The #FlexibleLMS. When does more than one become better?

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Photo credit: Bean diversity helps farmers tackle climate change. By CIAT cc licence on Flickr

Great universities have more than one LMS. The LMS can be a flexible space where by taking a multiple LMS approach, larger institutions can strengthen teaching and learning as well as infrastructure capability.  No LMS is suitable for all contexts and subject delivery. RMIT is an excellent place for the ongoing trialing of new LMSs for our own purpose as well as other areas in further education. For example the LMS Kadenze is designed specifically for arts and may better suit design based courses, just as OpenEdX as a free MOOC platform, is designed and now available for creative subject delivery.

For RMIT a second or third LMS could coexist, alongside a more mainstream LMS for most subjects. There could be other small scale instances of other LMSs suited to particular contexts. With common standards such as xApi enabling equivalent learning analytics from different platforms (as well as open content exchange standards), there is no reason why we can’t be more agile and adventurous in the LMS space. It will also help us better leverage better services from those LMS companies servicing us. And as online developments progress with increasing rapidity, we will have built culture and systems better able to adapt to new changes in this space.

As well we need to allow for the optional separation of engagement, collaboration and content from the LMS. xApi can potentially track these activity streams and provide comparable paradata regardless of platform.Geoff Crisp was quite right when he said that the LMS is a management tool, not a learning tool.

As a part of the multiple LMS discussion, we also need to keep and increase our engagement with Google apps for education. I was at a conference recently where the new Victorian State Librarian Kate Torney, was talking about her former role as Manager of ABC News. When she started in that role no-one had any idea that Facebook and Twitter were the ABC’s competition, both for sources and delivery of news. Just as Twitter will never build a radio or television station, Google will never build an LMS, because they are already doing something better for learners and educators. This revolution in education is happening from the ground up, making it hard to sell the benefits to management and administrators. Primary schools move to Google education because of the low entry cost. It is embarrassing to go to a Google for Education Summit and watch how many primary schools, are now more effective at innovation in this space than universities.  There is a sense at these events of teachers having fun, hacking together unique sets of tools to create their own systems of learning management and delivery. Google makes available a myriad of “small” tools such as Google apps for education, add-ons in Docs and Sheets, Chrome Extensions, YouTube, Chromebooks, Cardboard, Maps, Analytics, Classroom, and the list goes on. It is a flexible ecosystem that in isolation is not an LMS but when used in combination creates more than any LMS can do. Google teaches innovation to educators without even trying. And yes having everything in Google is still not the best answer.

Already we have more than one LMS although we don’t readily acknowledge this. By including Google amongst a larger choice of delivery options, we create an environment where educators make better online choices for students, regardless of the platforms they choose. And if we include common standards for collection of data such as xApi, we can still collect equivalent data for the purpose of both improving delivery and improving feedback to students.

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