Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Worries about OpenClass -- a new learning management system from Google and Pearson

Google and Pearson, a large textbook and etext publisher, are joining forces to offer a free learning management system (LMS) called OpenClass. OpenClass will be competition for Blackboard since it will be free, and, given the skills and resources of Google and Pearson, well done. It will also compete with Moodle, which is open source, but requires a significant staff committment to run.

That is the good news for OpenClass. The bad news for OpenClass is that the LMS market is not competitve -- it is dominated by Blackboard, Moodle and a few less popular LMSs.

Even if OpenClass is better than Blackboard and Moodle -- "open and not clunky" as they claim on their Web site -- it will take time to become a major player because we are locked into current LMSs by the material we have created, the training our students and staff have accumulated, and the systems we have built around them.

Do you use an LMS on your campus? If so, how many students and faculty know how to use it? Do students expect it to be used in a class? Have faculty invested in material that is now loaded into the LMS? Do they use it to automate testing and grading? Is it integrated with student records applications and the textbooks faculty adopt?

Don't get me wrong -- this is not a defense of the current LMSs. My campus uses Blackboard, but it is way too "clunky and closed" for me to use. I am just saying that it will be hard to displace even if OpenClass is superior.

Don't get me wrong on that either. I am not enthusiastic about OpenClass. For a start, I worry that it will favor Google Apps and Pearson teaching material. More important, I worry about the pedagogical impact of any LMS. If OpenClass were to become dominant, would it push us to teach within the confines of the OpenClass LMS -- a Procrustean fit?

On my campus today, on-line education is synonymous with Blackboard. We are in the very early stages of networked education and educational technology. It is too early for such standardization.

Don't get me wrong one last time. I believe the folks working on OpenClass at Google and Pearson are smart and mean well. I just wished they worked for a small startup that did not have such deep pockets.

For more discussion see:
Google Plus discussion
Chronicle of Higher Education discussion
Pearson announcement

9 comments:

  1. "It is too early for such standardization."

    While it may be too early to standardize on one product, the use of standards is absolutely a timely issue. Ideally, LMS can talk with one another, federating projects and schools across the country.

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  2. "It is too early for such standardization."

    While it's too early to standardize on one LMS, one should always assume standard integration between LMS and other appropriate resources.

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  3. I'm excited to see another major group come into play in the learning management system marketplace. Not only does OpenClass have the opportunity to stir things up, but perhaps by having such powerful organizations like Google and Pearson involved, the competition may just force Blackboard to be more nimble and open. I know that Blackboard's recent announcement about supporting Open Education Resources through Creative Commons is a response to this concern.

    As someone who supports faculty and students using educational technologies, it's important to make sure that there is a stable, scalable, adaptive, and robust system in place. Whether that is Blackboard, D2L, Moodle, eCollege, OpenClass, or another LMS is important, but the overall concern for most users is: Can I do what I need to do to ensure a high-quality, interactive, and invaluable teaching and/or learning experience?

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  4. > While it may be too early to standardize on one product, the use of standards is absolutely a timely issue.

    I agree for sure, but my worry is that the LMS format is perhaps too restrictive. For example, I am working on a modular e-text which requires bi-directional links between a set of topic modules and a set of assignments. I am not sure I could impliment that in a current LMS even if I wanted to. Maybe my worries are uncalled for and LMS evolution will allow for unforeseen possibilities, but for now they feel like the default implicit pedagogy is threaded discussion and objective tests.

    I am vague in my criticism because I am speculating on future pedagogy that I cannot predict or imagine at this time, but we do not want to be stuck in past formats.

    The book changed in many ways in the years after Gutenberg. I am glad we no longer have big printed books that look like their hand written predecessors chained to desks in libraries with no modern punctuation and formatting.

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  5. > I'm excited to see another major group come into play in the learning management system marketplace.


    For sure it is good to see competition to Blackboard. Do you think people would be willing to switch? Staff, students and faculty are used to Blackboard. It would really help if OpenClass has one-click import from Blackboard.

    > I know that Blackboard's recent announcement about supporting Open Education Resources through Creative Commons is a response to this concern.

    I hope they are feeling the heat!
    https://plus.google.com/114528586908817727732/posts/LwNn36D8MNV

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  6. It's Pearson being Pearson (and Google being Google). But the genie is now out of the bottle. A number of integrators now appear to be leveraging Google for a headlong foray into the *free LMS* which many of us have fantasized about for awhile. See:
    https://www.google.com/enterprise/marketplace/search?query=lms

    It seems these integrators leverage the Google API towards whatever ends they feel an LMS should be. So Engrade, for example, builds around a gradebook -- a logical place to pull everything together. The gradebook is tied to the school's user backend like we do with our PeopleSoft connection to Bb. Google Apps then feed into the gradebook with very little overhead for Engrade. A far cry from Blackboard and Moodle (both still saddled with their 1990s legacy code bases). Instructure is probably the first LMS to understand the new web 2.0 paradigm with the old *LMS does everything* model being replaced by widgetty connections to twitter, facebook and other tools.

    But these newer designs like Engrade use a more *Oakland* model: there is no there there when you try to find the LMS. I like that trend. I know we always say this, but it points to a more cost effective model which -- if we let our imaginations wander a moment -- could replace the costly model we now confront.

    ReplyDelete
  7. It's Pearson being Pearson (and Google being Google). But the genie is now out of the bottle. A number of integrators now appear to be leveraging Google for a headlong foray into the *free LMS* which many of us have fantasized about for awhile. See:
    https://www.google.com/enterprise/marketplace/search?query=lms

    It seems these integrators leverage the Google API towards whatever ends they feel an LMS should be. So Engrade, for example, builds around a gradebook -- a logical place to pull everything together. The gradebook is tied to the school's user backend like we do with our PeopleSoft connection to Bb. Google Apps then feed into the gradebook with very little overhead for Engrade. A far cry from Blackboard and Moodle (both still saddled with their 1990s legacy code bases). Instructure is probably the first LMS to understand the new web 2.0 paradigm with the old *LMS does everything* model being replaced by widgetty connections to twitter, facebook and other tools.

    But these newer designs like Engrade use a more *Oakland* model: there is no there there when you try to find the LMS. I like that trend. I know we always say this, but it points to a more cost effective model which -- if we let our imaginations wander a moment -- could replace the costly model we now confront.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Here are two posts that might interest the readers:

    Potential strategy behind the free OpenClass offering: https://plus.google.com/u/1/113196614492765660882/posts/2S6bsJ9ivcR

    Some interesting tidbits about OpenClass environment: https://plus.google.com/u/1/113196614492765660882/posts/JfgJspvBZsf
    (spoiler: it's eCollege!)

    ReplyDelete
  9. MyClassboard.com offers schools and colleges the power to own an online learning management software that gives students access to course material stored online, thus making knowledge accessible from anywhere at any time. The LMS offers teachers a comprehensive tool to organize study sessions and conduct virtual discussions to the benefit of every student.

    ReplyDelete