Back in 2012, Jason Blanchard wrote an article for Edudemic about the problems with Course management systems (CMSs), such as Blackboard and Moodle. At that time, CMSs were centralized platforms that host software tools essential for online course instructors and students. CMS tools often offered: a way for professors to upload content, like lectures, notes, and videos: a way for students to upload completed assignments; a messaging or email system; a grade-tracking feature; and communication tools, including either live chat or asynchronous discussion threads. By providing an easy to use, interactive platform for online courses, CMS enabled a greater number of students to benefit from educational opportunities across the globe.
The downfalls of CMSs in 2012, though, were plentiful. Blanchard described how the communication features on many CMS were generally lacking, making the entire experience more synonymous with an outdated online textbook than an advanced web-based social networking platform. Blanchard also stressed that CMS were limited to providing a platform only for reading lecture notes, watching videos, and uploading assignments without providing beneficial opportunities for collaborative work. Lastly, Blanchard explained that students are tech-savvy networkers, who learn by engaging socially with their peers and with their instructors, processes that were not replicated in a CMS’s static environment.
Let’s be honest, 2010 was a long time ago, especially in the world of technology. So we’ve decided to update the Blanchard CMS article. Our goal was to revisit his concerns with the systems in use in 2010 and to see what, if anything has improved since then. What we found was that CMSs are really a platform of the past. They’ve all turned into larger, more powerful Learning Management Systems. (LMS). Let’s take a look at where CMSs started and how they morphed into LMSs.
From the list above, it’s clear that CMSs in 2010 were basically glorified textbooks. They provided the same static experience to education that a student would get from reading a physical book. Nowhere within the CMS platforms were there options for students to engage in collaborative learning and socially synthesize new knowledge from the course.
So, have CMSs gotten better? The answer is yes…and no.
Course management systems are really a thing of the past. Blackboard, Moodle, Brightspace (formerly Desire2Learn), and Schoology have morphed into learning management systems (LMS). An LMS is a more robust platform than a CMS, because it includes not only the course management component, but also reporting for data and analytics. An LMS can be used in a K-12 environment, in higher ed, and even in businesses.
The new LMS versions of the old CMS systems have content management, online app libraries, teaching training videos, advanced reporting systems, and the ability to be used in online and blended learning environments. However, LMSs are still gigantic platforms built to meet the needs of huge amounts of customers. They are not easy to customize for educators with specific needs. In addition, many LMSs are still not providing open source material in order to make it easy to integrate with other programs.
Edcause has suggested in this article that educators consider alternatives to LMSs for more classroom personalization. By compiling a toolbox of specific Web 2.0 tools, like blogging platforms and Goggle Docs, educators can create a personalized LMS, specific to their needs.
For smaller institutions and those teachers not required to use the university- or school-provided LMS, Web 2.0 tools might just be the best answer for course management. For others, the only option is purchasing an LMS. We’ve compiled info on some of your options in the past.
The course management systems of the past had their fair share of problems. In the last few years, they’ve made great strides to break out of their rigid structure and provide more communication options and information to students and teachers. These new LMSs are worth looking into for large-scale adoptions, but individuals, or smaller schools, may want to consider curating their own collection of content, communication, and assessment tools. We’d love to know which CMS or LMS you use, or if you even use one at all. Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments below.
Editor’s note: This piece was originally written by Jason Blanchard and ran on June 1st, 2010. A lot has changed since then, so we’ve had Amanda Ronan update this piece with the latest techniques and innovations.