Archive for the ‘WhitePaper’ Category

Beyond LMS white paper – posted for discussion

October 16, 2007

This is the collaboration site for the Beyond LMS white paper. We now have posted a 3rd draft (in PDF) of the document in the pre-press process nearly ready for publication.

Also of note are comments posted by the son of one of the authors, who is a student and provides some perspective on these ideas.

Three of Isaac’s comments caught my attention:

  • another thing, and i’m not sure if this was already addressed, is that you should make sure that students are able to post non-schoolwork content on the service
  • privacy concerns, ip control probably
  • would this site try to incorporate the aspects of facebook, or would it restrict itself to academic stuff?

There seems to be a theme here where Isaac is not sure that we really mean to expand beyond school to the whole learner, or that it is not the business of the institution to tell the owner of the space what should be used to best present themselves. I think this goes hand in hand with the IP and control/privacy concerns. That IP idea is a big one and one that really needs to get into both student and faculty heads — how can faculty think to submit student work to and transfer the IP? Both of these themes connect to “playing school”

In a conference call this AM, I recognized that the next step of this work is not technical, but winning more hearts and minds. WSU has some interesting examples to illustrate these points, we need to get them out into public forums.

Beyond the LMS, issues for campus IT planning

September 12, 2007

I spent an hour today working on our Beyond LMS white paper. This link is to a site where you can look at our collaboration in progress.

The challenge I was working on is taking Gary’s outline and beginning to turn it into 4 pages (max) of engaging prose, that ideally can have pictures and other formatting to make an attractive handout for Educause. I used “track changes” It turns out that anonymous readers can NOT also see the version history (you can hover over the link to the document and see the drop down menu, but then you get challenged. (Arrrg! Microsoft, fix this. In a site with anonymous read access, that should mean all versions too!)

The specific issue I found myself wrestling with was how to turn elements of our thinking about education-futures into thinking that would impact an IT planner. The challenge was, we can do all the pie-in-the-sky educational rationalization we want about Personal Learning Environments and ePortfolios, if faculty are not moving away from the traditional LMS, what is the IT reality?

One IT planning issue would be to respond when faculty begin to change direction. Another would be to think through how IT should go directly to students (or how IT would prefer to cede student-student collaboration to Google).

Since the link above does not provide a means for public comment, use this post to address our collaboration.

PLEs and University IT Planning

September 10, 2007

Writing a synthesis on Personal Learning Environments (PLE) David Delgado says:

The course-oriented, teacher-centered approach of the LMS was not enough to cope with this new ideas in e-learning, and a new concept was used: the Personal Learning Environment (PLE). Personal Learning Environments are systems that help learners take control of and manage their own learning, they are distributed, social and learner-centric. They are composed of a suite of tools that the learner uses to learn whatever they want. So, the learner chooses their own personal learning environment, taking whatever tools that help them to achieve their own goals. Different people have different ideas to build their own PLE.

He goes on to say “I still use my old LMS to build formal courses, workshops and communities.”

Which points to what I am coming to think is the rub that we are trying to address in a white paper we are working on for Educause on LMS futures. The issue we are looking at is institutional planning around adoption, retention, retirement of learning management systems (LMS) and the question might be how should the institutional IT plan for PLEs (or can it at all)?

As PLEs are becoming better described and understood, and because they represent a different model space for learning than the LMS, it leads me to these questions:

  • How should institutional IT plan over the next 2- or 5-years relative to LMS/PLE? Might LMSes be retired? Might LMSes be used differently to interact with PLE thinking? Should the institution host PLEs, or portions of them, or is this an oxymoron?
  • What is the relation of PLE to course design? In the spectrum of pedagogic approaches (Teacher-Centered, Learner-Centered, Learning-Centered) where do current faculty fall? Where do LMS uses typically fall? Are LMSes destined to that niche by their design? PLEs are learning-centered in current use, would faculty adoption of PLEs move them (either PLEs or faculty) toward another point on the spectrum? If faculty fall at one point on the pedagogy spectrum and PLEs on another, what are the implications?
  • What implications are there for PLEs and university courses? Does the university have any role guaranteeing student course-related data will not be lost? How are things archived from a PLE-based course? Who owns the IP? How does the learner establish their identity within the PLE to the satisfaction of the university (issues of plagiarism, cheating, etc). What about other management and logistical issues that LMS solve now (enrollments, single identity, gradebook)?
  • What are the PLE implications for certifying students’ learning? Can the PLE be used to create a portfolio to document learning? Is there a role for standardized testing? Since an increasing number of students are “swirling” (taking courses from more than one institution at a time), does the PLE facilitate making learning visible and coherent?

