Pardigm Shift: Detach thyself from ye olde LMS

So first off, I  seem to be good for about one blog post per year.  Perhaps this is turning into an annual reflection post of  “this is what is on my mind  this year” type  of thing. Maybe someday I’ll up the output to quarterly, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

So about the title of this post.

There is no shortage of writing about the doldrums of LMS technology, and perhaps even the pedagogical oppression that can be brought on by designing courses in these environments. Some of my acquaintances and colleagues have recently penned thought pieces on this topic, including  Adam Finklestein (McGill U) and Mike Goudzwaard’s  (Dartmouth) article featured on EdSurge this month:  The Trouble with Learning Management.” There is also  Mike Goudzwaard’s  personal blog post  on “The LMS of the Future is Yours”.  And of course  there is always the thoughtful and wise Michael Feldstein and his piece,    “What’s Really to Blame for Failures of Our Learning-Management Systems” .

But haven’t we been talking about moving beyond the LMS, for well, um, soon after they were created?   Back in 2011 I was one of the co-creators of NERCOMPs first Unconference/UnSIG. Our focus was the LMS.  The conference came about because a small group of us were working on the annual NERCOMP SIG program for the Teaching and Learning track.  There were so many proposed topics and themes revolving around the LMS that we could have have held a workshop per week on LMSy things. Because that was not an option,  we opted to try the Unconference format to give the community a time to create their own topic tracks and discuss their LMS challenges and needs in small group formats. (Oh, and Michael Feldstein was gracious enough to serve as our opening speaker to get things kicked-off). By the end of the day people felt good, maybe not about their LMS, but that they were not alone in their endeavors. But interestingly it seemed that the LMS was (is) here to stay. We hate it, but we need it.

Living the dream: Life beyond LMS

To that end,  it would appear that my team and I might be getting to “live the dream.” One of our projects allows us to ditch the confines of the campus LMS in favor for something much more organic, personal and custom designed for the program of study and its students.   In fact, building outside of the LMS was the number one requirement put forth by the academic program leadership and faculty and for some sound programmatic reasons.

A commercial LMS presents a certain rigidity for a degree program in computer science (CS), particularly when the discipline itself is about architecting, making and building digital environments.  In some sense, the work of CS is one big digital makerspace and, depending on the LMS, a CS experience in one of these platforms can feel very constrained for the faculty developer and the learner. This is exactly what our CS program is seeking to avoid.

Now sure, we can hack around the LMS to try to bend it to our will. Everyone has been doing this for ages. And we can utilize LTIs when possible and appropriate. But when your hacks and workarounds are the norm in your design, then it’s time to move beyond the LMS. As Mike and Adam point out in their edSurge post,  many courses only really need 20% what is in their LMS. That other 80% of features and what not are often in the way.

That important 20%

So like any good team we did a couple of visioning sessions with the academic program and our instructional design and multimedia team. There were opportunities for post-its and flip chart paper  brainstorming (BTW- can one call their process legitimate without the use of these materials?)  There was a 20 second gut check a5629b7585ecdeb12c3b4acc6d1afb9a5ctivity and a #slack channel set up for dialogue. From all of these I’ve been diligently collecting and documenting requirements to optimally  develop two to three solution scenarios. Because you see, we still need to build this in or on something. Is it straight up HTML? Is it WordPress? Is it….. an open LMS platform?  (Stay tuned for the big reveal, which I guess will be next year’s blog post… )

To help us get there we  have been wireframing/mocking up some scenarios based on feedback. The initial wireframes, even incorporating some non LMS design inspirations, started to look like, well a LMS. Without the benefit of more graphical representation,  a black and white wireframe of core functions looked a bit like a Blackboard template. #Designfail?  I couldn’t help but poke fun at this and said -Fantastic! We’ve recreated our campus LMS, except perhaps it will be prettier.

I am no spring chicken in this industry and have endured my fair share of LMS selections, migrations and course builds in and outside of commercial LMS platforms. I looked at one of the IDs and wondered aloud if we are so attached to the paradigm of an LMS that it’s hard to break free even when we are given an absolute blank canvas? Perhaps.  Or does the basic core requirements of running a course digitally (FERPA stuff, authentication, etc), heck even an entire program of study, really mean someone just needs to make a simple LMS, of the organic, free range variety? Or maybe a generic label -remember the 70s and those generic white label foods? Maybe we just need that….

5_dharma_food
Your basic, no frills LMS

 But wait, I guess that might be the equivalent of open source, and we have those right? (Moodle, Sakai and now OpenEdx). But yet, there is still complexification in implementing a open source solution that still does not feel nimble and light. 

So as you can see, I am puzzling through this very openly here. The generic label thing probably takes this conversation a bit too far. But by Friday I need to present three possible scenarios for which to build the first two courses.  And as I prepare these I guess I am struck by no matter how much disruptive technological innovation and pretty website design is out there, our field can often miss the mark on acknowledging the importance of the most elemental needs of delivering sound learning. I am not suggesting the LMS of today gets it right, but it started from a very simple place. Now how to get back to that core while not diminishing the possibilities.

 

 

 

 

 

Hello World. (Let’s try this blogging thing again)

It has come to my attention that I should give blogging a try.  Which really means trying again.  One person has been particularly nudgy since his #rhizo15 course launched a couple of weeks ago (Yes you @davecormier). It probably surprises him that I even had a wordpress site to begin with. (See, I know the mechanics). Another friend suggested it would be good for me and that I should consider it a “conditioning program for the brain.” (Which really gave me pause on what the perceived condition of my brain is. But enough of this digression).

