CloudSocial: Changing Teaching and Learning by Changing Perspective

Charles Severance, Joseph Hardin, Ted Hanss
With well over a decade of development, deployment, and experience, enterprise learning management systems are deeply integrated into most institutions of higher education. There are very few remaining schools that rely solely on paper, face-to-face conversations, lectures with overhead projectors and chalkboards. Much like the shape and structure of classrooms is nearly universal around the world, so too is the shape and design of the enterprise teaching and learning management systems around the world.
Much like the physical shape of the classroom is a forced perspective that affects how we teach and learn, so too the layout and shape of these LMS systems forces perspective that strongly shapes how we think and teach using technology. In a sense given that these learning management systems are provided by the central campus authority and often faculty are forced by the administration to use these systems, it is no wonder that our approach to teaching and learning is affected by the capabilities and structure of these systems.
Given that higher education faculty are often independent thinkers, there is a natural tendency to reject the convention that comes from the administration and strike out on one’s own direction and quest (like teaching at a coffee shop or outside on a nice day). This has led to a movement for “Personal Learning Environments” that advocates that learning software should be similar to Peer-To-Peer software like Napster or BitTorrent. While some of these experiments have been interesting in particular contexts, the idea that we can replace the central Learning Management Systems with software that runs on each student’s laptops has not enjoyed adoption.
Another approach faculty use to break out of the enterprise LMS has been to simply teach using public Web 2.0 features like Twitter, Blogger, Flickr, Google Docs, etc. Often each teacher invents their own approach and ultimately takes the responsibility for teaching the students to use their chosen suite of teaching technologies. This takes essential time away from teaching the subject of the course.