Insidious pedagogy

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Taking the opportunity to put my toes into the DEHub water on a topic that's close to my heart - the problems and evils associated with the CMS/LMS plague (my bias should now be clear).

Folk might be interested in the brief blog post Lisa Lane made after the article was published, not to mention the comments.

I outlined some of my initial responses to the article in a blog post last year.

There are a number of solutions, I suggested three

  1. Encourage and enable academics to improve their use of the Internet, especially social media, in research and their private life.
  2. Modify the institutional context to encourage, enable and reward an active focus on improving learning and teaching.
  3. Adopt a best of breed or small pieces loosely joined alternative to the LMS.

Solutions #1 and #2 offer the potential to address the second criticism of the LMS (most use is for content delivery). The proposition is that if more staff are comfortable and familiar with technology, especially those used for collaboration and communication, then they are more likely to think about using it in their teaching and learning. However, that's only likely if the institutional context actually encourages them to engage in novelty around learning and teaching. I would argue that the vast majority of academics see rewards coming from places other than learning and teaching.

There's also the problem that most of the social media and other Internet tools people are likely to use in their research and personal life are likely to be significantly better than the clunky and limited alternatives provided by LMSes.

This is connected to solution #3 and is also a criticism of the LMS based on its product model. Essentially, an LMS is an integrated system. The sweet spot of integrated systems is in areas of low variability, low diversity and low change. I have argued that e-learning falls well outside this sweet spot. More detail available in this post on product models and this one on procurement strategies which formed part of the foundation for a presentation I gave last year.

Djplanner (talk)19:39, 22 January 2010

David, I agree with solution #1, until academics are comfortable using a range of online tools were are not going to see them widely used in learning activities.

Solution #2 is happening, perhaps not fast enough, but there is certainly more money allocated to teaching projects and teaching awards than a decade ago.

My #3 would be to get students using the tools to achieve particular learning goals - show them the range available and give them projects that are facilitated by particular tools. A group annotated bibliography using Delicious, Collaborate on a review of a film using Notemesh, Use Mindomo to plan your group project ad assign tasks ... etc. None of these are inconsistent with using a CMS to manage the course. The problem with many uses of Web 2.0 apps at the moment is the "Creepy Treehouse Effect"

Mdk572 (talk)10:12, 27 January 2010


With respect to your #3. This has some connection with a project I've been involved with and which also connects with my #3.

The project seeks to enable students to use their own blogs (e.g. on as reflective journals. Which I think is a good match between task/goal (reflection etc) and tool (blog).

The loosely coupled aspect enters the picture through the tool we've developed called BAM/BIM.

BIM/BAM essentially provides the administration/management interface teaching staff need to manage and mark student use of the blogs and connect with institutional results processing systems.


Djplanner (talk)16:20, 5 February 2010

Hi Nathan, David and Marj, I concur with your comments re 1, 2 and 3. In relation to 2, I see a disturbing problem within Faculties' and Schools' inability to develop a coherent development plan for the online teaching within their discipline areas. A common practice is to employ an educational developer/curriculum specialist (ED) but have no idea about deploying the skills of the ED outside getting them to work with individual academic. When you then start to discuss the pedagogical approach, and in particular, approach this from the discourse and practices of the discipline you run into the problem of the staff member not wanting to implement what the rest of the disciple colleagues already do. The idea of working with a team of academics to come up with a coherent approach to pedagogical issues for the disciple isn't on the agenda. This then has negative implication for the 'opt in' approach. Cheers, Alan.

Alan Wylie (talk)13:04, 28 January 2010


I'm glad to hear that someone else is concerned about what passes for educational/curriculum design and development within faculties.

This is my main area of interest. Though I'm currently framing it more broadly as "how do you improve learning and teaching within universities" and to a large extent this connects with what I mean by solution #2 above.

I see major flaws in most of the current approaches, including assigning an educational developer to discipline school. There seems to be a more fundamental set of problems with this approach which most people within universities don't want to engage with. Instead you get them arguing about whether or not the educational developer should be employed by the faculty or by some central L&T unit. For me, a completely unimportant question.

As it happens, just yesterday I've tried to formulate one alternative on my blog.


Djplanner (talk)16:25, 5 February 2010