Image by moqub via FlickrWe have been talking at work about what the next generation of LMSs (learning management systems) should look like. In the education blog world, LMSs are considered pretty old fashioned because they tend to be proprietary silos, built on old code (by committee), and do not empower students to facilitate their own learning. Once the class is over, the LMS shuts the door behind the student. We agree with all of that. We find it particularly hard to get really meaningful information in and out of most LMSs. We are all in favor of "personal learning networks" - the way LMSs generally attempt to integrate Web 2.0 or social networks is pretty laughable. It is usually misunderstood and bolted on as an after-thought. But LMSs can be important to institutions because they provide a consistent interface for students who may not have any experience with technology. I got the idea to email Stephen Downes about this because I have been reading his blog and newsletter since I have been involved in teaching and education. I asked him what he thought the next generation of LMSs would look like and he was gracious enough to send us this response:
"I guess my short answer to the query is that I think the future LMS will look like what gRSShopper will look like when it's done. Because I've been developing gRSShopper for the distributed and open model of learning for some time now, in other words, exactly where I think institutions should be going. Of course I'm not a great programmer so gRSShopper is far from complete. But it gives a bit of a model of what the future LMS should look like.
In particular, gRSShopper supports a distributed environment, This allows the institution to aggregate student content from wherever it's posted. gRSShopper also supports syndication. So content can be distributed by email or RSS into pretty much any environment. The idea is that the LMS isn't a destination that people have to visit, but rather a clearing house that manages content aggregation, indexing and redistribution.
This is what I've been building out on gRSShopper - but because web 2.0 has migrated away from standards and toward proprietary APIs I need to do a lot more to extend it. But any LMS should be working with remote content minimally with RSS/Atom, DC, LOM, iCal, FOAF, and various other standards, as well as the Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter and related APIs. gRSShopper is a tool for managing things like MOOCs, and should support open online course content.
In addition, student access is ideally managed witgh a personal learning environment (PLE). This is a bit like a gRSShopper for idividuals, but with better management for personal accounts on remote systems. It would also have a more robust player - it would be a PLE that plays cartridges, not LMSs (though PLEs should report to LMSs any results). PLEs contain permanent records for student - all bookmarks, references and readings, created work, etc., is stored (or indexed, if stored in the cloud) locally, so the student can always retrieve it.
That's a short answer. A long answer would be consideraly more in-depth, but along these lines."
We would love to gather more ideas from others. If you have some thoughts on what you think the next generation LMS should look like or not look like, send us an email or leave a comment below.