Monthly Archives: August 2012

Crystal Ball: The Future of LMS

These are notes we used to guide the two-person panel at the US Moodle Moot August 3, 2012.

Panelists: Dr. Chuck Severance and Phil Hill
Moderator: Brad Schleicher

From the Program:
The future of Moodle is inextricably linked to the future evolution of the LMS. Recent changes in social app adoption, LMS business models, OER licensing, and the ongoing evolution of LMS usage are some of the factors influencing the future. What does Moodle, organizations using Moodle, and teachers need to consider to adapt successfully to this future?

• Quick introduction from Andrew Roderick, putting program in his words as well as short bio description of Chuck and Phil (2 minutes)
• Description of panel, rules (2 minutes)
• Phil introduces Chuck from his perspective (2 minutes?)
• Chuck introduces Phil from his perspective (2 minutes?)
• Brad introduces ground rules, then asks first question (2 minutes)
• Chuck and Phil question each other, PTI style (20 – 30 minutes)
• Audience questions filter in, including questioning of audience (15 – 20 minutes)

• Each panelist question will lead to a ~60 second response from the other panelist, following by ~15 second reaction from questioner.
• The panelists will alternate asking the questions.
• Interruptions and challenges are allowed and encouraged.
• No speechmaking through questions.
• The moderator will actively manage the discussion and push the discussion forward.
• The audience can veto the moderator and indicate discussions that should be extended or re-directed.
• We will use hashtags to encourage audience input and questions.

Initial questions listed below. It is always better to go in depth on a particular aspect of a topic than to try to cover an entire subject in a short time span.

1) What is surprising in the last year in terms for the nature of the market? (both panelists will have 60 seconds to respond to this question from the moderator, with 15 second reflections each)
2) If we came back in five years how will LMS’s be different? UI? Market penetration?
3) What will be the story about open source LMS circa 2000 – 2012 if written in 5 years?
4) Has the LMS market fundamentally changed as you allege? If so, what are the drivers that are causing real changes to a market that has been fairly stagnant or stable for the past decade?
5) Does it matter? Was the LMS movement a short-term phemomenom that has almost run its course? Do teachers really use the LMS in an engaged way or is it just a tool of administrative control?
6) Who stands the most to gain and the most to lose if the LMS market continues migration to a learning platform market? What are the best case and worst case scenarios that you see in regards to LMSs?
7) Has the LMS open source movement lost its purpose? Previously the narrative was Moodle and Sakai, while being high-quality, as also being the source of freedom – freedom from the proprietary LMS market and M&A activity. Blackboard in particular supports the vision of multiple learning platforms. Are Moodle and Sakai still solving problems that education markets need solved?
8) Why do none of the new MOOC entrants (Stanford, Coursera, Udacity, MITx, edX, connectivist MOOCs) use traditional LMS solutions? Does there focus on custom-development signal a change in the value of the LMS as it exists today?
9) Lore developed two versions of its learning platform in less than 12 months and less than $4M. Coursera developed its platform in less than 12 months and less than $4M. what does this rapid pace and low cost of development mean for the future of the LMS?
10) Are we just blowing smoke amongst over-caffeinated pundits? The SUNY Learning Network proposed the rough equivalent of a learning platform based on patching together tools within a Learning Management Operating System in 2005 / 2006. That effort did not lead to changes in the LMS. Why do you / we think the situation is different?
11) Recently Jeff Young of the Chronicle wrote an article analyzing the Coursera contract with the University of Michigan based on a FOIA request. Given the role of being “open”, should these new delivery models such as MOOC be transparent and open in their potential business models and revenue considerations? Did Jeff perform a service to education or was he muck-racking?
12) What about teaching practices? Is the MOOC the ultimate flipped classroom? Or is it yet another type of drill and kill? We will discuss some of the methods we have used to engage learners. Will we change the definition of what is a good or successful teacher? Will teachers be more like talk-show hosts? And, if so, will the reward system be altered for those who are skilled in such environments? What are the options for those teachers who have difficulty teaching more than 25 students.
13) Who will the real winners and losers be if the MOOCs achieve wide dispersion?
14) How will we know when a MOOC is financially successful? What business plans make a massive open online course (MOOC) viable? Coursera and Udacity are already suggesting many different types of business models. Some involve companies sponsor courses, tuition small fees, membership, secure assessment fees, selling courses to community colleges, fees for certificates of completion, loss leader courses, paid advertisements, and pay as you go models.
15) How do all of these changes affect educational institutions? What do they need to do to prepare from and benefit from the future of LMS and learning platforms?
16) What will be the impact to students from all of the ed tech market changes? Will they benefit overall, or are we looking at clever ways for venture capitalists and private equity investors to benefit from a public movement?

Using Wikipedia for References in my Coursera Course

There is some discussion in my Internet History, Technology and Security course about whether Wikipedia can be used as a reference. Here is the quote:

Can you provide us with guidelines on when it is ok to use wikipedia as an authoritative source for academic writing? There is an active discussion in the peer review forum with no hope of any agreement.

At the risk of being flamed from 1000 directions – here is my answer and my policy.

