The LMS vs PLE debate

Those of us who are articulating the value and uses of PLE's seem like freedom fighters to me. We are liberating the learners from getting dominated, coerced, and damaged in the process of getting instructed. We are "user-centric" because our priority is the experience of the learners. We seek to adapt the system to the user, not the user to the system.

Tony Karrer recently added to this liberation movement with his post: Horizontal Learning which quoted Dicole Oy's post Horizontal Technologies for Learning. Vertical technologies are top-down structures which deliver consistent, reliable products (content). I've been characterizing these technologies as delivery systems, short tail economics, categorized expertise and factory models. I've compared horizontal technologies to discovery systems, long tail economics, miscellaneous expertise and organic models.

Last week, I found an online panel discussion transcript: Open complementing closed - PLE and LMS - why, what for and how? The pro LMS side is much better represented and articulated than I've found it to be previously. Learning Management Systems, like Blackboard, WebCT or Moodle, limit learning to what is covered in existing modules. From the pro-PLE standpoint, this amounts to a loss of freedom, violation of rights and lousy service for the customers.

As I reflected further on the pro-LMS side of the debate, I realized they are addressing two valid problems (#1, #2) that are undermined by PLE's. Their side is a mirror image of the pro-PLE side's focus on two valid problems (#3, #4) which are undermined by LMS's.

Problem #1: Chronic shortages of certified trades people; insufficient numbers of reliable personnel to perform hands-on tasks effectively.

Problem #2: Costs of admitting unqualified people into the labor pool; presenting under-skilled individuals as certified to perform jobs adequately.

Both of these problems are made worse by letting people learn what they want, feel like or find fascinating. The freedom in PLE's interferes with the solutions provided by LMS's.

Problem #3: Psychological damage caused by passive learning, systems of domination and enforced conformity; loss of self reliance, reflective practice, curiosity, creativity and complexity.

Problem #4: Dangers of docile citizenry, compliant with exploitative policies and easily subjugated by corporate greed; loss of societal resources to innovate, disrupt the status quo and create sustainable models of habitation.

Both of these problems are made worse by putting learners through LMS modules. The LMS's adherence to quality standards undermines the liberating and restorative intentions of PLE's.

Welcome to the middle of the debate.

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