Friday, September 08, 2006

Learning Management Systems: the next move

As usual I've been keeping my eye on the current research in Learning Management Systems (LMS) and their other incarnation, Personalised Learning Environments (PLEs). I recently came across this article - Social software: E-learning beyond learning management systems - which unifies two areas I'm into: social networks and LMS. As a student, I have used a very basic LMS, but really only for accessing archived materials put online by tutors. As a real-life learner, I don't really use LMS-type software but I do use social networks and I'm an avid consumer of all collective intelligence-type stuff like Diigo and Technorati. However, all this changes week to week. If we take into account multiple intelligence theory, and combine this with the budget limitations faced by education, it becomes clear that a really good PLE is probably not achievable, unless the student has almost infinite control on the look and feel (or even sound!) of the PLE, the speed of new data update/transfer (for instance I love to be interrupted, I find it inspiring, while others find it counterproductive) and even the kinds of communication tools he/she needs.

But do we need one unified system to provide all this? Or should we just be flexible and open to the needs of individual students? On one hand, the unified system is attractive because it is safe and controllable, but this also limits its flexibility and potential. Meanwhile, a truly open 'free for all' approach can customise for any student, but is likely to be low on child protection and guidance for those who need it. Maybe the answer is we need both?

In any case, in a developing world context, the whole debate is still more open, as few schools are using LMS. Some well-off universities have bought into commercial LMS like Blackboard, but it's really the exception. So, should we be advising developing countries to implement LMS? The concensus here seems to be that we should, and probably focus on Moodle as it is relatively low cost. But for a small school, with low numbers of computers, this is surely overkill and it's better to look at a PLE type setup.

Photo by Alexa Joyce

No comments: