Where a PLN and an LMS Become One (#PLENK2010)

I'm wondering if a blog post from nearly six years ago holds a similar perspective in today's terms which is central to topics being covered in PLENK2010.

Anderson lists some Advantages of an LMS which to me actually seem like disadvantages or at the very least, have no advantage at all.

  • Purposefully designed: Is this specific to an LMS?  It seems to me that a purposeful design has more to do with what the teacher does than the tool itself.

  • The capacity and functionality of tools designed to facilitate a net enabled class are now commonly understood by both learners and teachers and fit well with a cohort model of formal teaching and learning. Perhaps a cohort model of formal teaching and learning should not be the objective.

  • Institutional, teacher and student concerns over IP, privacy and support have been largely been addressed in current LMS systems. But does this equate to a more rigorous, relevant, and meaningful learning experience for the student?

  • Mature. There are many mature sites outside an LMS.

  • LMS systems have been around for about ten years and the primary interaction tools – threaded discussion groups for an additional 20 years, They are reliable, well supported by both vendors, development communities and typically institutional IT staff. There are many ways to communicate outside an LMS.

  • UniversalAdapative technologies are often available within LMS with little configuration required by learners or teachers. There are many adaptive technologies outside an LMS.

  • Safe and Secure Is being "safe and secure" really preparing the learner for the real world?

  • Educational institutions have long developed traditions of being safe places for the pursuit of learning and scholarship. One can reasonably expect to be treated fairly (or at least openly) and there are formal and informal norms adopted and enforced within contexts controlled by the institution. Such security is not provided on the open Net. This is redundant.  See comments above.

  • Learning at its best is personal and transformational. To accomplish this may require a sense of security whereby ideas, tones and emotions can be developed and shared. Learners have expectations that their comments, images and ideas are created and shared within this protected environment and are not available on the Open web, nor capable of being archived for decades and brought back to haunt the future. This will depend on the age and maturity level of the individual, but a capacity that is essential for all learners is to understand how to build a digital identity.  There are ways to prepare the "tones and emotions" beforehand while still having learners contribute to an open web.  Also, many spaces on the web allow for open and closed environments.  Finally, framing bad (online) experiences as haunting the learner in the future is the same as saying making mistakes is a bad thing.  It's all about preparing, guiding, and reflecting as the student contributions to the open web.

  • Ease of Use Same as above, is "ease of use" really preparing the learner for the real world?  There is a difference between ease of use and feasibility.

  • While developments in syndication technologies are rapidly improving, the challenge for a teacher or a learner to read through postings and their responses, in threaded or time stamped formats remains a challenge. Modern LMS systems default to easily support search, sort and organize postings in multiple formats. There are ways to do this outside the LMS.

  • Providing support to students for a single LMS system is relatively easy for learning services support staff. Such service can often be outsourced to 7*24 help desks if required. Ease of use argument.

  • Categories for postings are easily made, edited and expanded by teachers (for example typical LMS systems allow creation of informal coffee-room chats and threaded discussion areas, workspaces for teams and theme or chronological ordering of discourse. Categorization of blog posting even for those designed for a particular class are problematic, but become greater when a single PLE is used to contribute to personal, educational and vocational entries. There are technologies that exist today that enable the teacher to work smarter not harder.  There are ways to organize information in a public way.

  • Storing, uploading, archiving, editing and retrieval of course content is relatively easy in full featured LMS systems and usually undertaken by someone else – a prime requirement for effective backup! Storing, uploading, archiving, etc. can be done by teachers, students, and the community (i.e., anyone) in the open web.

  • LMS are the educational tools of today. The busy teacher or learner needs to invest little personal time and energy, but can ‘fall into” the supportive routines provided by educational support systems and expend their innovation energy in other directions. Are LMSs still the "educational tools of today"?  Plus, the tendency might be to set up a class in an LMS and then do little to contribute to it in the future.

  • My thoughts regarding the essential questions for this week follow.

    Can PLEs be seen as institutional level software?

    In part, yes.  If a course is offered in Moodle to degree-seeking students within an institution, that course more-than-likely will make up part of the learner's PLN (you say PLE, I say PLN).  I say more-than-likely because it depends on whether the student is getting anything out of the course, specifically what the student gets from the interaction of content and individuals that originate from the course offered in Moodle.  What the learner learns outside of the Moodle course constitutes the rest of the learner's PLE.

    Do PLEs require dramatic reform of the education system?

    Not in Mexico.  Even though we have courses in Moodle (blended and distance) and have restrictions to some websites when accessing the web at the university, the learners still have access to the web outside of the university which still contributes to their PLN in productive ways.  And although training teachers, admins. etc. to think in terms of a PLN is an ongoing process, I don't consider this as being a "dramatic reform of the education system".

    Must PLEs and LMS be seen as antagonistic to each other? Why can't they just get along?

    In my world, an "LMS" is just a part of a PLN (i.e., PLE) ; they are extensions of each other.  It's like those who just know me at school may or may not have the same understanding of who I am outside of school.  Even though I'm the same person, each network influences each other while maintaining some level of overlap between the two as well.

    This is why I don't like the term LMS and I avoid discussing whether an "LMS" is a good or bad thing.  It has little to do with the tool itself (or collection of tools) and more to do with how the tool is being used at any given moment.

    #PLENK2010: A PLN and Shifting Power Back to the Learner

    If an institution sets up PLEs for students using something like Elgg is that really that much better than an LMS? The students are still at the whim of whatever the institution chose to use.

