Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Free LMS Tools - a commentary

As we scale up and refine the LMS built using free tools (G+, Drive, Communities, Twitter, Google Groups, etc.), how well does this LMS support you and your learning style? How could it be improved? Feel free to be critical as you post as this contributes to the evolution of such systems...

IT&DML is my first experience with online learning. (Bloodborne Pathogen training doesn't really count!) Honestly, it makes me feel old. There are a lot of moving parts to keep track of, and they are not housed in the same place. - In a traditional class, I would have reading material and a notebook. I might type a paper and hand it in. Class discussion is in class, face to face.
- Online, there is reading or viewing material - which may be linked to the syllabus or in G+ or in a Google Document or an email - and I might have to respond on either my blog or directly on G+... or on another tool. I feel like I spend a lot of time trying to find things that I saw previously. It gives "Google Search" a whole new meaning! Now that I have an air printer, I have found it helpful to print some hard copies of assignments and check items off as I go. Discussion in G+ feels contrived. I want to respond without saying, "good point" over and over again. Asynchronous communication is handy, but it doesn't facilitate a lot of meaningful give-and-take conversation.

The iPad interface with Google is especially frustrating. I put all of my Google tools in a folder and I need to pop in and out of each of them to complete a project. The new Google Docs is particularly annoying on the iPad. If I go into Drive and open a Document, I can't return to Drive without closing Docs... and maybe some of this has to do with the fact that I haven't learned to properly navigate an iPad. Publishing with Blogger is awkward on Chromebook. When I publish, it goes public. When I share, it goes in the Community, where I want it. I often go back and erase my original published post.

I prefer to read on the iPad and answer on a computer or on my Chromebook.  I will confess, I didn't figure out Google Groups until this last summer. I started two summers ago. I still can only find it by following a link. Just today, I figured out why I had trouble participating in Hangouts last summer with a particular professor. Sometimes navigating the technology is more complicated than learning the class material!

I like many aspects of Communities. All of the discussions can be sorted by week, and it is easy to come up with a system for posting and for responding to posts. I enjoy trying new apps. I don't make much time on my own. It is helpful to see what my classmates are using.

The article we read this week, "An argument for clarity," was written before Google Classroom was rolled out. It is not a LMS as described by the authors. It is more like a CMS, like Moodle and Blackboard. 

I think using Google Classroom in IT&DML to corral all the apps would be an improvement. All of the parts would be in the same place, and it would be obvious where to post. This is likely why Classroom was created. Once in Classroom, a single click will put you in the right class vs. finding the right section in Drive, then drilling down multiple levels to find the day's work. (Stars in Drive DO help, but I need to remember I starred the item!) 

To sum it up, I like to find things quickly. There are too many places to look the way this LMS (or CMS, if we are using Watson's definitions) is set up.

Picture from Pixabay - free to share without giving credit.
Reference: Watson, W. and Watson, S. An Argument for Clarity: What are Learning Management Systems, What are They Not and What Should They Become. 2006.

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