By Mark Sivy
There’s growing awareness of the need for e-Learning Ecosystems that are designed to be adaptable to specific learning environment requirements and contexts. This parallels the increasing dissatisfaction with the classic learning management system (LMS) that tries to be the Swiss army knife of online education. Instead of attempting to use a LMS as a one-size-fits-all tool to develop and facilitate online teaching and learning, a growing trend is to adopt an e-Learning Ecosystem (eLE) strategy that offers the needed flexibility to address divergent educational requirements, differing instructor preferences, and the need for adaptive and personalized learning approaches. The bottom line is that educators and innovators in educational community are calling for well-developed eLEes that provide the learning resources and facilitate the educational experiences that instructors and learners desire.
Many traditional LMSes have become increasingly complex and bloated, and are less able to conveniently or easily be adapted to the specific needs of various fields of study, courses, administrators, educators, and students. To take advantage of what these LMSes do offer requires costly support, time consuming training, and the expectation of fitting education to a standard formulaic package. Many individuals are not willing to undertake or accept these caveats. This is not to say that the LMS is not useful as a means of course management, providing beneficial services such as class student lists, grade book functionality, certain means of communication, and file access.
e-Learning Ecosystems In
An eLE is a suite of e-learning tools that range in purpose from design and development to learning delivery and ecosystem evaluation. What a properly planned and vetted eLE can do is merge desirable LMS abilities (if an LMS is even used) with those of other specialty tools to create a collection of options that not only meet current needs, but is also adaptable to future desires and additions.
So how does one accomplish such an undertaking? From the conceptual onset, it should be realized that an eLE involves more than technical mechanics and innovative learning technologies. It requires a philosophical approach, a collective acceptance, and cooperative development. The project must have a soul.
First and foremost, an eLE must involve stakeholders, including learners, instructors, managers, vendors, administrators, IT staff, and support staff. It’s important that this continues throughout the process, from the commencement through maintenance and updates. It’s then highly recommended that agile project management be used since it maintains an iterative process that is flexible and has a focus on groups of individuals working simultaneously and interactively. This contemporary approach is based upon the revolutionary, highly praised, and successful Agile Manifesto that was introduced in 2001 as a means of software engineering and development.
In Comes the Pareto Principle
Once the project stakeholders have been identified, the plan developed, and a budget target set, the next crucial step is the identification of the specific tools that will be active components of the eLE. At this point one might want to reflect upon the Pareto Principle (also known as the 80-20 rule) and consider its relevance to the eLE and the educational process. What this principle implies it that it may be found that the majority of learning will likely result from a few of the core tools that comprise the eLE. In other words, escalating expense and resource consumption will probably result as more specialized and niche tools are added to the eLE.
Reflection Point – ““Doing less is not being lazy. Don’t give in to a culture that values personal sacrifice over personal productivity.” ~Tim Ferris