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I was putting together some thoughts on the ways we should move beyond the LMS walled community when this piece by George Siemens appeared in the RSS feed for the lms tag on del.icio.us. It makes some good points about the limitations of an LMS. But the author seems to think that these systems are doing an OK job with content:

Certain learning tasks are well suited for an LMS (centralized functions like learner administration and content management).

And:

When content is viewed as the most valuable contribution to learning, an LMS will suffice. When interaction and connections are viewed as the most valuable aspect of learning, then other options - like social tools - are reasonable alternative.

I disagree that current Learning Management Systems (at least BlackBoard and WebCT) do an adequate job of managing content.

I suppose you could do good content management in your average Learning Management System, but they are basically set up to work as uninspiring online collections of MS Word and Powerpoint documents. That’s not content management, that’s file management, and quite often it descends into file mismanagement.

Real content management is making content linkable and flexible, and that takes work throughout the content lifecycle, setting up templates, schemas and organization wide standards for both style and substance.

Furthermore I don’t think that you have to distinguish between ‘content’ on on hand and on the other ‘interaction and connections’. Interactions are content, and as I have mentioned before, seed content can be used to spark interaction. Content can and should be extended dynamically throughout the learning process. But this process is difficult to imagine when the content is not well prepared technically for reuse and reconfiguration. No help there from the LMS vendors.

So, while I agree with George Siemens that only certain parts of an LMS are useful, I think they could do better on content. What’s left, then? The learner administration functions, gradebook, adding up marks and so on.

I think there could be a good case to shift all interaction, including quizzing and assessment into an advanced, true content management environment and leave the LMS as an administrative assistant tallying up marks, sending reminders about course fees and administrative deadlines and reporting on numbers and so on. At USQ there already exists an assessment system that plugs into the back end (PeopleSoft) systems and integrates with an XML publishing system for print, so the housue LMS is not even carrying a full load in the assessment area.

update: fixed apostrophes

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