The Course (or Learning) Management System

Wordle: CMS/LMSThe CMS/LMS is a technological tool, right?

Simplifying reasoning, we can say that technology and tools are constructed to facilitate and streamline the processes. At its core technology and tools are neutral. Their use depends on who is behind each tool.

A tool can trigger different effects. The result of the action of a hammer depends on whether the hammer is in the hands of a carpenter or a torturer.

Ideological tools?

But this simplification does not reflect the reality of modern tools such as mobile phones, operating systems, web browsers or CMS / LMS. The neutrality of these tools is in question, since they contain elements that guide their final effect. These elements, hidden at first glance, does guide or facilitate a particular type of outcome or include a pedagogical approach “embedded” as is the case of the CMS / LMS.

Lisa puts it well: “Today’s enterprise–scale systems were created to manage traditional teaching tasks as if they were business processes. They were originally designed to focus on instructor efficiency for administrative functions such as grade posting, test creation, and enrolment management.” Lisa M Lane, Insidious Pedagogy (2009)

In general, teachers are not aware of the pedagogical approach built on the CMS / LMS. Most use these web tools like neutral tools. They assume that they, the teachers, have full control of the pedagogical approach.

In my experience in supporting teachers in the use of LMS, I usually start with a session using the basic functions of the LMS. I reinforce the intuitive nature of the presentation and exercises, considering that most of the participating teachers will use a similar approach in the construction of their own content. In this way I build a basic structure, which becomes a template that each participant applied in the construction of their own subject as final work in a constructivist perspective.

My main criticism of the CMS / LMS is related to its inflexibility. The teacher maintains the role of generator of content and learning activities. What is worse, the use of a CMS / LMS as a simple repository of documents dramatically reduces interactivity and communication levels lower than those of the worst face-to-face session.

Is it possible to adapt a CMS / LMS to an innovative pedagogical approach?

Yes, building the course based on a pedagogic model, using for example the Three Stages of “Backward Design” proposal by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins:

  1. Stage 1—Identify Desired Results: What do I want students to learn?
  2. Stage 2—Determine Assessment Evidence: How do I check they have learned? how I measure the result?
  3. Stage 3—Plan Learning Experiences and Instruction: How do I teach to achieve the learning outcomes?

CMS/LMS, to be or not to be?

I use the CMS / LMS, Blackboard and Moodle specifically in existing subjects in my university and for the construction of new subjects, in many cases related to teacher training or projects with universities in other countries, adapting to the educational objectives relevant to the subject and target group.

One of the most important advantages is the flexibility and participants have an advanced knowledge of Web 2.0 tools integrated into the course. This applies to social networks like Twitter and Facebook that students know and use every day on their mobile phones and tablets. Disadvantages highlight the lack of functions, already integrated inside of LMS like Blackboard and Moodle, enabling the delivery of assignments and evaluation in a personalized manner.

My contacts with other groups that implement similar models is invaluable, and allow the sharing of experiences and suggestions, which in this specific case can provide solutions such as:

  • WordPress Plugins (gradebook, submitting assignments, etc.)
  • Independent Web 2.0 Tool (e.g. Engrade)
  • Using an LMS in addition to assignments and assessments (proposed for Lisa Lane).

Regarding Jennifer Demski, Rebuilding the LMS for the 21st Century (2012), I agree that Web 2.0 tools and cloud-based technologies can enhance teaching and student centered learning. , I also agree when Jennifer says that is not enough to provide an LMS to blog or wiki functions. Why re-invent these tools when we can use social networking tools that already exists and that everyone uses?

Renewal or Revolution?

Experts in education for many years are pointing in the line of revolutionizing education in transforming a functional educational model to the industrial revolution that no longer serves us today. To mention a few: Ken Bain, John Biggs, Richard Felder, Jay Mc Tighe, Chomsky, Ken Robinsson. But we can go back in time and remember to Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator and philosopher who was a leading advocate of critical pedagogy.

Why do we tie to an educational model obsolete? What interests prevent their return? It is evident that as the economy, some people and groups are not interested in that change.

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Jaime Oyarzo

Jaime Oyarzo Espinosa - jaime.oyarzo@uah.es Profesor Asociado, departamento de Ciencias de la Computación e Inteligencia Artificial, Escuela Politécnica, Universidad de Alcalá, Madrid, España. Dirección de proyectos, e-Learning Consultant, Lund University Education, Sweden-jaime.oyarzo@education.lu.se Dirección de proyectos e-Learning (América Latina, Africa) Me interesan los proyectos que vinculan innovación y aprendizaje con ayuda de la tecnología. Especialmente si tienen como objetivo una transformación personal, organizativa y de desarrollo económico para la región involucrada. Blog (Spanish): http://jaimeoyarzo.blogspot.com/ Blog (English): http://alfavirtual.com/wp/virtualed/

4 thoughts on “The Course (or Learning) Management System”

  1. Your last question makes me wonder: is there a middle ground in between industrialized education and personalized education? You rightly see the LMS as a way to more easily provide individualized assessment.

  2. thanks Lisa, I believe that technological innovation and personalized education are probably the two main pillars of tomorrow’s education.
    A more holistic paradigm of education is also required: student-centered, learning by doing, learning based on achievements, personalized instruction, collaborative learning, pleasure and emotional learning, to name a few key elements.
    It is true as you say, the LMS provide individual assessment procedures that ensure privacy. I think new tools related to social networks that provide similar functionality will be soon available.

  3. plus with tools like Google hangout and similar group video chats soon we can forgo the forum type “discussions” that actually have real discussions live with our classmates.

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