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Barbara Lindsey

Open for Learning: The CMS and the Open Learning Network | in education - 0 views

  • Through a series of comparative studies--in which students of different age groups studied different subject matters under different instructional conditions--Bloom established that the average student instructed individually by a tutor outperformed 98% of students instructed in a conventional classroom setting.
  • Bloom, B. S. (1984). The 2-Sigma Problem: The Search for Methods of Group Instruction as Effective as One-to-One tutoring. Educational Researcher, 13(6), 4–16.
  • To be clear, our assertions about the weaknesses of the CMS paradigm should also be taken as critiques of the predominant pedagogical model in higher education
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  • The OLN model is aimed at leveraging these affordances in ways that the CMS does not. For example, discussions that last longer than 50 minutes can be conducted online without prompting or intervention by the instructor. And such discussions can include more voices than those of the students formally enrolled in the class. Whatever connections students make with each other can be maintained via social networking applications of their choosing. And students can capture, annotate, and archive the content they assemble and create in their courses as well as in their less formal learning experiences. And since they are using their tools, they maintain control of and access to the content as long as they choose.
  • Given the ever increasing rate of change and improvement in learning technologies and approaches, committed teachers should be anxious to find and employ new, more effective tools to help their students learn more effectively.
  • The OLN also has the significant advantage of being time-persistent. Compared with the frequent starts and stops in the CMS (see Figure 2), much of what happens in the OLN allows learners to build their learning networks over time, since it is not bound to semesters, terms, or even the institution. And the artificial boundaries of the CMS are removed thereby allowing the learner to benefit from participation in a broader community of networked learners, further removing the limitations on learner network growth (see Figure 4).  
  • One of the primary aims of the OLN model is to reestablish teachers and learners at the center of learning activity (both inside and outside of courses).
  • By combining several functions into one application, the CMS has forced us to make a tradeoff that is suboptimal for learning. Because there is some confidential and proprietary data in the CMS, we have traditionally locked all course data behind a login screen, viewable only by an instructor and the officially enrolled members of his or her class - and then only for the duration of the semester or term. This is perhaps the most debilitating example of CMS technology being used to reinvent the past. The traditional classroom has always been a private, physically, and temporally bounded space. The natural inclination was to replicate that model within the CMS. However, doing so has imposed the limits of the old space in a new space where such limitations do not exist.
  • there are several key components of the OLN that should be private and secure, situated within an institution's intranet. These include student information systems (SISs), identity and role repositories, proprietary content stores, and secure online assessment applications. These are and should remain core components of the institutional IT infrastructure. Beyond these, however, there are several OLN components that need not be private. Faculty and student blogs, wikis, portfolios, and open courseware and open educational resource repositories can be open (at the option and discretion of individual faculty members and students). These functions can exist, spread across multiple applications and websites, in the cloud. Some applications might even be mashups of intranet and cloud-based applications.
  • Light's examination of the impact of group study among students at Harvard is particularly compelling. In Making the Most of College, Light presents evidence that "students who study outside of class in small groups of four to six students, even just once a week, benefit enormously. Group meetings are organized around discussions of the homework, and as a result of their study group discussion, students are far more engaged and better prepared for class, learning significantly more" (2001, 52).
  • Learning is not a simple acquisition activity. A large body of critical analysis and research concur that learning is at least as much a function of social discourse as it is solitary cognition (e.g., Vygotsky, 1962, 1978, or Schon, Brown, et al., 1989).
  • The same is true for the best educational content—it draws people into arguments, explorations, discussions, and relationships that add depth, meaning, and value to that content.
  • Brown & Adler have argued that, "The most profound impact of the Internet, an impact that has yet to be fully realized, is its ability to support and expand the various aspects of social learning" (2008, 18). This is in contrast to the prevailing "traditional Cartesian view" of instruction that focuses primarily on the transfer of knowledge—as if it were a substance—from teacher to learner (18). Educational theorists have long argued against the didactic approach. Freire critiqued what he called "banking education," a model in which student activity is limited to "receiving, filing, and storing the deposits" of information apportioned them by the instructor (1970, 72).
  • We may fruitfully update Freire's metaphor of "banking education" to a metaphor of "downloading learning." So much of what passes for innovative uses of instructional technology today, like the OpenCourseWare collections available from MIT and other universities, restricts learners to downloading files.
  • If "hyperlinks subvert hierarchy" (Levine, et al., 1999), Web 2.0 tools are making the learning space fundamentally and permanently flat. CIOs, academic leaders, and individual faculty members might argue that they need the structure and security of the CMS. We agree that some elements of the CMS should be maintained. But students, and a growing number of instructors, are engaging in rich, meaningful dialog, content creation, and sharing outside the CMS.
