LMS Usage Transparency


I was pretty conflicted whether to post this at all – you may have noted the frequency of posting on anything LMS-related is WAY down on edtechpost, ever since I got born-again, and the vision of learning here seems, well, problematic at least (which is why I removed the title “A Student Feedback Tool That Links CMS Use with Good Grades” from the original link).

But…this is interesting and does deserve some attention both for its steps towards transparency and some of the ways in which transparency is being used to engender positive faculty peer pressure. I can already hear all sorts of howls from every direction – about faculty rights and independence, about the shallowness of this as a ‘ratings’ scheme, of students gaming the system, of… Yeah, I get it.

But if you find yourself charged with supporting and promoting a campus system (and don’t actually feel like answering for yourself the soul destroying question of why you have to sell something if it is actually as valuable as it’s supposed to be) then maybe this will jog some ideas loose. While I will continue to suggest that simply being fully open is ultimately a better way to address many of these issues, until that ideal situation pertains, sometimes we gotta take our ‘openings’ where we can find them. “There is a crack in everything…” – SWL

4 thoughts on “LMS Usage Transparency”

  1. Scott – abstract from the technology entirely and ask whether course learning or school learning is different from your own learning now. My guess is that you will find the former stiff and perhaps entirely blocking learning and very much about credentialing, the latter fluid and informal and more quickly going to the heart of the matter. Then ask (this is harder) whether you’ve become more impatient about school learning while when you were enrolled you were okay with it. (Is it you who’ve changed or school that’s changed?) Now bring the LMS back into the equation.

    My experience at Illinois is that while there are a few others who feel likewise, Learning Technologists as a group want to change teaching and learning more than faculty or students want to see it change.

    Then I’d add on top of that consider the segmentation in Higher Ed. My campus has reasonably high student performance as measured by the most common statistic, graduation rates. Here the correlation between LMS use and course grades are interesting for certain niches in the student population who typically under perform relative to the average, but it is less interesting overall. At other campuses with substantially lower graduation rates, the correlation is likely more interesting across the board, as it is a proxy for that old variable – class participation.

    One more thought. We have a lot of classrooms with bolt down seating where a student can’t turn in the chair to face his neighbor. Most of that is in very large auditoriums, but we have some in smaller classrooms. That design matched someone’s conception of how instruction should happen and it has persisted. Bolt down seating isn’t going away any time soon. I’d venture the same is true of the LMS.

  2. Hey Lanny, I’ll let the opening ad hominem slide, though you should know that I’ve bucked against the way formal education works since I was in high school. And I did *really* ‘well’ at school and university. I can be real good at jumping through hoops, and even then knew it was inauthentic. I just wasn’t ready to let go of the inauthentic.

    I’m not oblivious that LMS will be here for a long time; that’s why I posted this post – the caveat at the start was a message to compadres who otherwise would ignore this simply because it had something to do with LMS. I disagree with you on both points about faculty and students not wanting it as much – if we are more vocal, it’s because we KNOW there is something different.

    Bolt down seating – we used to walk out and do classes in the halls or in the field when we encountered stuff like that. There’s no excuse for settling, especially if you are not literally forced to. Sure, pick your battles, and for me, as an educational technologist, developing and promoting alternatives to the LMS-based vision of educational technology is one of them. A lonely one, maybe, a pointless one, perhaps. Won’t be the first windmill I tilted at. But as the good Reverend always reminds me, you can’t live wrong rightly.

  3. Scott

    Some of what I said is based on recent focus groups and surveys with students. Last semester was our first try at moving the introductory Finance course here to a blended format. There were several ways in which the implementation was clunky, so that we got some push back from the students was anticipated, but I was surprised to hear that many said they liked regular lecture and wanted us to bring it back in its entirety.

    More generally, I believe that many students are simply looking to get through college and much less interested in asking what they get out of the experience. I think this is unhealthy so in that sense I agree with you, but I believe it describes the reality for many students. I’ve got a long essay on the issue here http://ggames-larvan.blogspot.com/2008/12/chapter-1.html. It goes back to high school, or even earlier. Not many high achievers have taken your approach, I believe.

    Getting back to your original point, it may be that LMS software, especially after it scales up beyond the initial developer, ends up having no vision behind it whatsoever. It represents the aggregation of users (instructors and administrators much more than students) expressed need or the developer interpretations of that expression. The critical point here is that those needs are invariably functional, not visionary, and they represent incremental improvement of where the software currently is, not a radical new direction. Further, product development cycles are slow, which encourages lock in to the old way of doing things.

    So perhaps you might opine on how such software is developed and whether that inevitable if the application is designed primarily for Higher Ed.

  4. When the very first CMS was developed (PLATO – U of Illinois, 1961) the developers noticed improvements in student performance. They later realized that the main thing the system had done was force the professors to organize their material. The students said this over and over.
    I suspect that is still the case today. Its not better teaching, its just more organized.

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