I felt this article articulated very succinctly the pros and cons of using an LMS.
Near the beginning of Sclater's article he states:
There is growing awareness in higher education of student levels of engagement in Web 2.0
environments, in contrast to their engagement in the learning management systems (LMSs)
hosted by their institutions. Social networking sites, blogs, and wikis offers students unprecedented
opportunities to create and share content and to interact with others. These sites are used
regularly by the majority of students and provide possibilities for customization and a sense
of ownership currently impossible in LMSs. (Sclater, 2008)
After reading this I felt myself agreeing with Sclater's argument, and after my recent experimentation with building a unit in the "Desire to Learn" LMS it seemed obvious that L.M.S. held little value compared to the freedom and often free Web 2.0 tools that can be easily customized for student learning. Sclater continues to point out the limitations of LMSs:
- communication features of LMSs are not on par with those offered by open sources and tend to be restrictive.
- LMSs promote a sense of dependency and remove student autonomy.
- LMSs cannot compete with the explosion and innovation of web 2.0 tool, many of which are free.
- LMSs provide a sheltered and limited experience to students vs. the open and real environment provided by a P.L.E. where the best elements from each environment are drawn upon.
- LMSs are vulnerable to single point failure something we witnessed as students at VIU several weeks ago.
To nicely sum up the argument for PLEs over LMSs, Sclater writes:
In contrast to the client software approach, the web browser presents the most significant
learning tool ever devised in terms of its ability to provide access to a vast range of tools
and content and to connect learners to each other using a single interface. (Sclater, 2008)
Clearly a very convincing argument and who can argue with the obvious limitations of LMSs, but Sclater's not finished. He then switches gears and comes to the defense of the LMS stating:
While independent learning is an admirable aspiration, many learners will continue to
require considerable hand-holding in the online learning world. Leaving the management
of their formal learning activities entirely up to them will result in increased drop-out rates.
He further argues that LMSs still serve a purpose for the following reasons:
- Not all students and/or staff are technically capable of managing a PLE approach which relies on a diverse range of systems with varying interfaces.
- The ability of an LMS to safely store data can more effectively secure content over a longer period of time, especially in the context of a life long learner.
- LMSs seem to work well within the context of a formal organized educational institutional and their demand for maintaining learning outcomes, set classes and scheduled assessments. As formal education is still largely respected and demanded throughout the working world, the LMS works well within this more formal context.
- The LMS can provide a layer of security, and censorship to protect students especially minors from offensive or illegal activity or materials.
- Many students like to keep their educational experience separate from their social environment.
- LMSs are better able to track student learning and preserve the date they create in an educational context. This gives them a powerful tool to recognize and assist struggling students
So where does that leave us? Both LMSs and PLEs offer convincing advantages. Which brings me back to my experience in VIU's OLTD program. As a huge proponent of the education I've been engaged in during the past 6 months, I realized that what has been universal in our classes is a blended approach where our instructors have used D2L as a mothership, but have pushed us outside of the LMS to create and engage in our own personalized learning environments. Our extensive use of web 2.0 tools, including, Weebly, Facebook and Twitter to name a few has been a huge component of our practical learning experience in this course. Finally, I would have to conclude that a hybrid of LMS and PLE is the answer for delivering the ultimate online learning experience.