Sharing the learning

Most secondary schools in New Zealand have an LMS of one kind or another, but nearly all of them are based around a single school.  The exceptions to this exist in rural New Zealand where many of the schools who belong to eLearning clusters share an LMS within the cluster. This probably reflects the competitive nature of urban schools who seemingly don’t want to give the ‘competition’ a leg up, but also does emphasise how smaller rural schools tend to think outside the box when it comes to learning.  Why wouldn’t you want to share an LMS with other schools?  You immediately get bang for your buck, because costs will be minimal, but the real benefits are in the learning.  We are just starting to see this in our shared LMS, where teachers are starting to collaborate across schools.  Have a look at Welcom, probably the most developed Moodle site in the country.  It seems a no-brainer to me, yet many schools seem to want their own.  Are schools so used to acting as islands that they don’t realise what is possible?  Why would we want to reinforce this isolation virtually?  What is the point in that?

I have included a list of benefits (many from my colleague Trevor in AorakiNet) below.  It is by no means exhaustive so feel free to add your own in a comment.

Advantages

  • The potential number of LMS users is very large.  This means that it is possible for collaborative activities between LMS participants to scale well and reach critical mass.  This is a very significant point.  Experience shows that many online environments, forums etc need large numbers of participants to operate successfully.  For example, teachers will be able to easily share and co-construct programmes of learning for their learners.
  • Shared classes composed of learners and teachers in different schools are possible.  This promotes better learning by: encouraging professional reflection by teachers and widening the ability profile of the cohort of learners.
  • Financial benefits by sharing the cost of hosting across multiple school.
  • Teachers become part of a large community of practice of LMS users and are able to access professional development easily.
  • The expertise and workload of admiistering the LMS can be shared among a group of individuals in different schools.  This also makes the administration more resilient to change.
  • In a shared LMS, school branding is less obvious.  This is an advanatge where public access to non-quality assured teaching materials is possible.
  • Individual schools do not need to devote much administration time to operating the shared LMS.
  • The role of the learner is promoted above the identity of the institution.  This is significant in terms of 21st Century learning and personalising learning.

Disadvantages

  • Technically more difficult to administer, bleeding edge developments are less likely to be adopted quickly
  • Schools have a shared, not sole responsibility for developing the LMS (could be an advantage)
  • Customisations to suit individual schools could be more difficult.
  • LMS is likely to be seen as a teaching space only and not part of a larger school brand (could be an advantage
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Comments

  1. Well done Darren, but I wonder if LMS’s are an eLearning technology still based on a more conventional pedagogical philosophy, which see’s the teacher, as suggested in the L’M’S name, as the dominant ‘manager’ of learning.
    My whole thinking is heading towards ‘Personal Learning Environments’ (PLEs) and Community Learning (& KB) environments, as a ‘mash up’ of Web 2.0 tools & environment designed and continually refined by the learner (or CoP members if a community environment).
    We are taking very early steps towards growing such environments (as an alternative to Moodle or other LMS) using Google Sites as the primary gateway into ‘living’/’evolving’ PLE/CLE. I believe such environment have the potential to support richer distributed collaboration and learning, but more importantly it shift the control and power to the learner (or Community) & breaking the teacher (& institutional) centredness which I still think underpins LMS design.

    • No argument from me there Ken (just ask Conor). I do agree and as a teacher I will be switching entirely to Google Apps next year, rather than the mix I use at the moment. It suits a more co-constructed style of learning.

      I think LMS’s have a limited shelf life and are institution focused rather than learner focused. I suppose they reflect where schools are at, rather than where they could be. At the moment we have a mix, which is most evident in the blended learning project and I think that is the way to go for now

      What I should have said in the post, is that if schools are going to use an LMS, then why not share one.

      • Yes – its interesting that schools are finally coming to LMSs, when you and I know there are more promising avenues (to really support the personalising of learning) emerging

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