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Kluging: An LMS Alternative

October 28, 2008

I confess I’m ambivalent about Learning Management Systems such as WebCT ad Desire2Learn. (I’m not at all ambivalent about Content Management Systems, such as WordPress – I am an enthusiastic user.) The distinction is that an LMS is a container for class work –

Learning Management System is a broad term used for a wide range of systems that organize and provide access to online learning services for students, teachers, and administrators. … web.mit.edu/oki/learn/gloss.html

and a CMS is

used to edit your website by giving the user an interface where they can log in and make text, graphic or structural amends to then publish the new pages on the live website. … absolute-digital.co.uk/glossary.php

I’m ambivalent about LMSs because I learned to use the web in teaching using an early version of WebCT – it was a scaffold for my learning and, as such, I hold it in some affection. However, as a teacher of communication skills and arts, as someone fascinated by language, I continued to learn about what could be done on the web, even outside of the LMS. Both passion and a sense of (teacher) responsibility drove me.

Currently I avoid, as much as I can, LMSs. Instead I kluge together a loose collection of free web applications, (Eduspaces Community blog, PBwiki, Pageflakes, Audacity, a password-protected mark site, and whatever free file-hosting service my current students recommend.) It’s a bit more work than using a LMS but I believe this approach, the kluging together of a selection of free web services, is a richer and more productive teaching practice.

Pageflakes - the homepage for my kluged together cellection of web apps for my course

Pageflakes - the homepage for my kluged together collection of web apps for my course

Instead of keeping my students within a walled (and very expensive for the institution) garden, I am requiring them to learn how to use sites that are easily available to them for their personal and professional purposes. I am helping them become more indenpendant and sophisticated users of the most profoundly new communication tool our species has ever seen. And I’m pulling/pushing them into being part of creating the evolving web culture.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. October 28, 2008 9:33 am

    Right on! I love this post. I have to use Blackboard in school and despise it on so many levels.

    Nice work!

  2. Ricardo Torres permalink
    October 28, 2008 9:43 am

    Great! I am working on different approaches to PLEs and at least two of them are very similar to what you propose here; one with Netvibes, the other one with Google sites (not very happy with it, we might migrate to Wetpaint soon). I did a presentation on this in the EDEN workshop last week. Will keep an eye on this and will continue to follow you on Twitter (the tool I used to “lure” my students into adopting Web 2.0 tools for studying) 😛

  3. Mathieu Plourde permalink
    October 28, 2008 10:05 am

    Hi Joan,

    This post is definitely a reminder that faculty members will use outside tools (tools that are not institutionally supported), whether central IT agrees or not. The sad reality is that a lot of instructors don’t have enough time or interest to reflect on their own use of technology and how it impacts their students’ skills.

    Do your colleagues feel the same way as you do or is it difficult to sell them to the idea of open educational resources?

  4. October 28, 2008 10:45 am

    Hi Max – thanks for your comment.

    Hi Mathieu – many of my colleagues void the web whenever possible, whether LMS or web apps.

  5. October 29, 2008 4:42 am

    The web has so much to offer, with hosted websites, ‘free’ software and webapps, why not use it?

    It’s great to see an educator implement the online tools that are useful for students, while (I guess) giving the rubbish a wide berth!

  6. Virginia Yonkers permalink
    October 31, 2008 7:49 am

    I actually had trouble with pageflakes as it was blocked in the classroom. I find wikis a better format.

    Our school wants us to use Blackboard and not go outside of the LMS “because we can’t support technology outside of school sanctioned programs.” However, with all of the problems I have had with the LMS, and the unresolved issues in its use, I feel I can get just as much support with outside technologies as long as they are not blocked.

  7. October 31, 2008 8:24 am

    Hi Virginia,
    My (post secondary) students like Pageflakes as a one-stop-info page where I alert them when something is posted in the wiki, so I’m using both. I link to their course blog there too, so the course Pageflakes is the only page they have to remember the URL for. I do understand the push for Blackboard; as I’ve said, it can be a good scaffold for learning about the web. However, I believe that where teachers can learn enough about how to use the web, they should get their students out of the over-controlling walled garden and onto the web, where they can learn good practices for when they are out of class.

  8. November 15, 2008 2:22 pm

    Hey Joan,

    Interesting post. I was wondering what kind of feedback you get from your institution? Is there not concern raised about ownership of the students’ data when using externally hosted web services?

    Cheers.

  9. November 15, 2008 9:28 pm

    As far as I can tell, my institution has no objections. I tell my students that I will be closing down the blog – EduSpaces community blog where they can establish the privacy level of every post they make – a couple of months after the course is over, and they should download anything they want to save. The same with the course wiki. This is more flexible and more respectful of student work than the LMSs where as soon as the course is over, students are locked out and have no access to their materials.

  10. November 19, 2008 12:24 pm

    I can only speak to the dominant Learning Management Systems at the university level (WebCT, BB, Desire2Learn) from a student perspective but I can tell you that the corporate LMS market has very much positioned itself as an enterprise 2.0 solution. I think the increased competition in that market (100s of systems) is the force. Of course, it all comes down to the method.

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