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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Social Learning through a Blog Network

I have tried and developed a team blogging method designed for a graduate class which surveyed the concepts and practices of system integration. To facilitate student participation and knowledge sharing, a project based on a network of team blog websites was designed. I summarized the experience in a conference paper (http://aisel.aisnet.org/sais2013/42/) and a presentation.

Example course sites: