Article Summary: Siemens (2004) Learning Management Systems: The Wrong Place to Start Learning

The following article by George Siemens provides an interesting critique of LMS from the perspective of learning ecologies. He suggests the key learning principles and design requirements are needed for learning environments that encourage learning ecology.

Article Summary

Siemens describes that the common perspective of Learning management systems as the key tool for e-learning is "valid from a management and control standpoint, but antithetical to the way in which most people learn today."  He suggests that traditional LMS tools offer a way to present content and for administration, however their common use often assumes that exposure to content precedes learning. He argues that LMS should be implemented as "part of a holistic learning environment" to give the users control and flexibility to choose their own learning path.

Seimens suggests that learning is "not a process to be managed" but it is "by nature multi-faceted and chaotic." He suggests that inflexible dependent tools don’t support informal learning, performance support nor knowledge management and that feature-rich tools (such as an LMS) "can’t do it all without losing functionality" and lose practicality.

The key problems include:

  • Structured tools dictate interactions;
  • Interface design;
  • Limitations to communication tools;
  • Limitations to learning tools;

Siemens suggests that LMS are suitable when content and information provision is key to the learning strategy, however when interactions and connections are key then he suggests that social tools are required.  He suggests that educational programmes for knowledge and comprehension based subjects need a structured content approach, however this is limited for programmes with subjects that require higher cognitive  skills.

Siemens lists a number of effective alternatives to LMS including:

  • modular tools so that functionality can be expanded;
  • social tools to encourage individual expression and connect learners and content;
  • integration of synchronous tools; and
  • learner focused tools that encourages learning ecology.

The types of tools suggested include blogs, wikis, CMS, social tools, networking tools, collaborative spaces, and connection making protocols (RSS and Atom).  Siemens suggests that these alternatives provide learner control of the type of content explored and how they explore to effectively respond to their learning goals.  He suggests that learning networks are better in an "information overload society" than traditional linear learning models.

Siemens lists a number of key design requirements for learning environments:  

  • facility for learner expression (blog)
  • facility for content interaction
  • facility to connect with other learners (discussion forum)
  • facility toconnect thoughts of other learners (RSS feed)
  • facility for instructor dialogue (email, VoIP)
  • facility for mentors/gurus dialogue (forums, commentary)
  • facility for management of learning artefacts, resources (personal knowledge management tools, i.e. del.icio.us)
  • modularised interface so additional functionality and tools can be added on where required.

Siemens suggests that reality of learning runs counter to LMS design and implementation.  he suggests that "strongly structured tools, with limited extensibility, face short life cycles in rapidly changing environments."  Modularisation and specialisaiton of tools allow development of specific learning paths and tasks and the development of "rich learning ecologies".

Reference 

Siemens, George (2004): Learning Management Systems: The Wrong Place to Start Learning.
http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/lms.htm

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editors Antti Katajainen & Gerard Brady