To LMS or not to LMS...that is the question

Interestingly, when I started out at HPSS I was completely convinced that we would not need a formal LMS (Learning Management System). I believed the time of Moodle, KnowledgeNet and UltraNet was behind us. I believed that students should manage themselves and teachers and students should have free choice. I believed that providing one LMS as our main online space was simply no longer needed. Then, as time passed, I reconsidered, I started to look back on Moodle with increasingly rose tinted glasses. I remembered the structure, the untapped potential of all those activities, all those plugins. Before I knew it I was making a steady u-turn. I began thinking, yes, we do need a LMS, we need that Moodle - even if only as a front door, a front door that allowed us to mash up Google Apps, Gmail, KAMAR student portal, MyPortfolio and links to eTV and our Library Management System. Moodle, Google and MyPortfolio supported by SSO (single sign-on) became the vision once more. 

With this thinking fresh in my mind, I started to craft our ICT and eLearning strategic plan, lovingly aligning decisions with our values and visions (see my last post), got in touch with Catalyst and Norrcom discussed hosting and SSO - I thought I had cracked it!

Then came a couple of great comments on my blog, politely challenging my thinking around having an LMS....haven't we moved beyond that? Then boom, it hit me. Maybe I was doing exactly what I was afraid I would do - I tweaked my thinking and then I retreated to what I knew from the past, potentially missing an opportunity for doing something new, something fresh and innovative. 

So where does this leave me, back where I began, pondering the future and the necessity of having a formal LMS. 

In the time before my "tweak and retreat" thinking, I had been considering simply providing a Google Site as a front door and a means for providing a simple architecture. This would still work as a SSO page and could include links to Gmail, Google Drive, MyPortfolio, eTV and the library. I know Ormiston do this, and I would be keen to hear from others doing similar. It does however raise the question around KAMAR student portal, could still you embed it somehow? Could you embed individual Gmail account views? I understand how we could embed a school Google Calendar and any number of hyperlinks...but I want more than that. And I still can't get away from the things I like about Moodle...I like the courses that students can self-enrol into, I like the way that it is individualised and dynamically so, in a way a simple website isn't....or am I wrong about this? Or am I missing the point altogether. Do students not even need this anymore?

Darn it. It would seem that I have got myself stuck at a philosophical ICT planning crossroads. If we go with a formal LMS am I retreating back into a comfort zone? If we go the Google Site way are we doing so at the expense of student online experience? 

LMS or not to LMS? 

What you think? 


  1. I hear and empathise with your pain! Our e-learning committee is grappling with similar issues at the moment. My own feeling is there needs to be a central space that everyone shares. However, when all is said and done, regardless of the amount of thought that has gone into making the LMS decision, I think it may all boil down to what will be used most efficiently by the school community. We have Ultranet but it isn't been used successfully at the moment and I think that may in large part be due to teacher buy-in. Simple, effective and easy to use is what's required. Keen to hear what your final decision is!

  2. I'm really interested by this conversation Claire, because I think it's starting to get louder and louder, isn't it? I can't really speak to the tecchie aspects of your problem, but I guess from the point of view of the learning, it points towards an extended social network doesn't it? We have a lot of stuff now about constructivism and connectivism and it seems that this points towards a network of learners who can engage in a two way dialogue about the learning taking place. This places them in a node that is connected to a broader network. Does the LMS limit this somewhat, in the sense that it's rather a one way platform? I guess the implication is that the learning still belongs to the institution? With the whole 'lifelong' learner thing, do we want students able to practise forging connections and critically engaging with content for themselves? Or do we need to keep them in the garden that an LMS provides? I think it's really interesting question, and am keen to see where this debate gets to.
    Maybe I haven't seen enough excellent uses of Moodle. The examples I've seen tend to look more like automating learning, and the administration of learning, rather than encouraging the 21C learning process as we think about it now.
    But I'd be really happy to understand more about how schools see this and are approaching it.

  3. You should definitely go with LMS. I understand that you have hesitations, it is normal, you are in doubt after all, but you shouldn't let it hold you back from doing what you have always wanted to try to do.

    - Peter, source for e-scripts

  4. Claire, we at Newmarket School will follow your journey with interest as we are in the same quandrum. Looking forward to reading the next instalment.

  5. Hi Claire
    Although I probably can't give a definite opinion on this it is something I have thought about a little bit. We have an LMS, but due to the size/nature of our school I think we probably need one.

    Over the past year or so, I've started thinking of the LMS as a portal where you can go into to get linked out. The LMS is a good, safe, secure place for discussion and connection with other students and teachers, but then we can link out to other, often better, more appropriate sites/tools. They can then be brought back in for more discussion or to collate what has been done 'out there'.

    Part of my reasoning for thinking of the LMS like this is that sometimes there is resistance to using the LMS as it doesn't necessarily do everything we want it to. I'm a big proponent of 'the right tool for the job' and always say that if there's something better, then use it.

    I'm sure that doesn't really help, but those are my thoughts on the matter anyway :)


  6. A very timely post, Claire.' The Learning Junction' At Takapuna Normal Intermediate, we keep an eye on either side of the tracks as far as what digital spaces both primary and secondary schools use and where we fit in. As the culture in Intermediate schools changes so frequently, we have tried to find a system that reflects that and responds to a climate where students are really in two different mind sets at the beginning and end of Intermediate school. At the beginning, they are just out of primary school and quite likely coming from either no LMS or a tightly regulated LMS or similar and usually with very little in the way of Digital Citizenship and its enormous scope. By the end of Intermediate, they have to consider BYOD, mobile technology, managing one's digital dossier, and a good understanding of Digital Citizenship...

  7. Re. above post on 'Learning Junction'
    My response/tangent was too long to fit on the blog, so have added a link here as a continuation:
    Feel free to comment here or on the doc.

  8. I was up at the University of Auckland today talking to the new Head of CEDD. Steve has a really clear vision for what eLearning and pedagogy can look like for their teacher trainees:

    We touched on this and they're definitely in the business of keeping the LMS. Yes, it functioned more as course admin than LMS, curating student work for moderation, enrolling in courses etc. It was also needed as a 'front door' or 'launchpad', echoing your thoughts and those of others. He was clear that that was the admin side of things, but in terms of supporting the learning, they were all about BYOB and browser based, OS agnostic tools that worked best. Dropbox was a favourite for example, along with GDrive, and whatever else fits with their increasingly PBL approach to teacher training.
    Hope that helps, I'm keen to see where this debate leads. I think there is now a few tools out there that try and create the best of both worlds. I've heard good things about 'Schoology' for example?
    Ok, cheers Claire.

    1. Thanks Chris! This is really useful to know about. Cheers Claire


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

An open letter to Minister Hipkins - 13 Reasons Why EVERY teacher deserves a pay rise!

An open letter to New Zealand students - you are bigger than any exam!

The Principal Diaries: My Lens on Powerful Learning