Quick Thought About Bringing External Websites into the LMS

Many modern LMS’s allow instructors and designers to bring external websites wholly into the learning environment, either by embedding them in an iframe or a windowed frame. I often wonder if doing this works for students, or is a hindrance. Should I link out and be explicit about where the student is going, or bring the content to the learning environment. The benefits of both are obvious to me.

An explicit statement of where students are going gives them a resource to draw on later – if they no longer are allowed to login to the LMS, they still have access to the learning resource. They can bookmark it and share it. Serendipity allows students to find new and different perspectives. The downfall is that it can be chaotic – too many open windows, too fragmented a learning experience, too much content can overwhelm. It doesn’t provide context, or context isn’t as immediate. Meaning can be fragmented.

Keeping links internal to the LMS provides a better guided road. Some students will be comforted with the idea that they don’t have to go all over the web to get information. The context of the information is a stronger connection. The user experience is more uniform, leading to less cognitive load. The downfall is that it can be too restrictive, too constraining and too much like school. Also, what happens when you can’t login? You’ve lost all your resources.

I think the way one works will put forth the way they design courses, and how the LMS is used. I’m fighting through this issue, and will struggle on as always.

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