Nov 12

The Learning Management System: Threat or Menace?

The frustrations with and criticisms of learning management systems (LMSs) run the gamut from usability (“why is it so hard to load content?”) to integration (“why can’t it work with my blog?”) to the very purpose of the tool itself (“can we really manage learning with this tool?”).

All of these points are valid, but are they the result of inherent flaws with LMSs, or with specific design choices made by the corporations or groups responsible for these systems? Institutionally, even the biggest detractors generally note that LMSs are a necessary evil, ensuring FERPA compliance and providing a barrier for copyright/fair use cases. Individually, however, many folks frustrated with the system simply go outside the system, using free online tools and avoiding the official campus LMS as much as possible.

None of the above is news to anyone who has used an LMS, whether a student, teacher, or administrator.

Here are some of the questions I’d like to discuss, preferably agnostically (i.e., this isn’t the place to discuss why Moodle is better than Blackboard or other similar topics):

  • Does a centralized campus LMS have (or could it have) value as a teaching, learning, or research tool?
  • How important are factors like privacy/FERPA, copyright, and intellectual property when thinking about using an LMS or other web services?
  • How can we drive the ever-changing LMS market to make it better able to support folks in the digital humanities?

General venting about how awful your campus’s LMS is will be met with both sympathy and empathy, but will be most appreciated if it includes constructive answers to the above questions (or poses new questions to ponder).

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