Beyond the LMS

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There’s an excellent post by Sean Michael Morris (@slamteacher) over at Hybrid Pedagogy, on Decoding Digital Pedagogy…Beyond the LMS. The piece has some critical things to say about the LMS, which at EMU we have seen manifested as Blackboard and in recent years Moodle. There are many quips that I’d love to post here, but this one stands out:

No matter how creative and inspired the teacher or pedagogue behind the wheel, the LMS is no match for the wideness of the Internet. It was born a relic — at its launch utterly irrelevant to its environment and its user.

In 2004 when I started back to college in my mid-20s to finish a bachelors degree in English, I was a web application developer by trade and also the software developer and community leader of an online discussion forum community, which consisted mostly of friends I had grown up with in my hometown. Blogs had become popular a few years before but this was right before things like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and the iPhone pushed the digital revolution into the state we find it in now. But even in the early days of Web 2.0, I spent a lot of time working, playing, and creating on the web, using a wide array of web technologies – so I had a fairly good sense for what it was capable of.

So when I took my first hybrid course (1/2 online, 1/2 in the classroom), whose online portion made use of the WebCT LMS, I immediately thought: Is this it? If so, yuck. So even almost ten years ago I felt what the bolded statement above articulates. The LMS is not now, and perhaps never was, capable of facilitating truly web-based learning in a broad and deep sense.

This is part of the reason that in my work for EMU, I’ve worked hard to supplement our use of the LMS. Rather than treating it as the alpha and omega of online teaching, I’ve situated it as a hub in a larger “ed-tech ecosystem,” which I’ve pictured in the following diagram:

(Click for the PDF version of the whole diagram)

It’s my hope that my continued work with faculty can help build a broader vision for what’s available on the web, whether faculty are teaching online courses or in the “traditional” classroom, whose brick walls are getting more porous as online tech encroaches even in physical teaching and learning space.