It has been four years and two jobs ago since I last touched this space. I somehow remembered the site password but I can barely remember the birth dates of my immediate family members. (Maybe my brain does need some conditioning?)

I could make excuses that my dissertation has preoccupied me. That life, kids and work sucked up the precious spare brain cells that are needed to thoughtfully curate this piece of digital parchment. Yet these are not unique or exceptional reasons to have been away. I was a voracious participant in all manner of twitter edu chats up until 4 years ago. Heck, I used to teach a social media course at one of my previous universities and blogging was a central aspect.

But I gradually transitioned into an observer role, chiming in selectively here and there, invisibly skipping around the interwebs at my leisure, replacing my normal diet of non-fiction essay style books for blogs (and happily so).  I feel less compelled to jump directly into the virtual conversational fray and would rather turn to the person next to me (and most often it’s @mprutter these days) to say “what do you make of this?” Or I turn to the old school backchannel of backchannels, (chat)  for some 1:1 dialogue. I only half joked today that after turning 40 I seem to be technologically regressing on my preferred modes of digital interaction.

I am a verbal and visual thinker. I am rather keen on moving air with my words (just ask my husband) and drawing diagrams on writable walls.  But even I can’t disagree too much with a few of my peers that a blog might be worth doing to clear out a bit of the academic buildup of “stuff” and inner monologues that fill my mind on my train ride home. And let’s face it, to lurk on #rhizo15 is missing the entire point of the process. So, hello world.

My new TED- RSA: 21st Century Enlightenment

Via Scoop.itHigher Ed Faculty

RSA is my new TED (though TED still holds a special place in my heart). Also, I realize that RSA & TED are not same/sam, but there are worthy comparisons and find that their site, inclusive of their famous RSAnimate talks. Please look at this site for their publications other wonderful programs related to social change, new thinking theory, and just plain old other cool stuff.
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#ISTE11 Resources: Be there without being there

Get the best of ISTE11 without being there

If you can’t be there (or if you are like me you are only here for a day), here are some nifty, easy resources that will help you join in on some of the really cool and awesome stuff going on in Philly this year.

  • ISTE’s Daily Leader: A pdf newspaper that highlights all things ISTE and also announces schedule changes, additions, etc to the program.
  • Subscribe to the #ISTE11 Paper.li daily. Powered by the tweets of ISTE attendees, it provides a rich resource of ISTE happenings.  Many tweets also share links to content that is being presented during conference sessions.  Another great thing is that that it will continue to have momenteum at least a couple of weeks after the coference.
  • Follow the #ISTE11 Hashtag on twitter. You don’t need to be a tweeter to following #ISTE11 on Twitter. Simply go to the Twitter.com and enter #ISTE11 as a search term and viola, you will have a steady stream of tweeting ISTERs to follow.
  • ISTEUnplugged – Steve Hargadon & Friends will be broadcasting sessions from the Bloggers Cafe at ISTE. Unplugged started last year (I think) from Denver and had a great success. Unplugged is like a unconference during the conference where folks can gather and generate their own sessions on the fly, and some are even Ustreamed or viewable via Elluminate/Bb Collaborate  so Tune In!

Are there other great ways to follow ISTE from a far? Share your ideas and links

Crowdsource our ISTE Experience

#ISTE11 is officially/unoffically under way.  EduBloggerCon rocked as usual this morning lead by the amazing Mr. Steve Hargadon.  And now we have TEDxPhiladelphiaED happening. 

I don’t actually touch down in Philly until Tuesday morning and then I will turn around that evening and head back home. So yes folks, I have 12 hours at ISTE this  year, which is still better than 0 hours. I’ve named my impending trip the ISTE Dash & Crash.  (Crash as in sleep people –not trying for a plane, train or car wreck here).  

Collaborative Blogging Anyone? The Twitterverse has been humming with fabulous shares from the events this weekend, so I am thankful for being in the loop from today’s happenings (though nothing beats really being there). There will be plenty of Paper.li feeds to read as well as individual blog posts from attendees to fill in what you are missing. However, what if there was a giant collaborative blog for folks to post their finds and sightings to. What if you could simply email your pics, vids, and thoughts and it would immediately post to a blog?  I have a couple of friends who have tentatively said “heck ya let’s do it” to this idea. So I set up this ISTE Posterous site where we could do just that.  If you are interested in contributing to a collaborative, crowd-sourced ISTE Blog— drop me a line by clicking on the contact info for this site. You can easily email a picture, video, document, or posting to this blog and it will be posted (and tweeted). 

If you are not at ISTE, but merely flowing the webcasts and Tweets, you can participate too! Share your favorite tweets, observations, resources etc.

I am well aware that I should have had my act together on this crowdsourced blog thingy awhile ago to actually guarantee contributors. Next time!  Until then, I have to rely on the genoursity of a few thousand educators willing to contribute their finds and experiences. 

 

 

 

Blogs Elbow Up to Journal Status in New Academic-Publishing Venture – Wired Campus – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Via Scoop.itHigher Ed Faculty

Today’s Chronicle article about Dan Cohen’s latest, work, PressForward, was music to the eyes. At this time last year I was completing a lit review on the status of “digital scholarship” in academia. One of the sticky spots was how to treat blogs, especially as they do not originate in the gold standard of print, nor are they likely to be seen as legit peer-reviewed work.

My interest in the topic is two-fold: As a budding scholar myself and as an administrator who must find ways to help faculty bring more technology into their teaching. The recognition of digital works as real scholarship is essential for the advancement of academe. It provides incentive for faculty to take risk while evolving our ideas of scholarly publishing.

Bravo to Dan Cohen & peers for their progressive work in this area and the launch of PressForward. Looking forward to how this unfolds and develops.
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