    Thinking beyond the LMS

    September 9, 2007

    Last week Gary Brown and I ventured to Microsoft offices in Bellevue to meet with Chris Handley and Adrian Wilson and start a collaboration on what we hope is a white paper on our thinking about LMS futures. We now have a collaboration site and a set of notes from our meeting. The collaboration site is a child of my SharePoint 2007 mySite.

    This category of my blog will track our explorations of using the site to conduct our collaboration and to provide a vehicle to make my learning visible during this process. There are two RSS feeds from the site: Our documents and our reference links. For each of these resources (SharePoint “libraries”) I have added metadata (SharePoint “columns”) to help us keep notes about the item and what significance we think is has for our project work.

    I think our project is talking about ideas in a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) and how they interact with the enterprise and its LMS. David Delgado just posted an interesting summary by of PLEs looking at his practice. I think I need to wrestle my thinking about ePortfolio against David’s about PLE.

    I will also track in this blog things I am learning about the SharePoint site where are doing the collaboration. Since the site itself is not open to anonymous comment (and I can’t figure out right now how to make the SharePoint blog allow anonymous commenting), this site can serve as a place for you to trackback or comment.

    Open Source Assessment and iPhone Hacking

    August 31, 2007

    In Half an Hour: Open Source Assessment Stephen Downes wrote:

    What we can expect in an open system of assessment is that achievement will be in some way ‘recognized’ by a community. This removes assessment from the hands of ‘experts’ who continue to ‘measure’ achievement. And it places assessment into the hands of the wider community. Individuals will be accorded credentials as they are recognized, by the community, to deserve them.

    We have been talking quite a bit the last few days about George Hotz and his iPhone blog.

    The important piece in our conversations is that its easy to ‘recognize’ Hotz’ achievement (and a wide community has), and in the way he structured his blog, its easy to ‘recognize’ that he is a thoughtful and collaborative worker, these last two skills being important traits for employers, and his portfolio an interesting example of how students might demonstrate these global competencies in authentic project-based learning.

    Worldware ePortfolios as tools for educational entrepreneurs

    August 21, 2007

    Recently John Gardner posted some thoughts on Entre/Intrapreneurs, and what roles especially they play in a university. This sent me to looking for the blog of Clayton Christensen author of Innovator’s Dilemma. What I found was not specifically Christensen’s blog, but an interesting group blog from his consulting organization. I added that to my blog roll because I’ve found ideas in the book shape my thinking about trends around me at Washington State University.

    For example, I’ve been thinking about Innovator’s Dilemma in the context of BlackBoard Course Management System and alternatives that may exist to that (increasingly expensive) tool. Alex Slawsby’s post gives me some further insights in applying the ideas of “interdependency” and “modularity” that I think play well with my own Web 2.0 and ePortfolio thinking.

    BlackBoard is an “interdependent” system (if I understand Slawsby), with many tightly linked modules. This produces an internally efficient product, but at a cost to the customer. We (WSU) the customer are looking for alternatives that are “good enough” and at lower price points. SharePoint 2007 looks to meet that goal. It also is an interdependent system, but less specialized, it is a collaboration tool used in many business settings. As a course management system, it does not have all the features of BlackBoard, but many faculty don’t use most of the features, so SharePoint may be “good enough.” And for the University, which can amortize the cost of SharePoint over many other collaborative uses, it might be at a lower price point as well. Ehrmann calls tools like SharePoint, developed for other markets and applied to education, Worldware, and argues that they deserve special consideration for being both valuable and viable.

    In a previous post, Slawsby discussed a potentially more disruptive, and more modular approach than even SharePoint to challenge BlackBoard’s CMS — online services offering free storage or other free resources (eg Google Docs). These ideas begin to beg the question, what part of the instructional IT should be outsourced completely?

    I would have previously said that the University can’t outsource its instructional applications, because the University needs to manage the identity (the login ID) of its students — because it has scores and grades tied to those student identities. I would have said, “You can’t have a student just using Blogger, how would you know who they were or that the work was authentically theirs?”

    Enter the student, who is increasingly “swirling” (taking courses from two or more educational institutions concurrently). The student is treating the university programs as modules (Slawsby’s term), mixing and matching courses to make independently concocted programs. The student may use one institution as a home base, bringing in credits toward a degree, or may be jumping around, ultimately looking for someone to credential the melange.

