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Fall Semester’s Looming, Are You Having LMS dreams?

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August 12, 2016 by admin

LMSA senior colleague once said to me that when August 1 hits, summer is over: time to prepare your fall classes. That was a number of years ago, but today that means it’s time to start having LMS dreams. Whether those dreams are wish fulfillment or nightmares probably depends on the system with which you currently work.

Beyond the LMS

Personally, I dislike all of these systems, preferring a more distributive approach to learning. Please read Building an Online Learning Community where I describe the importance of employing a distributive learning model and building an online community beyond the LMS. I also discuss limitations of learning in a one-semester course. While I was pleased with my efforts to create content beyond the LMS, my students thought that having to go outside of the “closed” LMS system was a burden.

Turns out many faculty do not use the LMS at all, and of the 50 or so percent that do, it is used mainly as a repository for course materials, like the syllabus. Only a few faculty take full advantage of the LMS, who I refer to as “power users.” The opportunities for teacher to student, student to student and technology to student interaction abound, if one wants to take advantage of the technology available. However, as the only instructor who was taking this approach to distributing content among a number of external platforms, the message was: it rarely, if ever, pays to be a one-off.

The Merry-go-round of LMS’s

When my university switched from Blackboard to Moodle, I re-commited tacitly agreeing to live within the parameters of the LMS in order to make my students lives somewhat easier. Of course, as mentioned before, I still have to compete against almost half of the faculty who don’t use the LMS at all. And, as I continue to complain about Moodle as I did about Blackboard, the response I get from the IT folks is that everyone complains about their LMS; none are ideal.

Despite my protestations, it looks like the LMS business continues to grow with Blackboard, Moodle, Canvas, D2L and Sakai. And, there is a new entrant that is making slow inroads into the higher education market, Schoology. A review of Schoology can be found at this website. What’s not to like about an LMS?

My 5 nightmares:
  1. Support from providers is slow and issues rarely get resolved to my satisfaction.
  1. Third-party plug-ins, like blogs and wikis, often don’t work in a seamless manner within the LMS. Sometimes they don’t work at all (see number 1 above).
  1. I don’t like the closed system, because it does not represent the world of electronic media that my students are likely to encounter outside the classroom. (I teach at a Jesuit institution, and one of the guiding principles of Jesuit education is to meet students where they live. And, let me tell you – they don’t live on an LMS.)
  1. Learning analytics on an LMS are simplistic and therefore of very little value if one wants to take a deep dive into measuring things like student engagement and interaction.
  1. Training is limited to general use of the LMS. For specific lessons on how to use more sophisticated features of the LMS, I have to resort to Youtube.com, which becomes the default resource – not ideal.

How do you feel about your institution’s LMS? Please post your thoughts and experiences, both positive and negative, in our comments section. Maybe some of the LMS providers will read this blog post and help us all find better solutions.

Neil Alperstein, PhD

 

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