The Ed Techie: The VLE/LMS is dead

Martin Weller raises several points to support the use of a combination of Web 2.0 type tools, rather than an Institutional VLE. While I think that the points he raises are valuable, and that the combination of tools would make a good set (call it a PLE or not as you like!). I agree  with many of the comments, however, that it’s just not going to happen in the next few years. He’s also posted a follow up post, answering several of the points that people raise.

Introducing EduGarage!

Blackboard officially launched EduGarage on October 23rd. This is a site that brings together all the developers working on Powerlinks for the assorted Blackboard products. It’s set up as a wiki, with forums etc.

What I find particularly interesting is that they’ve announced it on the Blackboard blog, which is rather more feature rich (essentially a “bog standard blog”) than the blogging tool built into WebCT Vista. I’ve not seen Blackboard’s blogging tool, but from what I’ve read, it’s pretty much like WebCT’s. In the Web2.0 category there are a number of useful tools, such as Scholar – a social bookmarking tool,  the work that is being done to link Blackboard with SecondLife and other Virtual worlds, and a few other ideas.

It looks like Blackboard are starting to realise that a closed monolith isn’t the way that the education world wants to work any more.  I hope that they are going to really make good use of the ideas, not a “sort of” one that really isn’t what can be done with other tools. (At present, the blogging tool in WebCT Vista is a “sort of”)

Via: Stephen Downes

Blogs as PLEs

James Farmer gives a presentation from the HigherEd Conference. He makes several good points, starting with the current situation that many users are in, they have WebCT or Blackboard as an existing system. One point he raises, which is often overlooked I think when people compare WebCT etc., with Blogs & a more personal setting. When they were launched, most VLEs were at the “cutting edge”. Forums were new, they were making the most of that. Now things have moved on, but many VLEs have yet to really encompass that.

One thing that I really feel is the problem of “caging in”. Information can’t get out of the VLE. The student has to go there to see if there is new information. Now, students are getting increasingly used to RSS feeds etc, to bring the information to them. If more tools such as WebCT were to introduce that, and to have blogs that allowed students to have audiences outside their immediate cohort, then I think they have a future. At present, they tend to concentrate on the very small user group of the class. Which, while useful, especially when studnets are getting to grips with blogs, probably isn’t that useful long term.

Moodle on a Stick.

In the past, I’ve tried to put Moodle on a USB stick with WoS (Webserver on a Stick) as the server. I’ve never been able to get it going at Work; though I did get it going at home. I was still keen to at least see if I could try to get it working, so finding Pierre Gorissen’s video explaining (very clearly!) installing it on a USB stick with Xampp as the server, encouraged me to try again. Success! I have even had it running on a locked down lab machine.

Effects of Information Distributions Strategies on Student Performance in a CMS

Scott Leslie comments on a report by Margaret Lohman, looking at student performance when material was delivered to the students via a VLE (available pre-class), or handed out in class. Though the numbers involved are small, and they are all graduate students, the results are interesting.

First, the study’s findings provide little evidence to warrant continuing the conventional practice of using a CMS as a alternative way of presenting course materials and information. CMSs cost millions of dollars to purchase and maintain. Instructors must spend countless hours learning how to use the technology, preparing materials for CMSs, and monitoring student use of course websites. And, for what benefit? No evidence was found in this study to indicate that on-line access to course materials yields any positive dividend in terms of student learning or satisfaction. (Lohman)

She goes on to add:

Instead, CMSs should be used to conduct learning activities, such as facilitated group discussions and problem-based learning experiences, that supplement in-class activities as well as to provide additional learning resources that are not available in class.

More research needs to be done, particularly as we, in common with many universities, have a policy of encouraging staff to use WebCT to support face to face teaching. The default is, as this report also finds, as a repository (some may even say “dumping ground”) for handouts, course books etc. What should we be doing to better utilise it?

PLEs, XCRIs, SUMs and other acronyms in Melbourne

Scott Wilson has yet another set of slides about PLEs – not quite the same set as I’ve seen before – and so has some useful extra additions. There are a few slides comparing VLEs & PLEs (I’d love to know what he said as he presented those slides!). You will, however, need to have QuickTime (not Quick Time Alternative) installed in order to see some of the slides, so I’ll have to check them later on another PC.

Open Source at the Commons

Josie has got some information about an Early Day Motion (Software in Education: number 179)
The motion reads:

“That this House congratulates the Open University and other schools, colleges and universities for utilising free and open source software to deliver cost-effective educational benefit not just for their own institutions but also the wider community; and expresses concern that Becta and the Department for Education and Skills, through the use of outdated purchasing frameworks, are effectively denying schools the option of benefiting from both free and open source and the value and experience small and medium ICT companies could bring to the schools market.”

You’ll need to contact your MP within the Week, but it can be made a lot easier by using Writetothem – which enables you to find & email your MP.

Collaborative Notetaking

DyKnow seem to supply some collaborative notetaking software. It looks interesting, but, though I can find several places telling me that the *client* is free, I can’t seem to find the cost of the server – which it seems to need! There are other tools that I have found, that are free; for example:

  • Google Notebook (can have private or public books)
  • MyNote it – designed for students – and you can enter your University.
  • Wikis
  • etc., etc., etc,

Then we might want to see if it’s possible to draw together this, with other tools, either for an individual or an institution to form a PLE.

Blackboard and Patents

Over the summer, the Edu-blogosphere has been fairly actively following Blackboard’s patent for “eLearning”.

Alfred Essa’s Nose has got a pretty good summary of what’s happened so far, and he’s got links to a lot of others view points, though most are pretty much along similar lines.  From a UK point of view, it’s worth noting that US patent law doesn’t apply in the UK, though EU patent law does. Essa comments that though Blackboard have started the process in the EU, it is a slow process (5 years or so), and the initial reports suggest that the EU patent office feel that BB’s claims are not novel.

The BBC have an overview report they published when the claim first hit, with useful references, including one to No Education Patents – which covers the patent claim in plain English – and has a link to a comprehensive history of Educational technology – which tends to refute BB’s claim of novel ideas.

It’s a debate that’s likely to be ongoing, as I’m not a lawyer, I’ve really no idea if this is likely to stifle further development – if BB just sue anyone they see, or, if BB can’t sustain the cost implications – and the company folds. Or, if it ends up being a big hoo-hah now, but calms down in the future.