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Outside the LMS Box: An interview with Ashley Tan

By Ryan Tracey / April 2014

TYPE: INTERVIEW, INTERNATIONAL ONLINE EDUCATION
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  • Sat, 12 Apr 2014
    Post by Ashley Tan

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Glenn.

    Indeed our preliminary findings are not that surprising. Much of research is quite mundane. So why do it? To rely on evidence in one or more contexts instead of relying on anecdotes or conjecture. I can make a claim and I can back it up. :)

    I won't identify the LMS we use, but if you were to guess, you would probably get it correct.

    I agree with the two types of LMS you described. I think that the utilization of LMS is a function of what its built-in affordances are, what users expect it to do, what users want it to do, and what users negotiate.

    I think critical barrier lies in what LMS providers provide as affordances and user expectations. LMS are designed and used in relatively traditional ways. I think of it this way: The medium changes, but the methods do not. We can very slowly change the expectations and behaviours of users by providing professional development, but we cannot dictate what the LMS affordances are.

    Add to the fact that our LMS users bear with or simply do not like it. They are more comfortable, productive, or inventive elsewhere. I say we go elsewhere strategically to not only promote innovative pedagogy and meaningful learning, but also save money by needing less from an LMS. We have done this by unsubscribing from LMS modules.

    Tin Can/Experience API is very exciting, particularly from an analytics point of view. However, depending on an institution's set up, it may be a seamless implementation or one fraught with red tape.

    Over time, I'd like to see Tin Can as a given in LMS. But I am not waiting for other people to overcome their inertia. I would go where the learner and the brave instructor are at.

  • Sat, 12 Apr 2014
    Post by Ryan Tracey

    Thanks Glenn.

    I recognise two schools of thought on LMSs. The first is that an LMS is a "learning management system" in its truest sense. It handles registrations, progress tracking, completion statuses and grades. It's a one-trick pony because it's meant to be.

    The second is that the LMS is a comprehensive all-in-one educational platform. Not only should it handle the above, but also social networking, web conferencing, user content generation, etc, too.

    A couple of problems with the second school of thought, IMHO, is that the typical LMS doesn't do the more sophisticated stuff very well (or as well as the open alternatives), and even if it does, that functionality is often not activated in the institution's account for whatever reason (usually incremental cost, as far as I can gather).

    My read into Dr. Tan's response above is that, regardless of the capability of the LMS, an LMS-only mindset tends to restrict your pedagogical potential. On that I agree, as it doesn't make much sense to limit your view to *any* one platform or tool.

    I also think there's merit in going to where your target audience is - whether that be Google Plus, Facebook, or wherever. They are already comfortable with the platform and won't get hung up with technical issues that always seem to plague the first several weeks of class. Having said that, however, I see potential equity issues for students who *don't* use Google or Facebook, and how much of the student activity do you want to be outside of the institution's infrastructure?

    On Tin Can, I'm surprised that so few LMSs are currently compatible. I'm not necessarily a supporter of tracking every little learning interaction in one's life - as I think that unnecessarily formerlises the learning process and promotes activity over outcome - but that doesn't preclude other possibilities that the xAPI opens up.

  • Sat, 12 Apr 2014
    Post by Glenn Hansen

    Thanks, Ryan, good questions.

    It's nor surprising, though, is it? I'd like to know what LMS they are using, but it certainly looks like it's either one of the traditional ones that is good at hosting and tracking content, and little else; or the staff and students have been acclimatised to using it only in the most traditional way. If that's the case, then someone on staff needs to unleash the full power of their LMS to support and encourage true social learning.

    From personal experience, option one seems most likely. There are still a wealth of LMS' on the market that treat 'learning' as providing access to a course, marking results and recording them against a 'student' record. My role as an enabler of workplace performance means I really detest the term 'student' when we're talking about supporting adults to get the most out of their efforts in the workplace.

    Still, there is light at the end of the tunnel for those who are willing to put in the work to challenge that traditional view and limited purpose of the LMS. The new version of SCORM, which used to be known as Tin Can, but has now been updated to the Experience API, allows an LMS to store just about any kind of activity in a user record. This really opens the field - discussions, delivering conference talks, reading, participating in meetings, and almost any other activity can be recognised as part of someone's development. While the API itself doesn't ensure that any of this is done well, it does provide the opportunity to go well beyond the standard compliance functions of the old one-trick-pony LMS.

    So, for any learning professional out there, if you decide you need an LMS, or that it's time to invest in a new LMS, one question you need to ask is, 'Does it work with the Experience API?' That's after you take the time to learn about the API's capabilities and how to best make use of them. The good news is that you don't have to be a tech wizard. A simple Google search will provide you with a wealth of info.

    Keep learning!