  • When students enter the walled garden of the CMS, they are largely "acted upon." Efficacious, self-regulating learners, on the other hand, "act" as they participate in and take ownership of their own learning activities and ultimately what they learn and how they employ that new learning in pursuit of their various life projects.
  • The center of gravity in the CMS is decidedly on institutional and instructor efficiency and convenience, not student participation and learning. This should not be surprising given Cuban's findings that educational technology is used largely to "maintain existing practices" rather than to "revolutionize," or even change in any substantial way, teaching and learning practices (2001).
  • But the CMS paradigm actually works against such a transformation of the relationship between teachers and learners because it privileges the role of the instructor and technically restricts individual students from contributing and to shaping courses in any meaningful way. Sclater has argued that the term "learning management system" itself suggests "disempowerment—an attempt to manage and control the activities of the student by the university" (2008, p. 2). The tendencies of the CMS are not, he argues, just "minor irritations" but rather forces that "may overtly or subtly align the institutional processes with the software rather than having the system serve the requirements of the institution" (p. 3).
  • Most (if not all) of these sorts of activities are absent from the typical CMS-based course. This is true primarily because there is no space provided for students to publish such content and engage in such activities of their own creation. Moreover, students engaged in such activities are unlikely to make the CMS the base of their activities because they would be walled off from the rest of the world, destined for deletion at the end of the semester.
  • 12-year-old home schooled girl, Heather Lawver, who created an online, fan-authored version of The Daily Prophet, the fictional newspaper in the Harry Potter series (see
  • Jenkins argues that Lawver's activities, and those of the reporters she recruited, went far beyond a creative outlet for fans—participants acquired knowledge creation, knowledge pooling, and knowledge sharing skills, gained experiences sharing and comparing value systems, learned how to express and interpret feelings about a literary work, and developed Internet publishing skills (p. 185). Gee has argued that similarly transferable skills can be acquired in online role-playing games, where players learn to work well with team members, collaborate to solve problems, and hone individual skills in the context while understanding and appreciating others' skills, etc. (2009).
  • Learners as Co-Instructors, Instructors as Co-Learners
  • the overwhelming usage patterns of instructors indicate that the CMS has been used primarily to mimic the traditional, semester-based, lecture-driven, content-centric model of instruction - one of bestowing "course info" on students.
  • the CMS was designed primarily to support and enhance traditional teaching. It is not coincidental that the first incarnation of Blackboard was branded "CourseInfo."
  • While perhaps a bit stylized, the typical CMS-delivered, content-centric, lecture-driven course complete with multiple-choice midterm and final exams, does little to prepare students to succeed in a world in which there will always be more new knowledge created every day than they can possibly access, much less assimilate, master, and apply. Given the overwhelming flow of data all around us, our job should be increasingly less focussed on making our students "knowledgeable" and focused instead more on making them "knowledge-able" (Wesch, 2009).
  • When a student at Ryerson University convened a chemistry study group inside Facebook in 2007, the University threatened to expel him for academic misconduct. In his defense, the student observed that he was simply replicating online what was common practice in face-to-face study group and tutorial sessions (Schaffhauser, 2008). The difference between these face-to-face sessions and the groups the student created in Facebook, however, was that the online versions of the study groups would persist over time, perhaps far beyond the students' time at Ryerson. Access to Facebook, unlike access to live study sessions or to the CMS, does not expire when a student graduates.
  • mposing artificial time limits on learner access to course content and other learners, privileging the role of the instructor at the expense of the learner, and limiting the power of the network effect in the learning process.
  • Bush & Mott (2009) have argued that the failure of technology to transform learning stems from a preoccupation with "the tactical implementation of specific technologies which often simply automate the past" (p. 17).
  • such software has generally been focused primarily on helping teachers increase the efficiency of the administrative tasks of instruction (e.g., distribute documents, make assignments, give quizzes, initiate discussion boards, assign students to working groups, etc.).
  • tendency to use the CMS to improve instructional efficiency rather than effectiveness.
  • Self-Reported Function Usage in Blackboard by BYU Faculty Members (2004-2009)
  • CMS are "fundamentally a conservative technology ... [for] managing groups, providing tools, and delivering content" (2006, 1).
  • course content distribution and teacher-student communication platform
  • Cuban concluded that "teachers used technology to maintain existing practices" rather than to "revolutionize" the way they teach their students (p. 138).
  • course managment software leads universities to "think they are in the information industry" (356).
  • he industrial, course management model has its center of gravity in teachers generating content, teachers gathering resources, teachers grouping and sequencing information, and teachers giving the information to students (356). This is so, they argue, because teachers "often yield to the seductive appeal of a course management system, where it is easy enough to populate a weekly schedule with static resources and decontextualized tasks" which results in a "focus on content ... rather than the process of educating the student" (357).
