Anywhere-anytime learning has created a need for responsive and reliable systems
to support teachers, learners, administrators, and support personnel (such as
admissions and records, instructional designers, librarians, and tutoring
services). These systems operate on a 24 X 7 X 365 basis and enhace the
management of education and training programs. They handle logistics such as
admissions and records, counseling and enrollment, sequencing and scheduling,
interactive delivery and data collection, test administration and scoring,
review and remediation, grades and graduation. Some systems do a few of these;
others are comprehesive. The challenge is to make the systems transparent and
simple to use, yet provide flexibility to fit many different kinds of
USDLA Editor at Large, Stephen Downes, makes some observations
about the state-of-the-art and where all this is going.
Peder Jacobsen Looks at the
Crystal Ball - August 2002
What does the future (that is, the next eighteen months)
hold for learning management systems (LMSs) and learning content management
systems (LCMSs)? "It's past lunch time," said Logicbay's Peder
Jacobsen, "but it's not dinner time." The companies, he predicts, will
begin to eat each other once again.
Pederson was speaking at Online Learning 2002 in Anaheim
and divided his predictions into several major categories:
Learning Management Systems: LMS products and ERP products
are both about managing people; the former are directed toward learning while
the latter are directed toward human resource management. As LMSs expanded, they
began to talk about human capital management. But on the ERP side, companies
like PeopleSoft, Siebel and MySAP began to look at learning. The major theme for
LMS companies, therefore, is one fraught with danger as these "gorillas in
the mist" begin to move more aggressively in their field. The only hope for
LMS companies is to establish relationships with LCMS companies (relationships,
because LMS companies are unable to fund LCMS development).
Learning Content Management Systems: LCMS products and CMS
products are both about managing content. This has led to some companies
attempting e-learning content management with stand-alone content management
systems such as Plateau or Documenter. But most companies, said Jacobsen, want
an LCMS because they want features like testing and interaction. The big
question for LCMS vendors is whether they need the "learning" part of
the equation. As content becomes more granular, it becomes more generic. And so
the difference between the LCMS and the CMS begins to evaporate. LCMS vendors,
he said, have to focus on personalization to stay competitive against CMSs.
What we will not see, argues Pedersen, is a single, massive
engine that handles everything from human resource management to learning
management to content management. Companies are looking for a smorgasbord, not a
stew, he said. They want a combination of "best of breed" solutions.
This trend points toward more alignments between companies as they try to
co-brand themselves. It is also accelerated by standards development as products
from different companies work increasingly well together.
Technology, argues Pedersen, will move backward from "e" to
"old" as more and more companies demand things like print and blended
learning. This trend will accelerate as companies move beyond the wired centers
to offer learning in remote regions and around the world. LMS companies without
an LCMS component or alliance will be hurt. LCMS companies without an LMS
component will do just fine as they can export content into various LMSs. CMS
companies will try to do learning content and will fail.
Competencies, said Pedersen, will still be talked about...
and still not done.
client base will be global, said Pederson, and as U.S. companies learn that
there is life beyond their borders they will respond drawn by "any currency
that can be converted into a dollar." Clients will demand an integrated
solution, but not the sort of piecemeal content procurement they face today. And
while an integrated system is a given, integrated processes will be a concern:
companies will want to make one telephone call when problems occur (and will not
care whether they have called the correct vendor).
As we are beginning to see already, there will be increased
tension between vendors who want to sell stand-along learning objects and
clients who want to deliver customized e-learning. "They (clients) are
going to have to learn," said Pedersen.
Finally, people will look for informal learning solutions.
Asking the audience how many people learning something recently from an online
course, Pedersen saw only a handful of hands. But when he asked how many people
had learned something useful from the web, almost the entire room responded.
Standards: "We need to ask good questions," said Pedersen. What
are the good questions? Those that center around the verbs. Look at it this way:
We have mastered adjectives with metadata that describes learning objects, and
we have made good progress with nouns with data models, but we need to address
verbs through the integration of business models The people behind SCORM, he
said, understand this. They have a 20-year plan in motion, a plan that involves
deeper interactions. We should look to future versions of SCORM for things like
sequencing, adaptive services and intelligent tutors, user agents and
integration with the semantic web.
According to Pedersen, ninety percent of all learning is informal. Structured
courses such as those that are offered through LMSs compose only ten percent of
It seems off, then, that while he knows this, the bulk of
his talk was devoted to the ten percent of learning that is formalized.
It seems to me that the important developments that occur
in the e-learning sphere will be based around informal e-learning, and that many
of these developments will drive the LMS and LCMS market in unexpected
directions. When personal e-learning becomes a reality, everything else will
While LMS and LCMS systems move toward increasing
complexity and increasing functionality, people will demand less complex
applications in their day to day lives. They will demand quick and effective
learning, not structured and formal classes (that is not to say there is no room
for the latter; it is merely to say that ninety percent overwhelms ten percent
Pedersen talked about how there will be a great demand for
tracking and assessing informal learning. This is true, from the educational and
corporate side of the house. But from the point of view of the client, the
demand in this area will be for reporting and receiving credit. Clients will
also demand (while managers will resist) increased privacy and control over
their personal information.
About the Author:
Stephen Downes is Senior Researcher, National Research
Council, Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.
He can also be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org,
website is http://www.downes.ca.
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