Structuring and Facilitating Online Learning through Learning / Course Management Systems

Structuring and Facilitating Online Learning through Learning / Course Management Systems

Shalin Hai-Jew (Kansas State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-906-0.ch016
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Online learning—whether it is human-facilitated or automated, hybrid / blended, asynchronopus or synchronous or mixed--often relies on learning / course management systems (L/CMSes). These systems have evolved in the past decade-and-a-half of popular use to integrate powerful tools, third-party software, Web 2.0 functionalities (blogs, wikis, virtual worlds, and tag clouds), and a growing set of capabilities (eportfolios, data management, back-end data mining, information assurance, and other elements). This chapter highlights learning / course management systems, their functionalities and structures (including some integrated technologies), their applied uses in adult e-learning, and extra-curricular applications. A concluding section explores future L/CMSes based on current trends.
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Electronic learning, whether in higher education, industry, or the public sector, requires an electronic platform. For the widest access possible, these platforms tend to be Web-based, browser-readable, and operating-system or platform- agnostic. The learning may be location-independent (“anywhere”), or it may be location-based, with location-aware devices, and digitally augmented. E-learning is often deliverable on wireless mobile devices (Zanev & Clark, 2005) for ubiquitous, anytime-anywhere access. This type of learning is multimedia-based and full-sensory. It may involve asynchronous and synchronous interactivity. It may involve wide learner tracking, with full reports of what an authenticated learner has accessed, posted, and expressed.

Most universities and colleges have one official learning system, and some have multiple learning / course management systems (L/CMSes) to address “the diverse needs of faculty who teach different disciplines, for which there exist particular specific instructional technology requirements that are not necessarily met by a single system” (Raeburn, Kashy, Gift, Brown, & Kortemeyer, 2006, p. T1F-32). The selection of such technologies is challenging because of the high learning curve to using the technologies (Hill, 2008), the high adoption costs, and the technology integration into a learning circumstance (Ullery, 2002). Often, these require the support of so-called on-campus “evangelists” (Wainwright, Osterman, Finnerman, & Hill, 2007) to encourage administrator, faculty, and staff buy-in.

Technological system choices are important ones because faculty will build contents to these structures, and porting them off to another system will often be time-consuming and morale-deflating. These technologies have enabled cooperative environments for multi-institutional consortial offering of joint degrees (Ribón, de Miguel, & Ortiz, 2009). Such systems offer unified ways to communicate with learners, deploy policies, and train a workforce in terms of compliance with various policies.

L/CMSes are not learning platforms that were designed to deliver a specific, defined curriculum. These are not the systems created for closed computer laboratories or dedicated, stand-alone simulations. Such systems do not offer pervasive 3D immersive spaces. Simply, L/CMSes are technological systems created to enhance mediated education by offering basic “classroom” and learning functionalities. For the greatest flexibility, L/CMSes are designed to be “generics” that work on all operating systems and mainstream browser platforms. They are known as system- and browser-agnostic.

This chapter will highlight the different functionalities of L/CMSes, their applied uses in adult e-learning, their extracurricular applications, and some future uses. These technologies will need to add value: “In order to have an effective Learning Management System (LMS), it should enhance the advantages and at the same time alleviate the issues that exist in traditional learning environments” (Darbhamulla & Lawhead, 2004, p. 110).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Digital Library: A collection of related digital contents overseen by a librarian or curator.

Collaboration: The process of working together.

Agnostic: Non-committal in terms of its reliance on a particular technological system or underpinning .

Encapsulation: The function of being enclosed within another function; the hiding of a function for simplification.

Application Programming Interface (API: The source-code interface through which an application program accesses the operating system.

Learning / Course Management System: A socio-technical system that is used for online learning and training.

Granularity: The relative size of a digital object (with atomistic as the smallest size up to modules to courses to degree programs).

Compatibility: Congruous, capable of being connected to another device without special equipment or software.

Authoring Tool: Software used by non-programmers to create and output digital objects like slideshows, animated tutorials, diagrams, and multimedia.

Affordance: An enablement or ability, something that is made possible because of a mediating technology.

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