A New Generation of Learning Management Systems and Environments

Traditional LMSs mainly support formal and organization-centered learning environments. With the advancement of Web 2.0 particularly on open content sharing and social networking services, a new generation of systems is emerging to facilitate teaching and learning. The new systems (or new features added to current systems) are expected to support newer teaching and learning environments as well as to impact the traditional administration and business models. What features of these systems are desired, and how will they impact higher education? The following are some of the features I see of most importance.

  • Open: the traditional LMS is a relatively closed environment with restrictions on registration, access control, resource sharing, and long term availability. A more open environment is expected to interact with external resources and applications easily, and it should provide easy and flexible access and lifelong support.
  • Social: a social learning network (a social network created specifically for the purpose of learning) is an open online learning community for learning, discussion, resource sharing, and collaboration. Being social is a human nature in learning needs. The new system incorporates common social networking features such as learner profile, learning progress update, cross-course forum, study group, special interest group, public learning material review, etc.
  • Flexible learning organization: traditional way of learning in higher education institutions is organized by rigid courses and semesters. The new system may need to support more non-formal and informal learning, and help to incorporate the recognition and assessment of them to the formal structured learning system. Some features may include flexible learning units at various levels/lengths (single task, learning module, course), knowledge map or learning path, and gamification (which somewhat complements the formal credit system). This flexibility can greatly increase subject coverage and number of learning tracks, which is particularly true in the ever growing IT industry.
  • Personal learning environment: a personal learning environment is learner-centered. The system is expected to provide adequate self-service in a personal space where learners can store and manage their own learning materials, monitor learning progress, build resources and knowledge repository, all with lifelong access

Some pilot systems and services have emerged to realize more open, social, flexible, and personal learning environments, including CourseSites, OpenLearning, OpenClass, einztein.com, sophia.org, CodeAcademy, etc. Most of these systems do not yet share a common understanding of open and social learning, and they vary greatly in features and structures. The evolution of the system also requires, and probably as a driving factor for, the change of the current higher education business model. It’s a challenge as well as an opportunity for the development and adoption of such systems in higher education.

The discussion above is from our book chapter:

Stone, D. and Zheng, G. (2014) “Learning Management Systems in a Changing Environment”, in Wang, V. C. (Editor), Handbook of Research on Education and Technology in a Changing Society, Hershey, PA: IGI Global – http://www.igi-global.com/chapter/learning-management-systems-in-a-changing-environment/111885

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Learning Attitude 2

Today I read some quotes in the signature part of one email.

“Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won’t make us happier.”

I am immediately impressed by the words and did some research. The quote is from the Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. You may get more information about it from http://www.thelastlecture.com

I also discovered some more quotes relevant to learning at http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/complaining and want to share some:

  • “Never tell your problems to anyone…20% don’t care and the other 80% are glad you have them.”
  • “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted. And experience is often the most valuable thing you have to offer.”

Tips to make a classroom presentation fun and interesting (updated)

It’s very common for students to deliver presentations (either formal or informal) on certain topics in the classroom. However, I found many of the presentations are not “interesting” enough to grab other students’ attention. Here are some tips (from my own experience) for making presentations interesting:

  • [New] Co-presentation (http://www.totalsuccess.co.uk/co-presenting-tips-and-techniques/): I personally find this very helpful if the presenters cooperate well in group presentations. A common practice in group presentation is to split the presentation into several sections and each person takes one. It is better to present like a conversation throughout the session. I will come up with more information in another post.
  • Utilize relevant multimedia (graphics, animations, video clips, sounds, etc.) and discuss them (this is important – having these media but not discussing them sometimes confuses people). They can be funny, but also should be relevant.
  • Share personal real life experience, and encourage the audience to share theirs.
  • If it is a team presentation, you can present different arguments and ideas from each presenter, or have a debate among presenters.
  • Hold in-class polls. Besides asking audience to raise hands, try these polling systems: 1) polling service such as http://www.polleverywhere.com (they can use cell phones to vote!); 2) (if in a computer lab) wordpress.com or blogger.com poll gadgets, or Google Docs Form.
  • Do small exercises or play simple games that involve the audience. Award them with candies.
  • Deliver live demonstrations. Note that the demonstration is a way to illustrate your idea; it should serve your presentation, not the other way. Do not let the demo take over your presentation.
  • Ask interesting questions to the audience (don’t ask hard (cold) questions). Remember to give feedback to their answers. Prepare your own answers to questions and see how people respond.
  • Use good and interesting examples. Don’t just read definitions of terms and concepts. Use live examples from the Web if possible.
  • Set up dummy statement and let people judge and debate, or intentionally do something incorrect and let the audience judge. Present conflicting arguments and ideas.

Is there any other practice you follow and find effective? Please share.

Some other resource:

Learning and Problem Solving Attitude

I usually ask some behavior questions on learning to my students, and hope to encourage them to get most from any learning experience. The following two are the most often asked questions.

1. What is your action or attitude toward problems?

2. What’s your attitude and action when you “feel” the study material is too simple for you (assuming that the subject was your interest)?

Various Balances in Learning

I am a person often pursuing some kind of balance. In teaching/learning, I think the following balances will benefit learners.

  • Studying vs. thinking. Confucius says: studying without thinking leads to confusion; thinking without studying leads to exhaustion.
  • Theory vs. practice. Theory and concepts are as important as practices, and vice versa. Thus, exams and projects are of equal importance.
  • Memorization vs. understanding. Understanding is the basis of memorization. Memorization can also facilitates understanding and communication. Thus, closed
    book exams are needed.
  • Self study vs. group study. Both are important. Self study gives you time and pace to digest knowledge; group study gives you opportunity to communicate and actively exchange information and learning experience with others.

Are there any other balances that are worth mentioning?