Escape From LMS

I love the concept and the practices of Domain of One’s Own as a foil to the LMS. For students and for learning professionals. It’s empowering. It’s rewarding. It centres your work around yourself rather than it being all chopped up in different tools in an LMS. You retain full control of your work with a domain. If it’s work towards a credential, then your assessor comes to you. You don’t hide your work in some assignment dropbox or discussion board.

But have you tried explaining DoOO to someone who hasn’t even really had the opportunity to consider the infrastructure of where their learning is occurring? Most people, instructors and students alike, put stuff in the LMS because that’s the thing to put it in. They’ve had no cause, yet, to think about why it might not be the best set up for their own learning.

I hadn’t really yet come up with a succinct reason or way to try to persuade someone of the benefits of running your own domain for learning purposes. It wasn’t until watching the initial week 3 video for #OpenEdMOOC that it hit me; The first step is to try to show students why they should not be too happy about what happens to their work in the LMS. It’s nuked as soon as the course is over. Gonzo. The students are the ultimate “customers” for an LMS and it is designed to purge anything they do as soon as a course is rolled over. I say poo poo to that.

They don’t just lose access to the curriculum material, they lose access to their own contributions to that curriculum.

~George Siemens

Anyway, my point is that it’s all about the escape first. Talk about getting out of the LMS first before you hit them with DoOO as a place to land and build a home. In Escape From L.A. Snake wasn’t worrying about where he was going to build a home before he got out. He just needed to get the hell out of L.A.

Snake Plissken thinks about the LMS

“Escape” flickr photo by Metaphox shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license


10 thoughts on “Escape From LMS”

  1. Love this post Terry!

    I’m just gonna riff a bit and let me know if you have thoughts…

    I too love DoOO and I’m always looking for ways to get people to think about the platforms that they use. I struggle with thinking of DoOO as a replacement for LMS because of the public/private dynamic. I think that we need a place for private conversation and private data. I’m fine with the LMS for grades for instance or even private discussions (though I actually like Slack better for discussion). Where I get angry is when we pay exorbitant prices for the LMS – no LMS is going to make or break learning – teachers and students make or break learning. The LMS is just another system in my book – where it has gone wrong is that many have thought of it as THE learning system for an institution and have paid high prices for something that is not all that impactful.

    I think that when we talk about DoOO we often get stuck thinking about WordPress installs but you could install Moodle on a domain as easy as you could install WordPress. I’ve wondered about having students install their own Moodle instances and having them work in each other’s systems. Especially when they will be forced to use an LMS in other classes I would love to do something like this to help show students how they are used in other classes. Imagine if students really understood the LMS… If they understood what was being tracked and how their data could be used. If they understood that those courses were just getting turned off and not deleted. If they understood that some particular resource could be used in another way if the settings were tweaked differently.

    Just some thoughts…
    Again, great post.

    1. Thanks Autumm! Thats a cool idea to try Moodle in a domain. You’re right that domains are not a replacement for an LMS. But you do have to kind of escape the LMS to get to work in your domain and then the benefits to learning are far greater. I feel like the LMS is to learning like a bike rack on your car is to a bike ride. It may or may not help you get to the start of the ride but it’s not the ride itself.

    2. Yeah, what if teachers and students actually understood how to get their work out of an LMS instead of pretending they were powerless victims of settings in the administration panel?

  2. I had the very same reaction to the first few minutes of the video.

    I’ll share another issue – that those making the decisions rarely have any understanding of or experience with the online learning environment.

    I push my online students to write their responses outside of the LMS, always saying that they should put it somewhere they can own it and keep it. Currently they post the link to the LMS discussion board, because the university I work for insists that we adhere to the “approved” version of the course.

    There are lots of layers to peel back before we see real change away from an expensive LMS, but we can keep moving in the right direction.

    Thanks for the share!

  3. I agree with the spirit of the idea, but not really with the idea of pitching an owned domain as an alternative to an LMS. I can’t really see the equivalency, and standing this argument on a in the LMS “your stuff gets thrown away” suggests a domain as just a different place to put piles of stuff.

    It’s my hunch that students don’t see much value in what disappears in the LMS. What are we talking about? discussion forum messages? responses to quizzes? How much “work” of students really goes into an LMS? If it’s uploaded documents, well heck, they should have their originals. I’ve never heard anyone making this argument really demonstrate what valuable student work is being lost. To me it seems rather disposable. And I doubt this “escape from the LMS” really has any meaning for students. It’s a place they inhabit as visitors, domains are places they build as residences.

    It’s worth going back to the place it started at UMW. The idea came out some of as an alternative to the blandness of institution eportfolio systems, and also at the same time, asking students (and faculty) who shapes your digital footprint? Is what comes up when you google your name shaped by other systems? The DoOO really is a way for individuals to more directly influence that digital presence. To me, that is a more powerful reason to think about it than an LMS haven. It’s why I begin now with the idea of establishing a digital calling card at the top of the domain, not a blog.

    I also can’t say I see much point of an individual installing Moodle in a domain. What a lonely thing that would be. What would I do in my own moodle? Why push replicating again an LMS? Look more into the tools that let one do what can’t be done in an LMS. Scalar maybe.

    If you frame DoOO as escape from the LMS, despite the fun of the poster (you gotta work on your remix chops), that is making it an equivalent. I dont see the sell there to students.

    1. Hmm lots to think about there. Thanks for the comment. Those are my during late dinner almost bed time remix chops. Terrible I know. Maybe a more apt analogy is the LMS is like renting a basement apartment and a domain is buying some land to build your own ranch. But Snake wasn’t in a movie about home ownership and there wouldn’t be any explosions. I do agree they aren’t alternatives or opposite s of each other. My simplified thought process though was that students do their work and it could be either showcased openly in their own space or hidden in an assignment drop box and that the possibilities for meaning making and connection are far higher in the former. So they are kind of alternative spaces to “show your work” And its fun to think of the LMS as a contained purgatory complete with watch towers and guards keeping you in..

  4. The individual google search is such a great place to start that conversation about your digital footprint.

    Just wanted to add that eCampusOntario supports a project called the Student Experience Design Lab (SXD Lab). There are 22 students involved working on 6 projects. One of the teams is working on a project called “Free the Learning” which tackles these issues around the LMS, how it is used, and what students want or don’t want out of it. Really interested to see what they come out with. Tune in @SXDLab on Twitter and keep an eye out for their website (currently under development).

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