A reaction to “A Spartan LMS”

Original post: http://learningnuggets.ca/ed-tech-thinks/a-spartan-lms

My response below (this may be my new blogging style, reacting to the rest of the world w/ commentary, other person provides the prompt, and then I can word vomit :))


So to do the twitter thing: “This.”

This post is great, I love how you’re viewing the LMS as something that needs to be fragmented because of reasons of ownership, pushing boundaries, and the fact that CMS (which I’ll call Domain of One’s own in this case) based technologies can replace so much of the BS in LMSs without the cruft.

To the point of throwing the baby out with the bathwater (and past arguments of walled gardens vs completely open spaces) I’d like to propose this analogy. Envision the baby in the baby tub. Instead of throwing them out, when the baby grows and matures and there isn’t the same fear of drowning, we submerge the smaller baby tub into a larger bathtub. We do both at the same time for a time to get the baby acclimated to the new environment and the new freedoms of this larger space. We don’t immediately remove the baby tub or throw away the water from this tub, but we submerge it in a larger pool.

This larger body of water slowly, naturally, becomes one with the body of water in the smaller baby tub. Once the child is comfortable with the larger tub, they eventually exit of their own free will and eventually, we don’t need the baby tub.

In this worldview, I see the LMSs of the past 20 years to be that baby tub. A relic of the training wheels of online education. A forum system that needed to exist because well, our learners and instructors had no knowledge of the world. But as we’ve gotten our feet wet in the larger ecosystem of the web, we’ve lost the need for these training wheels. We’ve outgrown them.

So, how best to react when administrations and IT silos for 2 decades have handcuffed our institutions with purchasing decisions which are great for “good enough” but not for Great? Well, we need to take this baby pool submerged into the larger body of the web approach. This is where systems like ELMSLN come in (my baby). We know that you need an LMS (for now) and we structure ourselves in such a way that we assume that we’re going to be integrating with lots of things. We do this, while simultaneously besting the last 20 years piece by piece (which trust me, ain’t hard to do w/ most of the vendors out there).

So the question isn’t do we walk entirely, it’s what’s the course we can chart to make a clean break (some day)? I view elms:ln as part of a journey with the higher educational industrial complex. If it wants to survive the coming singularity, IoT revolution, app-ification of knowledge and eventual commoditization of “learning”, then it needs to lay down the vision of how to get off our single solutions before the baby outgrows the baby tub and has no need for tubs at all but instead gets up, plugs into Google “How do I do my job today?” and goes off to work; never having experienced tubs at all.

I’m not on your blog to pitch a product, I’m here to pitch the same world view you are espousing here (which is awesome). How can we best chart a course to an lms-less world (https://btopro.wordpress.com/2011/06/08/envisioning-a-lms-less-university/)? We’d love to have navigators like you join us in this vision to save (via improvement) the educational establishment we’ve all known and love.



  1. TG · February 12, 2017

    I replied this on my post as well, let’s keep pushing the baby bath water analogy:When a reply to your blog post takes what you suggest and ponder about and pushes it 1.5 million times further, it feels great and humbling at the same time! I think it’s true that we kind of needed the LMS to get our feet wet in digital learning but now it’s shown us a lot of what not to do. We’re splashing around in our own little tubs right beside an awesome lake with boats and canoes and those floating trampolines and docks and friends to play with. We should all put on life jackets if needed, raise the level of the lake until our tubs are in it and then hit up that floating trampoline together (I’ve always wanted to try one of those). At this point I am destroying our analogy. Regardless, I look forward to all of us playing together in a larger play place. Thank you for your excellent comment.

    • btopro · February 12, 2017

      Going to have to keep dual commenting here for people that may find one or the other of us (oh well). I completely agree, which is why I couldn’t stop thinking about your post at the airport since the baby/bathwater analogy seems to come up a lot but the way you framed actions struck me differently.

      To build on what you added, I actually think the trampoline, summer camp (both of which I’ve never done either) is perfect! Our fellow faculty and friends are stuck in their bathtubs / kiddie pools and look out at those of us that have escaped to trampolines and say “Wow that’s awesome for you… but I can’t swim.” And instead of LD&T shops saying “well, we can get you there” too often they are focused on “I mean… trampolines are dangerous, have you signed the liability waiver?”

      The summer camp liability waiver is FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) based arguments like “But but but PII” or “but but but learner experience” or “but but but grading” or “but but accessibility”. And while these are valid concerns and things to take into account safety should not be an immediate shut down to discussions of progress (or else we’d never have gotten to the moon for fear that in trying we might be successful).

      I agree that we’re onto something here w/ this analogy, let’s kick some stuff up in the larger ecosystem of thought on this subject. I’d love to talk philosophy of course design on one of our ELMS Makers webinar / screencasts with Paul Hibbitts (UBC) and Michael Collins (Penn State) as it relates to technology selection. I think all 3 of you have interesting ways of approaching the mental model (hell, you didn’t think learning stopped at the LMS so already your in the right state of mind).

      I don’t know when we’re doing the next one (trying to do 1 monthly) but would love to rig up an hour of show and tell of the 3 approaches and how we’re envisioning this in elms land (which Mike is an influencer of).

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