your course tools: bundled or unbundled?

'Star Trail Long Dashes' photo (c) 2010, Chris Streeter - license: returned from EDUCAUSE 2011 a few weeks ago with some ideas swimming around in my head, waiting to form. I attended only sessions in the teaching and learning track–or were they calling it a domain?–and at the end, I had the feeling that I was hearing the same thing over and over, if from a few perspectives.

Chaos. The landscape in education is a wild west of freely available tools that are the gateway to the world’s knowledge. Both liberating and scary. On the liberating side:

Seth Godin talked about us not creating an “educational industrial complex” while demonstrating that the components for constructing a better education are at our fingertips, and so (to paraphrase) “we should send our children to public schools during the day because we are a community and home school them at night” to add counterweight.

Anya Kamenetz tapped into the high cost of higher ed and ballooning student debt to argue for a “DIY U” education cobbled together with open source tools and social networks, certified with badges instead of diplomas, leading to internships, I guess where people take a chance on you. I don’t think that will get you into medical school, but we’ll see where it goes.

Then I stumbled on a Twitter discussion of unbundling your LMS, which is nothing more than substituting your own choice of free tools on the web for all the features in your LMS. At first, I brushed it off as more squawking from Blackboard haters, and maybe that’s part of it, but it resonated with the sense of educational chaos I was still feeling from the conference. On the one hand, our Blackboard course sites do all the organizing for us and offer our students a one-stop shop. Opponents of the LMS like to point out that traditional-age students live in a world where they interact throughout the day with multiple technologies and that we should offer them the same sort of mix, to prevent the sense of suffocation of the enclosed LMS system.

You know I’m going to cite the special constituencies of the community college –our student body is more likely to consist of non-traditional age students with varying levels of access to technology, but I would also point out that our diverse faculty, with its high percentage of adjuncts, can sometimes have the same access issues or levels of technological know how.

Where would you start if you did want to unbundle your LMS? Would you try to build a complete new system of pieces or try out one or two to supplement your course site?


Categories: collaboration, communication, course design, mobile learning, online learning

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