I came across this blogpost by D’Arcy Norman today. Actually I was referred there by Wilfred Rubens (Dutch). Both talk about the use of a learning management system (LMS) and why it still serves a purpose opposed to the “new” personal learning networks (PLN). I must say that I favor the PLN over an LMS, however the points both men make, are solid. An LMS does create a “safe” environment where students and teachers can find common ground. “It holds everything together” as D’Arcy says, his sketch shows it:

He also says: “Much of the fun and innovative work happens outside of the LMS – blogs, wikis, collaborative assignment managers, etc… But, even non-LMS platforms start to take on the characteristics of the conventional LMS – tracking students’ activity, providing access to resources, connecting assignments to grades, etc…” How do you combine fun and tracking students at the same time? I think that’s the goal in tools for education. Finding ways to make learning fun and engaging, but also to enable ways for teachers to analyze and assess the students work. A self-made network is the place where I think learning is at its best, but I understand that this isn’t an easy job for everyone. Making students digital literate is becoming more and more important, so they can find and use the tools that will do the job for them.

I would also love to see all these tools in a more interchangeable context. We, both learners and teachers, should be able to combine the tools of our choosing. I’d like to see more sharing options, so you can capture content and display it in your own network, only not by creating this new account for yet another online service, but really integrating content from one provider into another. Even in an LMS one should be able to post different types of content, a more open way of sharing perhaps. A digital place to share any content.


3 thoughts on “LMS vs PLN

  1. Teachers either have a choice or are forced to use an LMS by administrators/institutions. If the latter, then teachers are limited to a degree in what their students can do even though external web tools like wikis, blogs, etc. could theoretically be a part of the LMS. But if a teacher has a choice between an LMS and a PLN, by all means, choose a PLN! Even if it means simply starting with one ICT (e.g., a wiki). When using an LMS, which usually requires a password to access information, content is no longer available once the course has concluded. This means that the only purpose of working with the content within the LMS was primarily for a grade. In contrast, any products published online by students are (or should be) openly made available to anyone and can serve as an artifact for an eportfolio that serves some future purpose. Let’s leave Moodle, Drupal, Blackboard, and the rest and start coaching learners how to grow a social presence, digital footprint, PLN, online identity, etc. in ways that will hold some future benefit for them as global citizens.

    • Couldn’t agree more! The closed setup of an LMS vs an open attitude in a PLN (usability of content after the course) quickly leads to the “right” choice. However, you’re right too, when you say teachers don’t always have that choice…
      Thanks for the feedback!

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