Monday, December 28, 2009

The eLearning Singularity or The Inevitable Evolution of eLearning Development

Its that time of year again where everyone wants to know what's coming up in 2010. Or we look back at 2009 and reflect. Both are excellent practices, but I think everyone has pretty much covered all of the bases. If you can't find any, then just leave me a comment and I'll see what I can find for you.

This might not be much of a look into 2010 but I definitely feel a new trend. I'm not even sure what to call it. After years of thinking about it and talking about it, I finally found a blog pot hit me in the face with it. I'd also like to put this blog post up as my choice for eLearning blog post of the year.

Anton Zolotov takes a very NON-instructional designer approach to looking at Learning Management Systems. He refers to Blackboard because that's what his school uses, but his line of thinking could apply to ALL of the current LMS offerings.
As a programmer, Anton simply breaks down the functionality that is most used and recognizes the fact that there are other technology solutions that function better and cheaper. In this case he points to Basecamp and Campfire and their genius design that blows most other tools in this category away. Okay, those were my words, not his.

He closes with this paragraph which is very nicely said:

"I think that we can help our customers most by making software modular. Applications should have APIs that allow 3rd party developers to integrate their stuff with yours. As a developer, you are not losing that way – you are winning, because you benefit from the value that other people are creating by extending your software. Everybody wins. That’s the way it should be in education."

There is no reason why we can't modularize the functional requirements of Learning Management Systems. But of course, that is if you are thinking about a tops down application…something very late '90s. The idea that Anton leads me too is that of starting with the user. What if we created the "modularity" by starting with the user? Traditional Learning Management Systems function like giant ERM systems and the user has no choice in how they access the data or add/delete data. By today's 2.0 standards that's simply NUTS! What if we finally started with students like Anton and asked them what THEY use…or what would they LIKE to use?

Actually the technology is already working that out. The best example is standards around XML. Anyone can send me a calendar invite from Outlook and I can add it too my iCal, no worries. And of course, who even thinks twice about email being in the "right format" any more. Nobody cares. You write an email and you send it to an email address. You don't care what app your recipient uses to read the message. Should we care what app our users have to read our eLearning? It even seems strange to say (write) that.

Our development challenge in the coming decade rests in taking the responsibility to create learning content that can be accessed by ALL devices (both desktop and mobile) and sends data seamlessly too and from any cloud source. Some will call this a dream. I call it inevitable in this new decade to be sure.

DevLearn 2010 Conference & Expo - November - San Francisco, CA


Harold Jarche said...

I've called it Small (Learning) Pieces Loosely Joined before. Mark Dowds, coming form outside e-learning, told me he finally figured out what an LMS was, "It's a widgit!".

Like KM, which was co-opted by IT vendors, e-learning has to get away from the software licensing slow-death spiral. Like you, I see hope in 2010, as many people are beginning to realize that the emperor has no clothes.

Charles Jennings said...

At the Oxford Union debate in September, Marc Rosenberg called most LMS systems 'eLearning vending machines'. Too true for many commercial LMSs, although some are trying to move into the 21st Century.

We must remember that the enterprise LMS industry came out of the 1980s database-centric world. They were (and still are, to a large extent) designed by the people who design other ERM database applications and it shows.

There is undoubtedly still a need for some of the core functionality in existing LMSs - even if it's only ensuring organisations comply with the outdated 'activity' regulations of compliance bodies through tracking usage. However we've moved on and I agree absolutely with you, Brent, that any LMS that doesn't provide seamless, multiple and user-centric access routes to content is 'nuts' in this day-and-age.

Elearning tools said...

Great post. This is why I chose IT as my course.

Bobby said...

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Online E-learning Software & Script

Maria_Rilke said...

Some big companies are acquiring elearning tools or softwares to train their employees in a much shorter time than that of conventional ways of learning.

Julien said...

Hi Brent!

Nice summary of the issue.

I'd also like to share with you a couple of links to provide more detailed definitions of LMS and LCMS, how they differ and how they overlap. It could definitely benefit your readers!

Here’s the link to part 1:
And to part 2:

Thank you and have a great one!