Sunday, August 21, 2011

62_BlackBoard and LMS Considerations

ACritical Examination of Blackboard's e-learning environment

By S. J. Coopman, 2009. First Monday, Vol. 14, Number 6 - 1-June 2009

Even though I personally believe the ear of clunky learning management systems (LMS) is approaching a sure decline, and especially in the play field of Blackboards and its look alike, this article proposes a number of truly important considerations that go beyond the specific make of this or that tool. The ideas proposed by the author and reflections considered allow us to learn about designing concepts that can be modified, principles that can and should be used and steps that can be taken or directed towards more interactive settings for our learners. I propose and suggest a good read of the piece, regardless of the decisions made around the adaptation ideas and structures. Chances are instructors will find this a safe place to begin the journey into online learning, and the analysis proposed valid points.
Online learning has moved from the extraordinary to the ordinary (page 1)

  • one more study that reaffirms the idea that there is little difference in achieving outcomes between F2F settings and online settings.
  • Generally speaking the most evident concerns seems to be perceived instructor's presence and transactional distance.
  • Perceptions of the online learning environment will affect how students accept the settings for their learning.
  • Some research suggests that online discussion is more frequent and more meaningful than F2F discussion. There is evidence of the skill improvement for non english participants in online discussions. This also seems more evident in blended-settings.
  • Check on quality of interactions rather than quantity - and because students must check on their peer's contributions, the interactions online occur more frequently between students than between student and instructor.
The following quote is too important to be rephrased:
Critical progressive pedagogy challenges instructors to design their course in ways that interrogate accepted - yet unexamined - ways of knowing, critique standard forms of knowledge included in textbooks, and invite diverse voices into classroom discourse. (page 3)
This truly seems to be the only way to approach design for online learning. We learn through this approach not to take strategies and practices for granted. 

The author of the article wonders if the relationship between students and instructors truly changes in online learning. The mode of delivery is evidently different, but it may be richer and more involving, in the true constructtivist approach.

One importance critique of the author about the LMS is the realization and importance of understanding how the system and the technology is never value neutral. The degrees of structural flexibility of the LMS usually speaks to the values that the system supports - more or less direct involvement of instructors in the learning paths taken by students.

The article mentions blogs as an improvement from the basic and highly structured discussion boards.

Another element discussed in the article are the four dimensions of online learning: temporality, anonymity, modality and spatiality (use of graphical chats).

The article provides a critical review of the LMS considered and should be read by anyone beginning to use online delivery in structured systems such as Blackboard. In fact, I would highly recommend anyone who is about to become an online instructor for teh first time to actually be an online learners in a course and try the delivery on one's own skin, to face the challenges, limitations but also rewards of the different e-learning experience.

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