Integrating Social Software Tools to LMS

I am very interested in the question about integrating social software tools (eg. Blogs and Wikis) to current LMS’s (eg. WebCT or Moodle). At the moment, the integration of those tools is quite limited. For example, teachers are able to add Wiki tool to a LMS course (eg. PmWiki with WebCT) which is hopefully useful as improving the student collaboration, one of the WebCT’s blind spots.

But I see the limitations a bit annoying. For example, students are not able to publish their work to Web themselves, if they want so. And I suppose the Wiki in Moodle works quite similarily? On the other hand, you can link public blogs or Wikis to LMS course but is that really enough?

Now someone could ask me what’s the point of integrating these tools that represent whole different idea (or generation) of Web Technology? Should we just forget the current LMS’s as an “old tech” and start using social software in it’s “pure form”, in totally public web? Should we forget the LMS’s and VLE’s and introduce the brand new PLE’s (P stands for Personal).
At least the vendors of commercial LMS’s disagree, “Blogis and Wikis are useful tools (only) when used within a LMS”, could someone say.

I think we should search the solution between these two extremes. There should exist somekind of continuum between “totally public” and “delimited to a single course in LMS”. A continuum that would serve the diverse users needs. And I refer the term “user” to faculty and students, not to educational technologists. The users need to decide themselves their products level of publicity. Whether the product is a blog entry linked to a course or an article written to a Wiki by a group of students. By level of publicity, I mean somekind of general categories friends/group/course/university/universum.

Technology should be flexible. Tools should be suitable for multiple purposes, without forcing us to invent a new name to it:
A blog used within a LMS is still “a blog”, nevertheless it doesn’t have all the original features. “Your screwdriver is still a screwdriver, despite the fact I used it to open a bottle of beer.”

But to be honest, there is quite a lot of fruitful discussion going on after the news about Elgg and WebCT integration. And if I got it right, Sasan Salari will have
a presentation about that in Edinburgh next week.

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3 Responses to Integrating Social Software Tools to LMS

  1. Jere Majava says:

    Good post, important topic. The only gripe I have with using blogs inside a closed system is that it seriously cripples blogs as acommunication tool (so it’s not really a small gripe). Blog as a tool in WebCT for example would be nice, even usefull. And it would still be a blog, but without most of the emergent benefits of open blog, including sense of ownership, continuity, serndipitious contacts and networking – just to mention few. Wikis on the other hand are less hurt by being closed inside a LMS, as they are are basically shared collaborative spaces, just like most LMEs.

    Integration of different learning technologies may seem important, but instead of integration I personally am rooting for interoperability and connectivity, resulting in much more flexibility. So from my perspective I think the first technology the LMEs should implement is RSS aggregator, not blog.

  2. antero says:

    Good comment, thanks Jere! I think you are right, interoperability and connectivity would probably produce more flexibility to users than “tight integration”. Especially if they are based on open standards.

    I’m not sure about other LMS’s, but you are able to get RSS feeds to your WebCT course. It is not very well documented, so you’ll need to Google a little bit (webct + rss). I think I should write a little bit about that in Finnish to our local WebCT users. I’ll add it to my “todo list”.

  3. Allowing content owners to control access to their material is one area in which the Bodington VLE has always been particulaly strong. It allows the owner to grant varying levels access to anyone they like, think includes people without accounts on the system (anonymous users). It doesn’t get it 100% right as the interface for controlling access is overly complicated and leaves most users confused about what is happening.

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