The past reliance on the ever expanding, Learning Management applications, seems to be reaching a natural end point as they have outgrown their usefulness. To achieve education outcomes and user engagement, these large unwieldy solutions require the primary focus to shift to one of ‘program expertise’ in order to utilise them and complete learning tasks. The result can be limiting, slow, confusing and distracting for teacher and learner alike. Further, to achieve acceptable user access to these complex systems, requires a whole series of IT support issues to be managed. IT infrastructure changes and allowances need to be made to accommodate them, mostly resulting in a compromise. Let me clarify that point, IT research over recent years has shown that ‘Best of Breed’ applications require an IT focus of +/- 80% on interfacing, data matching, support and maintenance and only 20% effort is ever focussed on the end-user satisfaction and experience.
The usual practice then of application selection is with a focus on buying a ‘best of breed applications’, but rarely on any of the issues of the integration and IT support to deliver the promised functionality of those best of breed solutions. The result is nearly always a shortfall in the primary reason for purchase, ongoing cost and complexity, and further issues emerge as new technology is required to be embraced. Historically the key driver for this best of breed approach seems vested in an ‘Institution Centric Approach’, application vendors selected have sought to win favour with those institutions, perhaps the safety of selection approach applies here – the old adage of, ‘no-one got fired for selecting IBM’. The change is coming quickly, ‘Institution Centric’ has given way to a ‘Student Centric’ model, which creates an entirely new perspective. It would seem then as a viable approach; for this type of large application solution, has surely reached the end-of-the road. Educators have been calling-out the end of the LMS for years, I think not the end, but the start, the start of a very different execution model.
The Future looks to be more focussed on Platforms rather than applications, platforms that embrace technology, with you, as either teacher or learner being embraced as a part of that platform. This transition from applications to platforms will become a time critical change if we expect better outcomes from Education technology investments. The notional view to take here is, ‘Education as a Platform’. Why, the first answer to this is one of integration. All the needed software elements for either learning, teaching or management tasks are at hand, where you expect to see them, and integrated into the overall platform. So, simply put, both the learner and the educator should themselves be seamless parts of the overall platform, transferring thoughts into pedagogy, accessing, responding and utilising the right tools at the right time to teach and learn.
So what does that make ‘Education as a Platform’? The context here, has to be that the platform itself has all the connections, course access, content and media, collaboration points, research, sharing, storage and retrieval needed to acquire, manage or deliver education. At your fingertips, tasks simplified and conducted without thought, just do. This I feel, will be a rapid change of direction, the target demographic for teaching this way have only ever utilised the best available technology, so will not be receptive or accepting (are not accepting) of old technologies and methods. Universities are the place this demographic group expect to arrive at, and have access to, the best possible education processes and capabilities. If those technologies are not evident, a University cannot expect to grow or retain student numbers. If your Engineering, Research or Medical faculty want access to teach and learn using embedded holographic technology as course content artefacts, how will you embrace that into older technology?
The key to this discussion is not one of, one LMS versus another. It is that, your future LMS or Virtual Learning Environment VLE, must be a new paradigm in technology delivery, one that is built from a totally platform centric perspective, not an LMS that will just ‘run on a platform’. The new direction will mean this new learning management solution needs to be engineered as a component part of the overall platform, and that, that platform itself needs to have the leading edge capabilities and capacities to engage, create and deliver new technologies to the teacher and learner on any device in any location.
John Driscoll, Director ELEARNINGFORCE ANZ 6/6/2016
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