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I would like to be able to say it was an ethical decision prompted by Blackboards intollerable patent grab, and offensive behaviour towards the education sector generally…
I would like to be able to say it is because Otago Polytechnic wishes to engage with the open source software and educational content community around Moodle and free software generally…
I would like to be able to say its because Otago Polytechnic reads major reports that recommend the use of free software as a way to cut costs and improve people’s skills.. in short paying people’s salaries and professional development instead of license fees…
And I would like to say the migration was because back in 2005 staff at Otago Polytechnic conducted research comparing Moodle to Blackboard and recommended that [Moodle] showed significant potential and should be seriously considered for further investigation…
But all I can do really is quote the leadership team:
This has been driven primarily from the uptake Moodle is getting within the sector.
To be fair, this sort of decision can’t be taken lightly, and I’m sure other’s had good reason to stay with Blackboard all this time.. what we have now however, is a large number of disgruntled staff who need to find time to migrate content from one system to another. The end in the use of Blackboard was inevitable if you’ve been following the NZ eLearning sector, and the Educational Development Centre (EDC) has been doing its best to inform and encourage staff to become independent of any particular Learning Management System so that they are not so affected by changes like this.
The EDC is recommending 4 possible approaches to those faced with this migration:
- Simply migrate content from Blackboard to Moodle and utilise the technical support from the IT support unit. A word of caution on this – there will no doubt be high demand on the IT Support people for this, so expect delays and get in early.
- Take this opportunity to review your content and find more up to date materials, review the way you teach or facilitate your online course and the interactions you set up, and consider your options before acting. EDC offer support for this option.
- Load content to the web by way of the OP Website, Blip.tv, Wikipedia, Wikibooks, Wikiversity or Educator, Survey Monkey, Blogger, Google Docs, GoogleMaps, etc and represent this now independent material in your Moodle by simple links and embed codes. Doing it this way frees the content up so that any migration is possible and simple. Getting to this level of independence is not for the faint hearted. EDC offers support for this option.
- Load the content to the web (as above) and run the course on the web without the use of a Learning Management System like Blackboard or Moodle. This approach will set you free EDC offers support for this option as well.
The incredible ability of the education sector to seperate itself from reality is just incredible. I guess we have to accept that it has been common practice in education for a long time. Rather than teach in the real world we taught in the classroom, and with rules and regulations to sustain that very system. So its little wonder that the same embedded cultural drives in the sector will cloud over the development of new practices and absorb innovation and subversion so that no change is possible.
This is another hissy fit about LMS, VLEs, PLEs and now ePortfolios.
I remember when the backlash to the LMS started brewing back in 2004 as the social web star rose.. defendants of the LMS started side stepping and compromising with a new definition to Managed Learning. Definitions that described the LMS/VLE as a process rather than a product. A process described with a variety of tools at hand to do the thing, rather than necessarily a single central tool like say Blackboard or Moodle.. Nice one, that way we all got to keep our jobs and didn’t have to explain the great waste of resources into LMS development and content. The obvious success of social media services compared to the giant failure of educational technologies should have resulted in mass redundancies, but it didn’t. Instead we find people flogging that dead horse with open mimicking within broken toolsets.. MyLearn comes to mind as an attempt to keep those very costly resources somehow relavent…
Next, when the social media affordances starting to dawn on the education sector in 2005, some bright spark programmers in the education sector thought they’d try and “invent” something that would attach them to the giant nipple of the education cash cow.. they brought us the Personal Learning Environment (PLE). It was going to be a solution to the chaos of the social web, it was going to give all those slack education managers something to spend money on so they could say they were on to it, and help with assessment, validation, auditing and mind control.
But then the likes of me and a few others started shouting “snake oil” and thankfully the PLE movement side stepped it again and described it more as a process rather than a product. Another win for freedom, flexibility, personal choice and financial savings.
Now, the “ePortfolio” just won’t go away and we have products like Mahara knocking at our door today, getting big public money grants, and distracting our teachers and students from just jumping into the Net and learning core transferable skills such as managing RSS, editing Wikipedia, loading to Youtube, using Google Docs, Maps, and learning how to manage their online identity across all the platforms they are REALLY going to use (and yes, including that abomination called Facebook!)
I’m still waiting for the side stepping from the ePortfolio crowd, the bit where it becomes more about the process rather than the products.. in the meantime it seems like everyday I am having to explain to colleagues that the word ePortfolio is a sales pitch gimmick for something we already freely have access and do!… since, well.. the Internet.. but more realisticly 2004 when Google bought Blogger etc.
One such colleague who I constantly harass with this gripe (poor thing), is Sarah Stewart. Thankfully, I think she is agreeable to my brain washing now and will be a loan voice over in Brisbane for the Australia ePortfolio Symposium (trade show?)…
Man! When will these distractions and money diverters cease! Probably when the education cow stops waving its teats around and focuses on reality. There is a life time of usefulness and need to know right here on the WWW of information and communication that we need to be showing people how to use well. We have a real world of it to learn in and we don’t need classrooms to put up technical and designed barriers to it, or delete our presence when we stop payingtheir fees, or say something unsavoury. We don’t need, and shouldn’t want some out-of-date-before-its-off-the-shelf product to interface with our use of the Net just so education bean counters can have an easier time assessing, validating and reporting to audits. Just get in there and use the web as it comes, and learn to use it intelligently, and help education managers learn how to save a couple of million dollars on software gimmicks and adjusting job descriptions to suit the “changes”.
Update: Just found this post from Derek Wenmoth relevent.VLEs slow to take off.
Ah well – I guess we’re still embarking on the journey. What I’d hope we’ll see though is an equivalent amount of energy, effort and expense put into understanding the pedagogical value and opporutnities of a VLE/LMS/MLE as we are seeing go into the development (and sales) of products, systems and applications.