LMS, we hardly knew ye

by Jay Cross on September 4, 2006

After this, neither SumTotal, Learn.com, Saba, nor Plateau will ever hire me for a consulting gig. Nonetheless, I must tell you that in informal learning, THE LMS EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES.

Use learning management systems (LMS) for administration, not learning management: that’s the gist of an article from Europe that says what I’m thinking about LMS, unworkshops, and new forms of learning.


Social software: E-learning beyond learning management systems by Christian Dalsgaard is delightful paper and Jane’s eLearning Pick of the Day. The paper draws on many well known North American edubloggers, among them Alan Levine, Will Richardson, D’Arcy Norman, Stephen Downes, Dave Cournier, and George Siemens.

LMS create a walled garden in an era when walls are falling down. Why not use the real internet and real internet technology rather than some hokey oversimplification? Furthermore, how can you manage serendipitous learning that is inherently unmanageable?

Social software — the blogs, wikis, tags, and feeds we cover in our unworkshops — “can help facilitate an approach to e-learning which differs from using learning management systems and which better supports self-governed, problem-based and collaborative activities.”

Dalsgaard arrives at the same place as Informal Learning:

The approach … uses social software technologies to empower students in their self-governed activities. Students are directed at solving a problem, and the purpose is to provide students with tools which they can use to solve problems on their own and in collaboration with other students. Self-governed, problem-based and collaborative activities call for tools which support construction, presentation, reflection, collaboration, and tools for finding people and other resources of relevance to their problem. Using social software to support self-governed activities necessitates a different organization of e-learning than the sole use of an LMS.

Leigh Blackall’s Teach & Learn Online blog takes the argument further. Why do we need Personal Learning Environments when the internet is the real deal? It’s high time to fuse learning with work and with real life.

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