A comment left by Andy Duckworth on my last post got me thinking about how a more open, persistent LMS might be as beneficial to institutions as it is to students. Andy’s favorite feature of the Instructure’s Canvas LMS is “the ability for students to create groups that can persist outside of a specific class.” Canvas does a lot of clever things (integrating collaborative goodies such as Google Docs and DimDim), but persistent groups is my favorite feature too.
As an instructor at Utah State University I hated getting the emails from the Blackboard administrator telling me that all courses before X date were being deleted to create room on the server for new courses. Not that those courses were open anyway, but it reminded me of the ephemeral nature of those courses. Here today, gone tomorrow.
I think most folks would agree that there is value to making a course available to students beyond the semester/quarter in which they enrolled. It could be a good reference for them in higher level courses, etc. But could there actually be value for institution?
I get calls each year from the alumni associations of the various schools I attended. They usually want me to donate to something. I find it ironic that those same institutions have effectively LOCKED THE DOORS to the online learning I once enjoyed. If they want me to stay involved as an alumni, why not do something to keep me interested. I’m not talking about a tailgate party. If I could come back to the lectures, notes, groups I once participated in I would come back to (some of) them year after year. YOU ARE A SCHOOL. Your best marketing tool is (hopefully) the LEARNING you provide. STOP THROWING IT ALL AWAY.
The next time I get hit up for a donation by an alumni association, I will refer them here. Bottom line: Open your learning and I’ll open my wallet.
I’m reblogging and expanding on a comment I left on Jon Mott’s blog post about the demise of Lively, Google’s Second Life clone. He and I and lots of others are interested in the idea of using collections of social web apps to form Personal Learning Environments in “the cloud.” Institutions are showing interest, but with obvious concerns about lack of control. While Jon’s post focused on the need for caution with cloud apps that can be temporary in nature, I think his words of caution can be applied more generally to any app that doesn’t come with clearly marked exits. Usually, these exits come in the form of standards-based content export capabilities. Look for them. Like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, robust import/export is the sign of a good app.
Now let’s look at this from a marketing perspective. If you are Blackboard, why would you ever allow anyone to export anything useful? If a customers are packing up their content that means they might be leaving. That’s like a crab trap with a big hole at the other end. That is unacceptable.
If you are Blackboard, you talk about IMS Common Cartridge compliance. But don’t do anything to make it actually happen. Take your time talking about it. Heck, you can even join the IMS Global Learning Consortium. That looks good. But don’t write any code until you absolutely have to. And when you are finally forced to implement CC, don’t give users an exit that works too well. They might use it.
Anyway, here is my comment from Jon’s blog:
Seriously, people have been painting themselves into corners ever since the invention of… um… paint. Whether you are talking about cloud-based apps or a Blackboard server nestled safely in your institution’s server farm, you can still wind up stuck… either locked out or locked in. While parts of the cloud will likely blow away, new ones will likely take their place.
The real question is “Can you get in or out of where you currently are, and can you take your data with you?” Frankly, I would rather take my chances on being locked out of a few cloud apps than locked into a single, proprietary LMS. Interestingly, I’m working with a group on an IMS CC-Blackboard converter that should get around the import/export problem despite Bb’s foot-dragging. Guess where it will live? In the cloud… with all those risky, new-fangled apps.