the topic came from Sally Jackson at Illinois, who couldn’t be there for the discussion but shared a wonderfully perceptive and provocative email on the topic, where she said we shouldn’t (I paraphrase) ask whether the current systems are doing the job they do well or not, but whether we are doing the right things to support teachers and learners, who by and large prefer to make their decisions on an individual, not an institutional level. That mirrors my thinking too, and I think we need to expand our view of what it means to support learning at our institutions instead of building more straight-jacketed vertical applications that drive us towards a uniformity we imagine our students and faculty need.

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1 thought on “[CSG Winter 2010] Course Management Systems policy discussion”

  1. Hi Oren,

    This lack of interest in LMSs is also something we have experienced here at the University of Delaware. As Instructional Technologists, we try to guess what faculty need for their courses, but we are not the best judges for that. So it always comes back to what faculty want to support their teaching, and then trying to map it back to technologies that could support these teaching scenarios.

    For most “automation” scenarios (site creation, grading, assignment dropbox, etc.), the LMS does just fine. These administrative tasks are not exciting, yet they are vital to support the scalability of our higher education institutions. No wonder faculty are not engaged.

    This is something the Sakai community is trying to address in its future version, Sakai 3. The Teaching & Learning group is gathering core teaching and learning activities to make sure they are included in the next generation of Sakai. You can see some of the work on our wiki. http://confluence.sakaiproject.org/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=68158536

    But then there are also all the web 2.0 tools that are way sexier than the LMS. I tried to address what an LMS really is in a blog post back in December: http://anythinginstructional.blogspot.com/2009/12/why-would-we-need-lms-anyway.html

    In my opinion, an LMS should offer an convenient alternative to support the most common teaching and learning scenarios, and let faculty that want to live on the bleeding edge experiment with new technology, without taking away the convenience of the LMS.

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