Context in a Digital Learning Environment

I originally wrote about this in the context of a Digital Literacies (Searching the Internet Effectively) that I was pushing into an LMS for the first time. Prior to that, I didn’t bother using a real LMS, just pushed paper for assignments and gave people PowerPoints that had the links embedded in the text. Didn’t really need the LMS before (or after for that fact!).

In all senses, this issue still resonates with me – context, not content, is key. The moment that you learn something is almost as important as what you learned. I remember vividly what I was doing when something clicked – most of you will as well. It seems that most people make those associations between what they were doing and what they learned.

I feel like DS106 and CCK12 have the context hurdles managed in slightly different ways. DS106 seems to provide context using a local facilitator/teacher to help guide at first (maybe as a technical director?), but at some point, the power structure flips (as it did in the Dr. Oblivion/DS107 clash, as well as groups and communities form in CCK). Essentially the learners form their own context for their experiences, and maybe that’s the most important thing with these open courses is that they enable the learner to develop an understanding of how to provide their own context for what they’re learning. Both these  open, massive, online courses have a Tuckman’s stages of group development deal going on.

Speculation on Version 10 of Desire2Learn’s Learning Environment

As one of the three administrators at my institution of the LMS, we got an invitation to the unveiling of version 10 of Desire2Learn’s LE. We were also asked what we thought the new system would be like, what the big change will be. I started mulling over what it could be, thinking about all the permutations. I had spoken with someone I knew who had seen the new version and when I said no, their only response was “it’s different”. So while I may be right in the speculation, it’s not because I have insider information. Here’s some things that I think might be a part of the new Learning Environment:

1. Further integrated with Social Media. During the 9.4.1 upgrade D2L added some minor touches, being able to add Likes and Tweets to items in the LE, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the User Profiles replaced with Facebook or Google profiles.

2. No more Homepages with widgets. While I like the widgets approach to homepages, I think it’s probably run it’s course. What would replace it? Perhaps a dashboard type interface, like the one in ePortfolio, where when one logs in, they are presented with an activity page, which lists all their courses, and the activity within them.

3. No more Content. I’ve grown to hate how faculty use Content as a repository for PowerPoint and PDFs. I wish that there was more inventive use of the Content tool, and if it’s going to be a big change, getting rid of Content would be a big change. Is it the sort of change everyone would want? No. I think it would freak a lot of people out, but D2L is well aware of disruptive change, and maybe it’s something that as a company, they would be daring enough to go to. The things that were in Content would now be tied to Competencies, or Outcomes, or some other activity. In essence, it forces faculty to rethink the use of this learning object. Alternatively, the Content tool could be re-worked so it allows students to create content as well (based on Instructor level permissions). I’ve seen this in other collaborative software like FirstClass – where instructors can grant students permission to do different tasks.

4. Badges. D2L could easily craft some badges to award a user for passing a course (eg. PSYCH 1A00 badge complete!), completing all the assignments, based on their Intelligent Agents tool. While I personally think badges are silly, almost as silly as the paper diplomas are printed on, there seems to be a shift towards using badges as a motivator for completing a course. I can certainly see that being useful, and it would be a big difference over the competition for D2L.

5. Blogs tool be deleted to be replaced by simplified WordPress installs. OK, this is my personal wish, but how great would it be to have a one-button opt-in wordpress install (a simplified one – perhaps with no add-ins or only a selection of themes) for students. It would be even better then, if courses could have a blog tool where collaborative writing could occur.

By the way, Happy April Fool’s Day, even though this is not an April Fool’s post.