Archive for January 24th, 2010

Jan 24 2010

Benoit’s dilemma

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Benoit’s decision about whether to use the university LMS (WebCt/Vista) or to migrate to Moodle as he changes his course to full distance delivery brings up the following questions:

  1. How much time will be spent making alterations to the course materials in order to make them compatible with the new delivery style?
  2. How much time will be spent learning the new LMS?
  3. How much time will be spent later on in administrative tasks, such as upgrading the course environment, course content and student information and content?

It seems that the key question is the relationship between time and quality of the deliverables.  Will Benoit have enough time to create a course of the caliber he is accustomed to in time for his anticipated deadline of September?

As an administrator or department head, I would council Benoit to concentrate his efforts on the course content, rather than the wrapper.  I would list the following reasons for that advice:

1.  Although innovation is the building block of academic work, it is best if that can be focused on the course content, rather than the delivery style.  Students have a right to expect a certain standard and experimentation with a new LMS (although Moodle has a reputable track record and some support in other university departments) may not be advisable.  The university does provide IT support and it is its responsibility to maintain it at the highest standard.

2. Standardization within an organization is easier to manage.  If each department starts to experiment with different systems, then transparency and content sharing (convergence) may not be possible, certainly not in an organized fashion.

3.  It makes no sense for a professor to be involved in the administration of student files, records and data on a large scale.  This would likely occur as a few semesters went by.  Benoit’s time would be ill used for this purpose.  If he decides to work with Moodle, he will find little support for these problems.  There is also the issue of confidentiality that would arise if Benoit decides to use a server that is located off site.

Therefore, I would advise that Benoit consider the trade off between time spent creating and loading a new course to an environment that is similar to his current work space and time spent in learning to navigate a new environment with the administrative challenges that will surely come up with an open-source LMS that the university is not fully supporting.  Benoit might consider learning Moodle as a job embedded professional development opportunity once his course is fully functional and he has had time to make any required accommodations for its new delivery style.  He should not see this as having to redo the same work twice as each innovation in technology requires adjustments to tried and true material.

This paragraph, where Panettieri quotes Ash Dyer, an MIT researcher, supports my response.

“A university-hosted system can draw on other administrative systems, which allows the course staff to focus on content and learning rather than managing registration lists and other issues,” adds Dyer. “It is also designed to assist course staff with issues unique to education, such as copyright protections for some replicated course materials or materials that will later be published.”

“Finally, a university-hosted content management system allows for the retention and reuse of the content with a minimum of effort. This feature is particularly important if course staff changes between semesters, or if the university has other programs that can reuse the course content.”

Panettieri, J. (2007). Addition by subtraction. University Business, August, 58-62. Accessed online 22 January 2010

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