can an LMS ever be good enough?

'Freer than free, opener than open: The fight for the learning management systems market is heating up (again)' photo (c) 2011, opensource.com - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/Most of the time I feel like I’m the only educator left who likes Blackboard, even though the numbers indicate that can’t be true. Surely with so many people using it, plenty must be happy or content with it. Maybe it’s just that all my social media friends hate it and I should widen my circle of acquaintances. Most of them say they hate Blackboard because of its business practices or because it is somehow claustrophobic and doesn’t offer them some kind of control over design and function. The business practices I leave up to the business. The idea of control over design and function, though, I can address.

I have a few friends who know how to code and manage their own blogs and websites, and they can certainly create their own sites for learning, but they ought to know that most faculty cannot do that and don’t even want to. Some suggest that institutions opt for open source systems, like Moodle, and that’s fine, but it’s still a system and you have to count on your institution investing in competent and creative people who can give you what you want and maintain it–even then, can that team please everyone at your institution?

Whether you go open source with Moodle or Sakai, or invest in Blackboard or Angel or Desire to Learn, you are likely to end up with an LMS that has had your institutional brand applied to it, which will severely limit the appearance of the system, even if you are still given a few appearance choices. A system is a system is a system, and if you are averse to that, you are not going to be happy. Other limitations occur when you have to limit the add-on features available, for whatever reason, sometimes because some committee has decided you don’t need them. Like I said, a system is a system, so unless you can make your own, Blackboard is no better or worse than another.

But if you want to see what kind of features and design choices are possible with Blackboard, I suggest you create an account with their CourseSites by Blackboard and create a course or take one offered there.

This sounds more like a commercial than I meant it to be. Really I would just like to suggest toning down the hatred of one system in favor of another. What is next for online learning environments? That’s what I’d really like to know–and please don’t suggest the mashup that has students wandering all over the web for each course component without a central, organized space.

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Categories: online learning, teaching, technology

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