    An institution cannot set up a PLN (what is being referred to here as a PLE) for students because, well, it's only personal if the students have a say in its design.  An institution can set up an LMS (i.e., an infrastructure) but that's just a tool.  Whether one calls it an LMS or Elgg, it really depends on how the tool is being used.  The functionality between Moodle and Elgg might be different, but when looking at one's possible PLN, an LMS typically is only a small part of the whole.  The university might be able to control the LMS, but they can do little to restrict the learner's PLN (even with the capability of blocking a few sites).

    The long tail (i.e., students) will continue to rise if teachers, administrators, etc. support learners in pursuing a PLN that is truly personal.

    #PLENK2010: It's all a PLN

    Furthering an idea from an earlier post about PLNs,...

    The boundary nodes that make up a personal learning network (PLN) - those within one degree of separation - may consist of any combination of the following:

    1. Individuals or groups of individuals (f2f/online)

    2. Concepts, notions, ideas, thoughts, opinions, etc.

    3. Technologies: blogs, wikis, online communities,

    These types of nodes (i.e., individuals, concepts and technologies - ICTs) influence each other depending on the type of interaction that exists, and the type of interaction depends a lot on the direction of communicate flow (i.e., uni/bidirectional), power structures, and identity to name a few.  Since nodal learning is personal (individuals have choices in how they connect), there is (or should be) a high degree of autonomy that ultimately determines the degree of diversity and openness within the network topology.  In addition to the types of communication that exist between the ICTs, each learner must also continually reevaluate the attributes which influence how the connection will be maintained in the future.

    So if the term PLN is the whole enchilada, why choose PLN over the term personal learning environment (PLE)?  Well, it has to do with the word environment. Intuitively, one can see how individuals have more control over how they interact with ICTs and less control over their learning environment or learning ecosystem.  Sure, we have more control than we have in the past with respect to the when, where, why, how, etc. of our own learning, but our boundary nodes are the direct result of a series of personal decisions.  In my mind, a learning environment (which extends beyond the boundary nodes) is not personal in ways that a learning network is.

    So given the number of possible ICTs that can make up a PLN, what becomes more important is how individuals decide on which boundary nodes to connect with and how they choose to communicate with them in terms of means, ways, and ends (in that order).  By building capacities first, the individual is more likely to become responsible (i.e., able and willing) for pursuing personal goals than if "personal" goals are being dictated beforehand much like how mission or vision statements (or course objectives) are typically handed down in a directive fashion.

    Using a single term, a PLN, makes it easier to describe the interaction or influence between individuals, concepts, and technologies that connectively make up a "support system" for personal development.

    #PLENK2010: Is this MOOC a PLE?

    Is this MOOC a PLE?

    I'm not sure it really matters.  Taylor adds the following questions:

    •  But how do new participants know what is possible [in a MOOC, PLE, PLN, etc.]?

    • How much time and energy are required to acquire new skills and knowledge?

    • What new skills and knowledge can one expect to gain?

    This MOOC, PLE, PLN, whatever, is what it is.  Everyone enters this course (as with any course on the planet) with different levels of readiness, interests, needs, learning preferences, etc.  Trying to determine what new skills and knowledge can be expected to be gained, for example, will vary greatly.  This is where expressive (non-behavioral) outcomes become more realistic in measuring degrees of emergent, non-linear learnings.

    At the end of the day, any course is about  finding the most appropriate ways to communicate so that each learner interacts with content and other individuals, then evaluating whether are not current connections (i.e., relationships) exists that afford an extended discussion.

    LMS Exists Mainly for the Needs of Managers, not Learners

    The LMS exists mainly for the needs of managers...not learners.

    I would say the participants in the PLENK2010 MOOC, who have decided to participate in a Moodle, would not agree.  These members have all the freedom in the world to choose how they wish to conduct discussions, yet they choose an LMS.  I'm willing to bet there are some who will work completely from Moodle for the entire course.  So from their perspective, an LMS exists mainly for the needs of the learners.

    #PLENK2010: Five points about PLNs

    Dave's five points about PLEs PLNs for PLENK2010

    Here is my adaptation...

    • Point #1:  I use the term personal learning network (PLN) to refer to all of the following: professional learning network, personal learning environment, learning management system, course management system, etc.  A node that makes up a PLN can be a person, group, institution, online community, software program, etc.  And it's personal if the learner (and not a teacher, trainer, expert, etc.)  has control over which nodes to connect with and what type of interaction the learner prefers to have with each node.

    • Point #2:  Judging a PLN should come from the learner who cultivates the PLN.  If I choose and determine that an LMS is the best way for me to learn, then the LMS is my PLN.  It is not the responsibility of someone else (nor their place) to judge whether my PLN (e.g., an LMS) is right or not for me.  I decide this for myself.

    • Point #3: "[PLNs] need not be supported by educational institutions", but educational institutions will lose out if they continue to create obstacles for students to access websites.  In fact, it would be to the institution's advantage to support PLNs in any way they can.  As more individuals gain the capacity to develop a PLN, institutions will need to be more competitive, which means to incorporate a more open approach to teaching and learning.

    • Point #4: Ownership(personal) and Time(network) are critical impediments to implementing PLNs in both formal and informal education.  Cultivating a PLN is an ongoing endeavor that requires time for the busy professional as well as for the busy student.  Taking ownership in one's learning can be a novel idea for a professional as well, especially if the individual is used to having been taught in a linear, more traditional fashion (e.g., similar to Freirian's banking concept of education).

    • Point #5: Cultivating a PLN requires ongoing facilitative support from a variety of sources: teachers, trainers, colleagues, students, administrators, basically all stakeholders.  Even in formal education, there is no starting or ending point when it comes to developing a PLN.  There is no minimum or maximum set of nodes and no right or wrong way to interact with those nodes per se.  What is more important is the impact the PLN has on the learner both in how the learning process unfolds and how the learner communicates with others.