By Robin Popow (Instructional Associate, Centre for Instructional Development)
Porter made the statement during a panel discussion suggesting that educators have more freedom using the rapidly growing community of cloud based applications versus affordances offered by the learning management system (LMS). In a followup interview Porter added,
“The LMS is about the “management” of learning, something I oppose in higher education. Don’t mind scaffolding, but dislike management. LMS are managed for instructors and students. I want instructors and students co-manage the learning environment. It’s a new literacy for instructors. It needs to be under their control. Most LMS are just labour-intensive, confining electro-gradebook environments. Instructors need to wean themselves from the electro-pablum of the LMS.”
As you might expect, Moodle founder Martin Dougiamas disagreed with this and presented a good case in support of the LMS but I thought I’d offer my opinion from a Vancouver Community College perspective – I think they’re both right!
I loved Porters analogy of the LMS (Moodle in our case) as a “Swiss army knife” of educational technology. In a very practical way, Moodle does offer a tool to accommodate every popular e-learning strategy to some degree as well as enabling consistent standards of development, delivery and e-learning process College-wide. Porter was keen to follow up on this as well adding,
“Swiss Army Knife (SWK): A SWK is a general purpose tool that confines its users to a limited range of very general activities. I’d rather pick the tactical blade to do the job I need. Cloud-based apps give us a whole range of choices for more targeted application and open-ended learning experiences. An LMS is an artificial learning environment, and Moodle represents Martin’s particular worldview, that I do not accept as an autonomous professional.”
To some extent I agree that some Moodle tools tend to provide only rudimentary solutions but I do feel that it generally provides a great platform from which to begin. By that I mean, both from the perspective of an instructor just beginning to use e-learning strategies as well as an instructor who establishes Moodle as a base and sends students off to cloud-based apps that provide more flexibility, advanced features, etc than those in Moodle (Porter’s point I believe). For example and as the later suggests, an activity that focuses on student collaboration to develop a webpage or document would likely be better served using an app dedicated to the purpose of being a wiki such as MediaWiki. Likewise, an activity focused on student folios may be better served using an app such as WordPress.
During the MoodleMoot I had a chance to further discuss this with Dougiamas who agreed that the “walls” that once boxed us into Moodle have been effectively removed with the additions of external repositories such as YouTube, MediWiki, Google Docs, etc.
So, I guess my point is that the LMS provides a practical, cost effective and convenient way to manage e-learning. That said, Porter really has a point and we should always encourage those innovators to venture into the clouds. Their explorations blaze new (safe) trails for all of us.