Un-Managing Learning Management Systems – A possible future for online learning

James Farmer at incorporated subversion picks up on Scott Wilson’s piece on the future of the VLE and writes:

Take, for example, a typical tertiary student. In any one semester they may well be enrolled in four units each with an online presence each lasting effectively 13-14 weeks… now if each unit has a community and you ask that student to join these communities and keep a blog in each one… the question arises as to whether they would or not… and I’m betting that they wouldn’t (I certainly couldn’t be bothered). Factor into this the matter that they don’t ‘own’ their blogs (the community owns them), they most likely will just get archived / put away somewhere after the term has finished and the fact that probably (certainly presently) their ability to format / develop their bog individually is limited to, if their lucky, a new banner… and I think you’ll get some pretty unmotivated learners.

However, if that learner has their own blog ‘outside’ of the central, managed environment then things can start to look a bit different. Let’s say that in this case they are studying four units and they can simply create categories for each one (so postings relevant to that unit can go there and to their main blog if appropriate), that that category is then aggregated into the ‘central’ area (where unit guides, copyrighted study materials, core materials etc. can also be found) and that this blog also serves as a portfolio cum social tool for the student in question (as each learner has also been furnished with their own aggregator). The student in question owns the content, they are able to develop their blog as they choose and do with their content as they please, they are able to develop an online presence over an extended period of time and become parts of communities through their blog (communities that will form as naturally as communities form in f2f college) and they are able to subvert the technology in many wonderful ways (podcasting, photoblogging, vogging etc. etc.). It’s also their responsibility… and that is a great teacher in itself.

Once again the centre piece is aggregation. It seems that almost everybody outside of WebCT and Blackboard is seeing aggregation of partial solutions as the alternative to a monolithic system. How long before the big boys are trying to own this space, I wonder?

James concludes by speculating about who might build an affordable mass blogging vehicle for education. The next release of Apple’s MacOS X server version (10.4 or Tiger) apparently includes a blog for each registered user. The facility is built over a variant of blosxom which works by formatting and serving any text file stored in a specified directory hierarchy.