For the writing in this class – Wikipedia is perfectly fine. For things that are relatively technical or scientific and broadly understood, WIkipedia is as good a reference as anything else. Wikipedia’s weaknesses are in emerging areas where researchers are trying to define the space and using Wikipedia to try to short-circuit the knowledge building process. Wikipedia is also very very weak when there are some external “stakes” involved as seen in the “Paul Ryan” Wikipedia edits/wars.

But for a page like – there is not likely a better source other than the original documents upon which the article is based.

So there is not a blanket good/bad here – all references need to be chosen with an eye to their credibility and suitability for purpose. Given the nature of this course I would expect that most Wikipedia references would be perfectly fine. But if perhaps someone is making a contentious point and using a Wikipedia page to support their position – it might be weak.

For example, if we were fiercely debating the merits of using Wikipedia as a reference source and cited a Wikipedia page to support our position – that would be kind of weak :)

So any argument regarding the appropriateness of a reference needs to focus on the reference itself and not the blanket fact that it comes from Wikipedia.

Brent/Chuck Road-Trip 2012 – Day 1 Holt, MI to Chicago, IL

Before we could leave, I had to run down to Ann Arbor for an hour and then come back and pick Brent up. On the way to Ann Arbor, my right rear tire blew out. In my dress clothes, I quickly hopped out and switched to the spare losing abut 10 minutes. But the spare was low so I carefully drove to a gas station to fill it up. But the little valve stem cover would not come off – so I had to get a pliers to fill the spare up to 60 pounds. Using the spare, I went to Ann Arbor and then back to Lansing where I sat at Belle Tire and replaced two tires where they informed me that my right front bering has a little play. Drat – I just had them replaced a few months back – the new ones must be bad. But I needed to get them replaced under warranty at the place I had them installed – but I did not have time for that – so we will do the trip with a little bearing noise. We will see how that progresses.

With all the confusion, we finally got on the road at 4PM and made it to Chicago at about 7PM. Checked into the hotel and decided to go to the Kingston Mines for some Blues – we arrived about an hour early so we had some food and played video games. We stayed for three hours and watched two bands and then back to the hotel.

Today I have my office hours at 10AM at the Starbucks in Palmer House and then on the road we go. It looks like we are going south down I-57 towards Memphis and Beal Street as our next destination. It looks like this is going to be a music-themed trip rather than a nature themed trip.

Reaction to David Wiley’s All-Open Textbook Community College Degree Challenge (rant)

David Wiley (whom I adore) wrote a blog post titled:

The No Textbook Degree

Where he suggests that the open educational resource (OER) movement is losing its impetus because of large-scale open-enrollment courses from Coursera and elsewhere are getting all the attention and that OER needs a clear and visible common goal to rally the community. His goal is to have several community colleges produce and promote a degree program by 2014 where every textbook is free/open.

I’ve been thinking about what’s next for OER… With the current set of MOOCs – which aren’t even open – grabbing attention away from the real movement, we need an exciting idea to get behind. Something that can inspire another decade of work across the nation and around the world. (When was the last time you heard about a new OpenCourseWare initiative launching in the US? When was the last time you personally thought of OCW as being really innovative?) We need something that can capture the imagination, something that can inspire both faculty and institutional leaders, something that will bring another 100 US post-secondary schools into the open education movement. Most of all, we need something that will significantly bless the lives of millions of students, providing them access to educational opportunities that can radically transform their lives for good.

Please read David’s entire post before continuing here. I want to make sure you read his post before you read my reaction/rant…

My Comment – Warning – somewhat ranty

Wow.  A couple of points of of critique and then a suggestion.  (a) It is ironic to hear the world’s pioneer in the idea of adding the dimension of “open/free enrollment” into our collective thinking back in 2007 to make the statement in 2012 that courses providing “open enrollment” are not worthy to use the word “open” in any way to describe themselves.  Or put another way – according to you, no one can use the word “open” to describe an activity unless they are using a remix-able CC license.  (b) Large-scale open enrollment courses are and will drive the creation of OER/re-mixable course materials.  At Michigan, every Coursera instructor works closely with Open.Michigan to make their materials as open and reusable as possible.  We do copyright clearance and Open.Michigan actively helps instructors find alternate open resources to use in their courses so that their resulting materials can be as open as practical without compromising the educational outcomes of the course.   Each Coursera course  has a corresponding Open.Michigan web site where re-mixable materials can be downloaded when practical.  At Michigan investment in supporting professor activity in Coursera is increasing investment in Open Michigan’s materials, capabilities, staff and importance to the university.   Coursera is causing the creation of new OER materials at Michigan and wonderfully promoting those materials to over 200,000 students right at this very minute. Many of the students in my class *are* teachers curious how to teach my material – I actively encourage them to take and remix my CC-BY slides and make use of my openly available supplementary video materials through references to YouTube and Vimeo on the slides. They can *completely* remix my course if they so choose. Coursera is a content player – it does not decide the copyright of the materials that it plays.  My *next* Coursera course will be based on open slides, open videos, and an open textbook. 