    I recently wrote about an electronic portfolio as the core learning platform. In that thinking, the portfolio serves as the place to present to a specific audience the collection of learning experiences and the value and meaning that come from those experiences. Those experiences are probably not test scores or even a transcript, but more authentic products of learning, work, and avocational activities. Such a portfolio should not be a broadcast, but more like a blog, be open to comment, a place for the learner to present her current state of thinking and seek input to evolve understanding.

    Which brings me back to my interest in Dr. Gardner’s post on Entre/Intrapeneurship in the University. He says, “It [entre/ intrapreneurship] must be embedded in our WSU culture and our curriculum.” Given that swirling students are already acting like educational entrepreneurs, and Google continues to move in directions that allow those students the potential outsourcing of elements of our instructional IT, I think the time for Dr Gardner’s conversation has already arrived.

    ePortfolio as the core learning application

    August 17, 2007

    Much of this thinking springs from Stephen Downes’ review article, eLearning 2.0. Experiments like ELGG and Dave Cormier’s FeedBook have implemented some of these ideas and added to our (Center for Teaching Learning and Technology at WSU) thinking.

    Portfolio thinking/working includes these elements

    • Collect your work
    • Select from your work important examples, annotate what is important (add metadata)
    • Reflect on your work, are you meeting your goals, how do you know
    • Connect your work to that of others (may provide context, support, evidence of success)
    • Project your work into the community to solve problems (provides context and authentic evaluation)

    Following these ideas springs our conviction that platform and tools for creating ePortfolios should be Worldware, rather than custom tools purpose built for education.

    Bloggers have foreshadowed our ideas about electronic portfolios, where they are collecting their original writings and synthesizing/ reflecting about their readings.

    In thinking about Pandemic Flu planning , we have looked at the multiple points of failure and proposed a loosely coupled teach-in, based on an ad-hoc set of tools.

    Our 2007 ePortfolio Contest challenged contestants to document their learning growth — we wanted to explore how to gain insight into the learning that is often masked in a ‘showcase’ portfolio.

    The more sophisticated blogger uses a blog roll to provide context about what influences them. And that blogger understands they are a “central node” (Resnick) of a (self-assembled) learning community — and the blogger/learner seeks critical input from others via comment and trackback. The blogger is engaged in dialog for the purpose of learning within a community of practice.

    We understand the well developed blog to be a portfolio, but find its chronological structure can limit its utility to a would-be portfolio reader. Well developed “review” posts, that link to other posts (supporting evidence) in the blog can serve this synthetic, and demonstrative, role.

    Using a portfolio platform allows the blog to continue in the mode where it is strongest, Collection and Reflection, while the portfolio provides a place to make a presentation to a specific audience for a specific purpose. Ideally the portfolio has its own file storage and Authentication/ Authorization structures to supplement the other systems from which it is aggregating.

    In our thinking a portfolio (see Pandemic Flu), is a hub that can aggregate (but may not need to contain) artifacts (it might be important to bring the artifacts into the portfolio if issues of AuthZ might keep the portfolio reader from seeing the artifact, or if the artifacts are in locations where they are subject to destruction (an example of the latter might be a page in Wikipedia). Typically, the artifacts lie in native environments most suitable to them (Flickr, Blogger,, etc) and are arranged into the portfolio by tagging and a syndication mechanism (such as RSS).

    The piece we are adding with our 2007-08 portfolio contest is the idea to engage with a community (local, national, international) on a problem and its solution. This requires the learner to learn in a multi-disciplinary way in an authentic context.

    The portfolio, in this application, likely becomes a “collaba-folio” where the author is collaborating with a community in the work and documenting learning growth. It is not a showcase portfolio of a finished work. In fact, following BioQUEST, we think that authentic learning work is seldom “finished,” rather it is abandoned in favor of new, more important learning pursuits.

    The teacher in this model is taking actions symmetric to the learner. The teacher is a more sophisticated learner, providing feedback to novices within a web of teaching-learning relationships. The teacher also understands that, through past reputation, he may have social capital to extend to a learner, and that extension can be done publicly via the teacher’s blog roll or by a blog post that synthesizes some aspect of the work of the learner with other members of the community (who may then provide the learner with feedback or resources). The teacher should be conscious in using social capital, and perhaps earned credentials, to advance the thinking of more novice learners into the communities of practice.