The OECD report “E-learning in Tertiary Education: Where do we stand?” says that universities have primarily used LMSes for adminstrative purposes and that LMSes have, so far, had a limited impact on pedagogy.

There are three potential avenues for exploration in that finding

  1. Is it actually true?
    Some of the surveys I saw reported in the ASCILITE’2006 proceedings seem to offer supporting evidence for this. Though this might be a case of not getting to carried away with technological determinism. i.e. it’s not the LMS alone that is contributing to this. The way in which universities are introducing, supporting and encouraging T&L also play an influence, if not the biggest.
  2. Are LMSes actually well suited for adminstrative purposes
    Experience at CQU demonstrates that they are not particularly good at helping teaching staff perform their adminstrative purposes. e.g. early experience with a grade book limited to 999 students in classes with 1000+ students. On-going experience with their online assignment systems compared with CQU’s OASIS system.

    The design of these systems is essentially teleological. The design encapsulates some purpose. There’s a difference between the purpose of the Webfuse web team and that of the LMS development team. LMS development team is trying to design something so general that is widely usable by most universities, within the limited resources they have. The web team try to develop something that best suits the majority of staff at CQU within the limited resources.

    This difference in aims leads to a different type of outcome. There’s also something here about how IT people tend to want to design for the general case as early as possible.

  3. How easy is it to use current systems for pedagogically interesting innovation?
    Some of the discussion/literature indicates it is very hard. Even with Moodle, a tool designed to support a social constructivist approach to learnign

teleological and “unbiased design”

There’s been a bit of rhetoric from LMS vendors that their technology is pedagogically neutral. The socio-technical folk argue against that for a variety of reasons and have demonstrated it in numerous ways.

This could be worthy of further research. Something along the lines of

  • All systems are designed with a purpose – they are all teleological
  • The resulting system embodies that purpose because it drives the decisions that are made during the design and development
  • This can be demonstrated by comparing similar tools, design by different groups for different purposes. e.g. assignment submission in Webfuse versus Blackboard.
  • It can be extended to examining the stated purposes of the system owners. e.g. the intent behind the design of the ABM system within Webfuse driven by management and consequently rejected by academics.