Tuesday, March 15, 2016

OER, LMSs and Platforms

In January, I suggested that promoting the use of OER with LMSs would benefit both OER and LMSs.  I've been in Twitter and email exchanges lately with people who don't distinguish between LMSs (learning management systems) and 'platforms.' The term Platform these days tends to refer to a whole bunch of different things. Including LMSs in with all of the other things that are included in the term platform isn't going to serve the promotion of OER. Doing so is similar to what David Wiley refers to as "theory neutrality." Wiley says, "Software vendors and standards bodies describe their learning object related work as being “instructional theory neutral.” Were this the case all would be well in learning object land. Problematically, a more accurate description of their products is “instructional theory agnostic,” or in other words, “we don't know if you're employing an instructional theory or not, and we don't care.” As stated above, it is very likely that the combination of learning objects in the absence of any instructional theory will result in larger structures that fail to be instructionally useful."

Putting LMSs in the same category as platforms is a weak attempt at being all inclusive; my point in suggesting that OER and LMSs will benefit each other is to highlight what LMSs will do for teachers who use them in concert with OER. A LMS "delivers and manages instructional content, identifies and assesses individual and organizational learning or training goals, tracks the progress towards meeting those goals, and collects and presents data for supervising the learning process of the organization as a whole.[4] A learning management system delivers content but also handles registering for courses, course administration, skills gap analysis, tracking, and reporting.[5]  Platforms don't necessarily do those things above, and doing all of those things with OER is what needs to happen in order for teachers and the institutions they're a part of to adopt OER more often.

Teaching is still largely done as a function within a larger system, and rightly so. Teaching and learning are community activities. Sure, teaching and learning can happen and often does happen as part of a one to one relationship, but it's that relationship within the context of a larger institution that gives the larger meaning to the teaching and learning. Learning happens in colleges that are part of a university; learning happens in classrooms in schools that are part of a district that are part of a state system of education. The LMS serves as the mechanism that defines the learning in the larger context. If OER is to be more relevant in schools of all kinds it needs to be explicitly and intentionally connected to the larger systems of the institutions. It's OK and even preferable to use the term LMS. The quicker that happens the better.


  1. Hi Dan, would love to hear your thoughts on what's discussed in this blog post: http://blog.opened.com/post/140812366424/goopen-learningregistry-and-schemaorg Learning Registry seems to be trying to make that happen with companies built around best accessing and using that information... -Brandon Dorman, Lead Content Curator, OpenEd.com

  2. Thanks for the question, Brandon. I don't think what OpenEd is doing has much to do with OER (open education resources) as I understand the meaning of OER. I rely on the Hewlett Foundation definition-" OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge."

    OpenEd is co-opting the notion of open education resources as a way to get paying customers for Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. What OpenEd is doing will hinder the wide adoption of real OER and undermine the professionalism of teachers. I think you missed my blog post back in November when I talked about my idea of the OER business model - http://developingprofessionalstaff-mpls.blogspot.com/2015/11/the-oer-business-model.html

    I hope your days continue to be interesting and full of learning.

    1. I just found your blog that is true - hadn't made it back to that post before posting this.

      We aren't getting customers for Pearson and HMH... all of our free assessment content is OER (https://www.opened.com/search?license=free&offset=0&resource_type=assessment). We only offer the premium assessments to be able to have more assessment content on the site.

      I see your post on twitter about us co-opting the movement and disagree - we've been here since 2012 working on better categorizing and organizing K-12 educational videos etc on the internet.

  3. Brandon, I hope your days continue to be interesting and full of learning.

  4. Thanks, I'm really enjoying reading your posts. The university I adjunct at uses Moodle and before I joined OpenEd OER is something I've always been passionate about. Can I send someone who is creating an open moodle-based-course around Eureka Math (based on Engage NY which is OER)your way?

  5. Sure, I'm all about collaboration. EngageNY has way too many links to paid stuff for my liking and not nearly enough LMS ready stuff, so I'm happy to help push it that way.

  6. Hi Dan - A colleague recently introduced me to the "Course Networking" LMS - thecn.com - that's free to use to create your own MOOC or available for institutions to purchase an institution-specific group of sites not open to the entire world. The creator's earlier LMS was acquired by Blackboard in 2009. What are the schools using in Minnesota?