Try before you buy…?
Don’t let your choice of LMS compromise your learning strategy
One of the many ‘online learning’ messages that hit my inbox this week suggested ‘trying an LMS before buying’. Obvious, surely?
Do institutions really commit to a learning management system (LMS) on the basis of a 30 day free trials? The more I thought about this, the more I thought about how and why institutions choose their LMS – and what they actually end up choosing.
Here at CAPDM only we work with open content standards – particularly semantically rich ones that capture the meaning of teaching and learning. Our clients can then focus purely on designing and developing good learning materials, safe in the knowledge that they can be delivered in a highly integrated and function manner into any LMS, as well as to other formats such as PDF, or e-books for iPads and Kindles.
So, what amazes me about how an institution might choose an LMS? Quite a few things, actually. For many universities and colleges, online delivery represents a significant shift in how they deliver education, including to new markets. Given that every institution will have spent significant effort in agreeing their internal learning & teaching strategy, it is amazing that when it comes to online learning many simply ignore the good points of this L&T strategy (not that it is necessarily followed on-campus!).
An LMS is often chosen simply to be used as a glorified file store, with no thought about how it might support the delivery of a rich pedagogy for online students. MOOCs, in my opinion, have been a successful marketing ploy for many, but a backward step for rich online learning and the overall student experience. They are often a file store for poor videos, backed up with a quiz and a forum.
The ‘free trials’ article in the link above makes no reference to pedagogy, and whether you choose an LMS because it can support ‘your’ pedagogic model. Most simply can’t, and institutions end up with a pedagogy that matches the constraints of their chosen platform, not their L&T aims.
The article does recommend that you “Test Out The Customization Features”, which I do agree is sound advice as this is one route to being able to support ‘your’ pedagogy. Again, most LMSs can be very difficult to customise. The proof? Try some of the market leaders.
CAPDM is LMS system agnostic, but we (and our clients) have tended towards a platform that can support ‘your’ pedagogy – Moodle. Their choice, not ours. There is a lot of sense in this. For example, Moodle is:
- free and open source, so offers a permanent free trial
- infinitely customisable, so will support your pedagogy – and continue to do so as your ideas change
- fully able to support a demanding institution (see the UK OU for example), so scalable
- evolved by a very large learning community, so rich and continually evolving.
Rather than make your decision based on a 30 day free trial, why not take time to learn about online learning without pressures and restrictions from the technology? Keep your focus on your L&T strategy and on producing the sort of learning materials that will result in you delivering the student experience within that strategy. CAPDM have nothing to gain in promoting Moodle, but we have seen the advantages that taking a pedagogic approach to online learning has over adopting a restrictive and generally proprietary approach.
Our adherence to open standards also addresses an issue downstream, namely how to move large, high-value banks of good learning content to the next delivery platform – whatever it is. Good learning materials will outlast a delivery technology.
Director, CAPDM Ltd.
About the author
Ken Currie has been working with universities for over 25 years developing their strategies and businesses in online distance learning (ODL). In the early 1990s, he was the key designer/developer of the globally successful Heriot-Watt online MBA and undergraduate Management Programme, and has continued to develop ODL businesses with other institutions in the UK and beyond. In recent times he helped to initiate ‘Global Online’ at Edinburgh Napier, and the ‘One World’ MBA at West of Scotland universities, and currently works closely with the University of London’s International Academy.
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This newsletter was originally sent by CAPDM Ltd. on 14 February 2018.