My colleague Jon Becker in our Office of Online Academic Programs here at VCU posted an interesting Twitter conversation in his blog post today. He noted that it started with a live tweet by Jesse Stommel of Jim Groom’s presentation at #et4online. Derek Bruff responded with what he tagged an honest question, and Jon responded as shown below:
Jon went on to quote Steve Jobs that computers were like bicycles for the mind, and that as such, they allowed us the ability to soar. Jon’s point was:
If computers are like bicycles for our mind (and I believe they are!), the Learning Management System (LMS) is perfectly analogous to the training wheels. Riding a bicycle with training wheels on is relatively safe and it can get you from point A to point B, albeit slowly. But, one hasn’t *really* learned to ride a bike until the training wheels come off. Taking the training wheels off liberates the operator of the bike and affords her the freedom to really move and soar and do amazing tricks. Taking the training wheels off of the open web liberates the learning and affords the teachers and the learners to really move and soar and do amazing things.
In many ways, Jon’s point is similar to Lisa Lane’s point three days ago that classes within an LMS isolate students. To mash up her tweet:
Both Jon and Lisa (and Jim Groom) are totally correct. But my mind returns to Derek’s point…and questions of policy during a period of disruptive transition. Very few faculty (at least at my institution) have the digital literacy to drop an LMS cold turkey and move to their own domain. Our twelve schools and colleges, our IT personnel and our HelpDesk are not staffed to support faculty in the absence of an LMS.
So weaving a path between Jon/Jim/Lisa’s ideal and the pragmatic realities of a faculty wedded to a decade of LMS use, how do we begin a campus wide conversation and develop a timeline to achieve this excellent goal? To my mind, the training wheels will not come off until we have faculty buy-in and a clear timeline for transitioning, with a safety net for current faculty as they transition to the open web. It is not a pipedream to visualize a more open (and amazing) educational landscape. In GRAD-602, we already suggest that future faculty will teach and learn in an open web, making full use of the affordances of the web (and we model what we suggest with our fully open class website). But we also suggest to these future faculty that they should approach digital opportunities in a mindful way. LMS systems solve some problems (FERPA, grades) while creating others (stifled creativity). Before we dump one, we should solve the problems it has already solved…and do it at scale, so that thousands of faculty are not left scrambling at a time they are already loaded down with research, teaching and service commitments.
Derek’s honest question inspired my 30-Day Challenge question for today:
Day 25 – How do we in faculty development support the digital presence of 3,000 faculty without something like an LMS?
Honest question, indeed. Be interested in how your campuses are tackling this issue?