In the comments section of my previous post, Mike Caulfield kindly pointed me to the article Envisioning the Post-LMS Era: The Open Learning Network by Jonathan Mott.
I was immediately interested because, like me, Mott is striving to bridge the gap between the organisation’s LMS and the learner’s PLE. He articulates his position as such:
“…a one-or-the-other choice between the two is a false choice between knowledge-dissemination technologies and community-building tools. We can have both.”
Amen to that.
But how do we bridge the gap?
Mott’s blueprint is the Open Learning Network (OLN). Mine is the Informal Learning Environment (ILE).
While both proposals have remarkable similarities, the pedagogical philosophies that underpin them are fundamentally different.
The ILE recapped
An ILE is a space that centralises tools and resources that the learner can use to drive their own development. In How to revamp your learning model, I propose three core components:
1. A comprehensive wiki,
2. An open discussion forum, and
3. A bank of personal profiles.
These components work in tandem with the LMS and system reports, which in turn comprise the core components of the Formal Learning Environment (FLE).
The organisation manages the ILE on behalf of the learners, who are free to search, explore, ask and share at their own pace and at their own discretion, and – ideally – integrate the system into their broader PLE.
The OLN compared
While the ILE is designed to bridge the gap between the LMS and the PLE, it purposefully keeps them apart. Not only do I believe in the right of the learner to keep their PLE strictly personal, but I also believe in the power of separating “learning” from its administration.
The OLN takes a different approach. Mott states:
“The OLN is not intended merely to allow the LMS and PLE paradigms to coexist in harmony, but rather to take the best of each approach and mash them up into something completely different.”
The OLN model connects private and secure applications on the organisation’s network (such as the student information system, content repository, assessments and transcripts) to open and flexible tools and applications in the cloud (such as blogs, social networks and non-proprietary content) via a services-oriented architecture.
Both the OLN and ILE are modular because they comprise standalone resources or “learning objects”. This makes them flexible because the objects can be easily replaced by others that are more current, relevant or useful.
The key difference between the two models is interoperability. In a nutshell, the objects in an OLN can talk to one another via web service protocols such as LTI. Mott elaborates:
“In the simplest terms, web services-enabled applications leverage the elegantly simple Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) that gave life to the World Wide Web. This means that applications use a common set of verbs (such as GET and POST) and nouns (standard definitions of ‘student,’ ‘course,’ ‘score,’ etc.) to share data (as XML) via HTML. A robust services architecture will also implement role-based security and authentication protocols to manage data and application access and permissions. Within such a framework, any tool can securely interact with any other tool, passing user IDs and course and role information. Activities are then logged in the second application so that data can be passed back to the originating application (via a secure HTTP POST in the browser).”
The ILE model is not as technologically complex! It makes no demands for interoperability among the components of the PLE, ILE and LMS; in fact, it celebrates their independence. The common denominator is authentic assessment, which represents the sum of all learning regardless of its sources.
So while the major difference between the OLN and ILE is apparently their respective technical framework, that is simply a manifestation of their true difference: pedagogical philosophy.
I see the OLN as a solution for monitoring the student’s progress during a program of study in the digital age. It formalises the informal. The underpinning pedagogical philosophy, therefore, is formal learning – which I recognise as entirely appropriate in the Higher Education environment.
In the workplace, however, the vast majority of learning is informal. I would even go so far as to suggest that we hinder the learning process by drowning it in bureaucracy.
I see the ILE as a solution for self-directed learning, peer-to-peer discourse and knowledge sharing. It informalises the formal. The underpinning pedagogical philosophy, therefore, is informal learning – which is crying out for support in the corporate sector.
Horses for courses
So yes, Mott and I propose two similar yet fundamentally different learning models – but we have our reasons.
Neither is necessarily right; neither is necessarily wrong.
It all depends on context.