David, there are 2-3 blog posts per day that mis-understand Coursera and see it as some kind of “enemy”.   Life is to short to correct all the mis-understandings.  But I figure I should comment to you since in my mind what we are doing in Coursera traces its seminal founding moment back to you back in December 2007.  For me, Coursera is an amazingly effective execution of your idea from 2007.  I personally loved the idea in 2007 and Coursera is my chance to honor your ideas and innovation.   At over a million students we have come a long way from the 50 students in your course back 2007.  So while I may not change your mind – I had to at least try.  Enough of me defending Coursera – on to the larger mistake in your blog post…

A CC degree with only OER textbooks is not a particularly worthy or interesting grand challenge.  There are lots of open textbooks – some may or may not be suitable.  It would be pretty easy to do an all-OER CC degree – if folks tried to accomplish what you suggest in the timeframe you suggest – it would end up harming the OER movement in my opinion because it is easily done by compromising the educational outcomes of the degree or tailoring the degree to whatever textbooks are available. Accomplishing what you propose at the expense of educational outcomes would reinforce the mistaken notion that OER materials are somehow lower quality. Individual OER materials are *not* lower quality – we just don’t have high-quality OER materials in all subject areas.

The grand challenge that you *should* take on is to take this code – and then take this code – and fork them both and create a desktop authoring environment that allows authoring, import, export, and publishing to a wide variety of formats of augmented media-enhanced textbooks.  In short make an open source / open standards version of iBooks Author – Oh yeah and fix the lame iBooks Author UI while you are at it.  You need to fork SIGIL because they think EPUB is virtual paper and should never move beyond that.   You need to fork cnx because they think that server-based authoring is sufficient – yuck!   Actually the cnx format is likely a good start as the internal representation of the the desktop authoring environment – keep that and remain compatible with the CNX online authoring environment. Oh yeah – and Flat World Knowledge (and cousins) is also not a solution to the grand challenge because in search of a sustainable business model they are building a 99.4% open model and it turns out that the 0.6% matters.  So there is your grand challenge.  Empower authors.  Remove the barriers to producing and remixing open content. If someone dropped a bunch-o-money in my lap – I would grab four grad students and do it – but it seems people want to fund me to advance the cause of open source and interoperable LMS’s these days rather than address the rate-limiting factors of the OER community – so this grand challenge falls to you or someone else.

Chuck / Brent Road Trip 2012

My son Brent turned 21 this year so we decided that it was time to take a classic American summer road trip. Of course the tradition is to ride motorcycles all around the mid-west visiting places like the largest ball of twine. But since Brent is mildly handicapped (Cerebral Palsy) we need to do it in a car. I have adapted the “Dr. Chuck Mobile” – a 2001 Buick LeSabre (215,300 miles) with a left foot accelerator so he can share in the driving.

Here is a short video I made in 2005 just after Brent had recovered from a hip-augmentation surgery and we purchased a Polaris 90cc ATV so we could go out riding.

More recently he has been in several heavy punk/metal bands as the lead singer. I also made this terminally cute and a bit long video to play in the background at Brent’s high school graduation party.

On The Road Again…

So the idea of the road trip is to take two weeks and have absolutely no agenda. The road trip will start early on Tuesday August 14 where we will drive to Chicago and stay at the Palmer house, do an office hour for my Coursera course at the Palmer house, go to listen to some Blues, and then the next morning get up and drive out of Chicago and decide where to go next on the spur of the moment. We will program the destination into the GPS and off we will go pointed at the horizon.

It will be a classic vagabond road trip – we will sleep in Walmart parking lots, sleep in rest areas, take showers in truck stops, eat junk food or at diners and generally smell and look pretty bad – growing beards and wearing hats when our hair looks a mess. Brent calls it our “hobo trip”. Every few days we will spend a night in a hotel to clean up and get re-civilized and then back on the road we will go. Like any good road trip we will not stay at any destination for very long – anywhere from 4 hours to 24-hours and then back on the road we will go. A key element of a road trip is to be on the road – not stopped at one location or another. It is about wandering and being on the move looking for adventure.

We are consciously not doing any planning in terms of agenda and don’t even know when we will exactly come back other than when school starts at Lansing Community College. We will generally likely not go east to explore but we may go as far north as Calgary Canada, as far South as New Orleans, or as far west as Roswell New Mexico and Area 51. We just don’t know.

We will have Twitter and WiFi as we go and I will tweet and blog as we progress. I will ask the Twitterverse for help on things like “Where is a good blues bar in St. Louis?” (if we decide to go there). I have no idea if Brent will do any kind of public blog – he is not on Twitter (sheesh – kids these days).

I may have some office hours for my Coursera course in weird locations like Mount Rushmore or Omaha Nebraska. But I won’t know in advance even where I am going so folks will only find out at the last minute.

I would be glad to get some suggestions and help for how to survive such a road trip. How do I know where there are rest stops? Is there a book of all the truck stops that have showers? There must be a book or even better an app that tells you cool road-trip like places to visit that can use location services on my iPhone. I have this feeling that showers will be the most difficult thing to manage when we become hobos living on the road. Any general advice will be greatly appreciated as this is our first experimental road trip.