My Question:   In its current form, does an LMS  help, or hinder learning?

IMG_1268I share a lot of articles and resources with my PLN on a regular basis, usually adding a few words to share my reaction to the item. I often get retweets, and sometimes, a thank you or a few tweets exchanged,  but  every now and then, something really special happens.  Sharing  Audrey Watter’s blog post “Beyond the LMS” in September was one of those special moments. This blog post seemed to hit a nerve with several others in my PLN.  There was a desire to talk it out, exchange more thoughts and ideas, more resources, and gain a better understanding.  My friend and fellow Coloradan, Jessica Raleigh,  (@TyrnaD) responded to my comment in a Google Hangout, “This really made me think!” sharing that it made her think too!  She offered to put together a Voxer group to discuss, and proceeded to invite others to join us.  I had no idea how to use Voxer – I don’t think I had ever heard of it before then, so I was excited to learn this new tool on the way to gaining a better understanding of LMSs. Soon, we were joined by  Chris Rogers (@chrisrogers07) and Sarah Thomas (@sarahdateechur), as well as Lisa Goochee (@blubirding)

Thus, the stage was set for our learning. We had:


Note that there is no LMS in this learning scenario.  It is happening freely, serendipitously, utilizing social media of many kinds.  No one gave us this “assignment.” We all participated in this learning out of our personal desires to know and understand, in order to best meet the needs of the students we serve.

Over the course of 4 months, we have discussed, shared additional articles, and even wrote ( and  it was accepted!) a proposal for an unconference-style conversation on LMSs at this summer’s InnEdCo conference in Keystone, Colorado.  We have tweeted, blogged, Voxed, curated, and texted  each other sharing our “ahas,” additional resources, and further questions.   Some things we discussed included:

Image CC Licensed by Wikimedia Commons. Available http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_gate_into_the_Walled_Garden._-_geograph.org.uk_-_1423518.jpg
Image CC Licensed by Wikimedia Commons. Available http://commons.wikimedia.org/

-The word “management” is problematic.  Who should manage a student’s learning?   It seems to be more about control. It can stifle learning.

-The LMS is like a walled garden.   We need to open up that garden and let students interact in the “real world.”

-The LMS could best be viewed as “training wheels” – but eventually, those training wheels need to come off.

  • The LMS affords some level of accountability and safety.  This is why it may always be with us.  This means we need to find a balance between management & control and, well –  learning!


Here’s the thing.  We have been participating in really wonderful, self-directed, unfettered learning. On our own terms.  In our own time. With the tools of our choice. It has been a powerful, heady experience! Relationships have formed – even though most of us have never met face-to-face!

This is what I want for our students. What are the chances that this kind of learning could take place inside an LMS?  That is the question that continues to haunt me.

What I see in practice is that the LMS basically picks up the 20th century teaching and information delivery style, and transfers it into electronic format.  The LMS seems to make the S (substitution) in the SAMR model easiest to accomplish.  It is hard for a teacher and students to form relationships inside its electronic walls. It is hard to foster creativity.

When I have been a student using an LMS, I have felt isolated and alone, other than a very artificial sense of community in the “mandatory” participation in the forums.  Some comments there seem so contrived, they are laughable.

This is not the kind of learning I want for our students.

So, I will continue to seek answers, and try to find that perfect balance.  I am excited that we have an opportunity to draw even more people in our conversation at InnEdCo.

I’d love to know your thoughts on the LMS.  What do you think? Does it help, or hinder learning?

Ed-tech must not become an extraction effort, and it increasingly is. The future, I think we’ll find, will be a reclamation project. Ed-tech must not be about building digital walls around students and content and courses. We have, thanks to the Web, an opportunity to build connections, build networks, not walls. – Audrey Watters


Author: Nancy White

Learner, Curator, Innovator, Teacher, Librarian, and Collaborator. Passionate about designing learning that is engaging, relevant & sticks. 20+ years in education.

One thought on “LMS?!”

  1. I see your concerns Nancy and share many of them. I do think it depends on the functionality of the LMS you are using. I have used Blackboard, Moodle and Desire2learn and hands down loved Desire2Learn in terms of the look and feel. Having said this I used D2L in a school that previously had no LMS and I had better engagement on EDMODO because of its Facebook appeal and you can gamify it a bit. I know that many teachers use FB instead of an LMS and have reported higher student engagement (ie. they are already on FB etc)

    I think it is also depends on the school/subject department ICT culture/uptake – one of the most significant challenges secondary and opposed to primary teachers have been tech implementation is that you see students 40 mins a day and their experience is so different across other learning areas – there needs to be a full commitment to the LMS and it needs to move beyond content transmission. This is difficult given that schools often vet/control what students contribute to the LMS – it is therefore often seen as a tool for teacher transmission.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: