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Sunday, May 30, 2010

To Use or Not to Use an LMS

Below are responses to a post regarding Moodle and the audience of a classroom.

"[When using Moodle], why would you say the target audience is the teacher?"

When educators (in mainly formal institutions where grades matter) set up a learning management system (LMS), such as Moodle, they are the target audience as a rule. Those who participate within the LMS are more of a group than a network (Downes, 2006, slide 8) where teachers tend to have more control over the content and degree of openness. And yes, external web tools can and are being used but they are being "siphoned" through an LMS because the intended audience is still the teacher. Students can interact with each other in an LMS but it is still within a contained atmosphere that requires anyone to see this interaction to join "the group". Each teacher then must evaluate the type of course to be given, the maturity level of the students, etc. to determine which type of LMS is best suited for their teaching context or whether they will use an LMS at all.

As an alternative to an LMS, think of the entire Internet as an "LMS". Imagine using Google Wave, blogs, wikis, twitter, multimedia tools, etc. in absence of any particular LMS to conduct a class. Now the audience begins to shift away from the teacher, and learning becomes more open. Learners as part of a formal class begin to interact more with the global society as opposed to mainly interacting with those within the LMS group. I recently saw a TED talk with Sir Ken Robinson where he discussed the importance of creating "organic" learning environments for students, and I see learning in a non-LMS environment in the same vein.

What are your thoughts?

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Subsequent response...

...the teacher may relinquish full control to the learner and allow the learner to drive and control the content and learning environment.

I agree with you as I suspect most would. The question becomes is this surrender of power best served within or outside a LMS. If my teacher were to give me full rights over the content and learning environment, I could then choose whether or not to use the LMS in the first place (I'm thinking CCK08, CCK09, Edfutures, etc.). And as a learner, I would still have this perception that even though I'm using outside web tools and that I'm in control of the learning environment (however one wishes to define "control") that the main audience is still my teacher because all the content was being channelled through an LMS.

Can you envision what it would look like in an EFL/ETL class?

Yes, I can envision it becoming more common in the future through the ongoing development of a personal learning network (PLN). My current research, in fact, addresses PLNs and professional development among EFL/ESL educators. In developing a PLN, I see an LMS as a "stepping stone" in facilitating EFL educators (i.e., learners) to become more interdependent.