  • the CMS continues to artificially situate instruction and learning inside walled gardens that are disconnected from the rich and vibrant networks of learners and content in the wider world.
  • the changes necessary to bridge the 2 sigma gap are at least as much cultural and pedagogical as they are technological.  
  • an unintended consequence of CMS deployment by artificially limiting the potential of the Web to keep students connected to each other and their content. While the CMS facilitates substantial interaction and community building around content within courses, the resulting learning communities are almost always limited to those formally enrolled in the course and those communities exist only for the duration of a particular semester or term. When each period of instruction draws to a close, CMS courses are routinely deactivated and sometimes even deleted to make way for the next semester's courses.
  • course-centric, content-driven model of instruction that dominates higher education.
  • no record left behind of the activity and learning that occurred within them. This is a pattern that repeats from semester to semester, throughout a student's learning career at a particular institution.
    • Barbara Lindsey
      Do you agree with this statement? Do you see any issues with this current situation?
  • These learning network disruptions are even more jarring for students who transfer from one institution to another or those who take courses from multiple institutions. Unless students fastidiously copy the content from their CMS courses and save the contact information of their classmates, the learning network connections they have made (both content and social) are essentially lost.
  • flocking to time-persistent social networking and media sharing sites like Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, GMail, and Google Docs.
  • blogs, and wikis
    • Barbara Lindsey
      What is your intial reaction to our public blog and wiki?
  • While we know of no formal research on the topic, we believe that knowing that the fruits of their efforts will be categorically deleted at the end of term is a significant negative motivation for students to contribute meaningfully within the CMS, particularly when the same effort invested elsewhere would persist indefinitely.
  • By eliminating access to the courses a student participates in within a CMS, an institution not only hampers them during their formal learning careers, but it takes away a potentially invaluable knowledge-able tool for continued success as a lifelong learner.
  • The old paradigm of making our students "knowingly prepared" is rapidly losing its value. We should instead help our students be "unknowingly prepared—to be unknowing but to possess the tools and skills to rapidly become 'knowing' at the moment-of-need" (p. 3).
  • No longer do students sit passively in the classroom, restricted only to the authority of the instructor and their textbook for the final word on the subject matter of a lecture. Now they can Google terms, concepts, and events mentioned by the instructor, they txt, Facebook, and Twitter each other about what's being said, and they carry their notes and even the lecture itself out of class with them, recorded on laptops, MP3 recorders, and digital pens to be reviewed and shared.
    • Barbara Lindsey
      Your reaction to this?
  • Between 2000 and 2008, the average licensing cost per campus for commercial CMS skyrocketed  500% (Delta Initiative, 2009; slide 11).
  • includes such factors as hosting, faculty development, curriculum and instructional course design, multimedia support, and help desk support while making literally no mention of student learning or student activity within the CMS (slide 21).
  • Where once the instructor was the sole (or at lease substantially privileged) possessor of content expertise and certainly the exclusive provider of course materials, learners are now instantaneously able to Google virtually any information about the content of a course (often during the lectures themselves), independently publish their thoughts about it, and interact with others (both inside and outside of the official course roster) about the course and it's subject matter.
  • instructors have largely employed the CMS to automate the past,
    • Barbara Lindsey
      What is so bad about 'automating the past'?
  • In a learning context, he argues that no educational information and communication technology can be "universally good." Rather, he asserts, "the best way to invest in instructional technologies is an instrumental approach that analyzes the natures of the curriculum, students, and teachers to select the appropriate tools, applications, media and environments" (59).
  • which learners select as they engage in their educational experiences (p. 59).
    • Barbara Lindsey
      Pretty radical approach, no?
  • we prefer to think of educational content as a campfire around which learners gather.
  • When combined with tools and environments that afford opportunities for social interaction, educational resources become semiotic tools that influence learners' actions and mediate the learning process.
    • Barbara Lindsey
      This is a key statement.
  • it seems paradoxical that we would we put hundreds, thousands, or millions of learners in front of advanced communications technology so that they can simply retrieve data instead of interacting with each other around that data.
  • We contend that its inadequacy stems from three specific weaknesses of the CMS—(1) the organization of learning experiences into discrete, artificially time-bound units, (2) the predominance of instructor-focused and content-centric tools in the CMS, and (3) the lack of persistent connections between learners, instructors, content, and the broader community across semesters and across class, program, and institutional boundaries.
  • these disruptions are likely to come from educational technologists and leaders exploring new tools and new approaches to learning.
  • while opening the space necessary for learners to act as co-instructors and for teachers to act as co-learners in a dynamically generated space (9).
  • Most institutions of higher education appear focused on . . . content coverage, course structure, and pre-existing time arrangments such as semesters and hours of credit than . . . issues such as learning and performance (
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