I wrote several weeks ago that we need to deconstruct the learning management system (LMS) and then reimagine it from the ground up as a “learning” system, not a “management” system.

While there are exceptions, online learning, by and large, has become a vast, sterile wasteland of outdated content and pedagogy. Like many of our industrial legacy educational structures, the focus of the LMS on management over learning creates students that are merely widgets, not learners. It is time to fundamentally reimagine this space.

A number of years ago, I developed a framework called Ideaspaces to help me design an innovation center. It was and came out of a host of disconnected reading I was doing about what facilitated innovation and learning. I recognized that innovation and learning are basically the same thing. “Learning” is self-innovation; “innovation” is the scaling of learning to an organization and beyond. The underlying principles are the same and can be applied to all systems designed to facilitate and augment human intellect.

3 things higher ed must do to fix our broken online learning systems

Ideaspaces is made up of three parts. First, the physical or virtual Space, which is the environment that facilitates creative thought and interactions. Second, once spaces are established, people need the Time to reflect and interact. Finally, the Structure of the organization, from a class to a company, needs to be designed to scale ideas across the larger community. This framework is directly applicable to our LMSs. Without oversimplifying a complex discussion, Ideaspaces allows us to break down some of the basic needs any system will need to effectively facilitate learning.

Text is not the answer

A careful examination of the digital spaces that exist in our online environments reveals that they are still fundamentally based on textual expression. There are a lot of reasons for this, not least among which is the fact that most faculty, including myself, were trained in a world where text dominated due to technological constraints. Expertise in education is still measured through the lens of reading and writing. Technical restrictions in early learning management systems only served reinforce these biases because they struggled with rich media.

About the Author:

Tom Haymes is a technologist, photographer, teacher, social scientist, project manager, and educational technology leader. He was design lead for Houston Community College’s West Houston Institute and is author of the forthcoming book Discovering Digital Humanity (ATBOSH Media). His website is ideaspaces.net and he tweets at @ideaspacesnet.


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