The licence of our current Learning Management System (aka Virtual Learning Environment) runs out at the end of 2010 and we’ve been busy doing a review/evaluation for a new LMS/VLE. It’s been most opportune that there has been a lively debate (across the interwebs) regarding the VLE and whether or not it’s dead, and/or, long live the Personal Learning Environment (PLE). [Recently a new term has been suggested by Mary Bold: Learning Management Platform or LMP (link courtesy of Mark Smithers)]
A number of thoughtful blog posts have addressed the topic and this has led to a useful debate on the difference between the VLE and the PLE. I’ve listed a number of these post below and you might also be interested in viewing the video of the debate at the ALT-C ‘VLE is dead’ symposium.
- Steve Wheeler: Two fingered salute (a post that helped spark the debate)
- Donna Hay: Web 2.0 v VLEs (make sure you look for Part 2 as well)
- James Clay: It’s not dead… yet…
- Lindsay Jordan: The VLE/PLE debate
- Dan Stucke: The VLE debate, my thoughts
- Matt Lingard: VL-istically speaking
I’ve also just come across Mike Bogle’s recent post: Addressing the Big Picture, where he asks questions about the suitability of a LMS for learning. These (management)systems are good for many things but can fall down in providing opportunities & flexibility for learning.
All this is healthy discussion and useful for us all as we wrestle with what learning, teaching, and education might be/come in the future.
Part of our process involved setting a range of evaluation criteria, running some vendor session, having academics staff complete a number of scenarios in each product. All this has happened alongside other evaluations streams such as; total cost of ownership, technical such as technical and streams. It’s good to see that we are investing some resources in trying to do as thorough job as possible in a limited time frame.
One of the most interesting experiences of the process at our institution so far has been to spend most of a day with stakeholders from across the institutions (except for any students) and talking about how a new LMS would impact the core purpose of our work tat the university. What struck me most about all the talking we did, was that we didn’t talk about technology – we spoke about learning and how a new LMS might support that. We also talked about a parallel system that could include an e-portfolio and be the basis of a PLE.
I believe we need to be careful when talking about purpose – what we expect an system or environment to provide or support. Maybe we need to remember to choose the appropriate tool for the job, but that means we need to have a good toolkit. A tradesman will have invested in a range of good tools, fit for purpose & that cover the extent of his ‘discipline’ (although I do know a plumber who uses a hammer almost exclusively). This would mean that an investment needs to made in good tools and some ‘training’ in how to use them. Are our institutions willing to invest in more than just the tools?
My take-home of all this? Maybe it’s no so much about which product we choose (they all seem to have the same range of functionality), it’s more about our understanding of learning in a changing world, what flexible education is, and what the strategic direction the institution is with regard to the type of life-long learner we want our students to develop into. As I heard George Siemens ask in a webinar recently, ‘Is the university there for it’s ability to provide a transformative experience for learners, or does it exist for it’s ability to be a utilitarian agent for pathways into a profession?’ In making the decision to choose a new system are we also taking the opportunity to rigorously examine our position (policy & framework) on (flexible) learning?