My goal for my blended learning prototype is to be practical and applicable to a course I teach called Organizational Behaviour delivered to first-year diploma students in the School of Business. While I was hoping to explore the many possibilities of open source learning platforms and other types of media, instructors in my institution are required to use Brightspace offered by D2L to deliver online and blended courses. The features I have used in this learning management system (LMS) are uploading content, student discussion forums, formal and summative assessments tools, and the student gradebook. While I have some experience, which seems ideal, my initial thoughts on being restricted to using a LMS were bleak. Let me explain.
Considering the Closed Borders of a LMS
I have found most LMSs I have had experience with both as a student and educator, while useful, clunky, not entirely user-friendly and worst of all once the course was over all the evidence of learning was no longer accessible. Delivering a blended learning course strictly within a LMS closes the learners off to networked learning using the open web. As Audrey Watters from Hack Education ponders, as do I, who really owns the learning and why is learning locked-in and locked down? Watters emphatically urges educators in higher education to move beyond the LMS and into the open web. It is unclear to me whether she is advocating for the abandonment of a LMS, or if she means that educators must expand the borders that surround the LMS to include the use of many multi-media platforms available in the open web? What is your interpretation of her closing argument?
Expanding the Borders of a LMS
Bates, in his textbook Teaching in the Digital Age, argues that while core technologies such as the Internet and LMSs are important tools for education, it is digital media (text, graphics, audio, and computing) that promotes interactions between educators, learners, and content whereby learning becomes meaningful. LMSs such as Brightspace provide opportunities for this interaction, but for me, expanding the borders of the LMS and including digital media tools available in the open web is important to facilitate networked learning. These multi-media artifacts are student created and owned and are typically housed in the open web then shared within the LMS. For example, creating a YouTube video and then embedding it in Brightspace. Another example may be blogs hosted externally and linked within the LMS. This media can create exposure to a wider networked learning experience. And, ultimately, where learning has infinite possibilities.
There is one other important issue I wanted to address regarding LMS platforms, including Brightspace. I have always found that these platforms have awkward text and visual design, do not convert well to handheld devices and are not as user-friendly as widely used social media platforms. This can sour the user experience, as it had for me while I was a student, and was a major reason I was shying away from using a LMS. However, I recently discovered that Brightspace has a new user interface called Daylight that has a more modern look and can adapt to smaller devices. It is my hope it addresses these aesthetic and functional issues.
In conclusion, I feel much more confident in using the Brightspace LMS as a central hub for my course prototype. With multi-media artifacts created and stored in the open web yet shared within Brightspace, it is my hope students will feel more of a sense of ownership and can take most, if not all, their learning artifacts beyond the course end date. In addition, the presence this will allow them in the open web can lead to a wider learning network.
My next steps in exploring the capabilities of Brightspace to create a networked learning experience that extends its borders:
- Are there apps compatible with Brightspace to make the learner experience more meaningful. For example, is there an app that allows access to the LMS?
- Look further into the capabilities of the new user interface, Daylight, with respect to sharing learning created in the open web.
- How can social media be linked or utilized within Brightspace? Similar to linking a Twitter feed to a blog.
Thank you for following along. I am interested in your thoughts on my plan so far. Is there anything further I could consider when using a LMS that may enhance the student experience?