Michael Feldstein at e-Literate has produced a series of posts on the concept of a Learning Management Operating System. The core of his argument is that:
the heart of an LMOS should be a portal. The main reason I have given so far is that a modern portal is well suited to handle the long tail of specialized learning applications. But portals have many other virtues as well. For a good overview of the benefits it offers to a higher education environment, check out this report [PDF] put out by The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education. In the specific case of an LMOS, the second virtue that I want to highlight is flexible groups functionality.
When defining ‘groups’, most LMS designs are dominated by the metaphor of groups of people on a physical campus. In particular, they usually focus on groups of students within a class and on extra-curricular clubs. This is all well and good, but it misses a critical dis-analogy between the social concept of groups and its implementation in software. In a computer program, the concept of a “group” determines access privileges, which often doesn’t map neatly to those social groups.”
There are some interesting ideas here that we should consider as we contemplate where we might go with our institutional LMS when our current contract with a major supplier runs its course. More of the same is an option but so is anything from an alternative commercial system, through open source and “roll your own”. Past decisions have sometimes seemed to be driven more by technology than pedagogy but it is important this time to consider what functionality is required to support the teaching that we want to do.