Sunday, July 24, 2011

EduMOOC; Online Learning Apps and Mobile Learning

Hi friends, we had a challenging topic for the fourth week at EduMOOC - “Online Learning Apps and Mobile Learning”. Have the technologies once again changed the way we teach and learn? Is the Learning Management System dead - replaced by apps and mobile access?

If you google for apps - the short name we use to mention applications or  application programs, you will see that, in majority of the top search results,  apps is highlighted along with mobile, iPhone, iPad , iPod etc.

I take it as a strong indication of the current trend. Yes, the world is moving towards open distance learning systems that are well connected by mobile devices and wonderful applications that provide amazing learning  and networking experiences.

Though the image of mobile equipments come to our mind while talking about mobile learning, the basic concept in mobile- ie, the mobility - is already there in the LMS. The mobility concept has two factors viz, mobility of the learner and mobility of the equipment. In the case of LMS, mobility of the learner is possible without mobility of the equipment as the learning is facilitated through internet.  The second type, one we discuss mostly now,  is the mobility of the device along with the learner.

A little bit of confusion seems to be prevailing in the learning circles about the popular terminologies such as e-Learning, m-Learning etc. Are they different streams of education as we have conventional face2face leaning and open distance learning? Whether m-learning is an extension of e-Learning? What relation do they have? - numerous questions and of course, numerous answers as well :).

My thought is that we have to maintain the concepts and definitions relating to these systems simple and logical enough to be easily digested by distant learners, non-expert stakeholders, policy makers and administrators. Therefore we have to be very clear about the basic systems. Can’t we say ‘there are only two basic systems of education now - Traditional face2face system and Open Distance Learning System’ ?

The Open Distance Learning System has been seeing tremendous developments, especially after the advent of intenet. The major developments  are commonly represented by popular terms like Virtual Learning Environments, e-Learning, Learning Management Systems, Course Management Systems, and most recent m-Learning etc. While thinking about a system view for the ODL, I would like to put them all under the common category of ‘ICT enabled Virtual Learning Environments for ODL’.  We can also draw a rough hierarchy of this improvements within the category like:

Virtual Learning Environmnets -> e-Learning -> Learning/Course  Management Systems. I view m-Learning as an innovative technology solution for connectivity and course delivery in LMSs. We cannot use m-Learning as a replacement for LMS, becasue LMS is a base system and m-learning is a technology to support the base system.  Without a system for managing the learning - that include guidance, assessment and credential systems - mLearning will be just a system of content delivery and apps will provide just the advanced forms of text messaging, mms etc. Definitely, it is not what the world  is looking for an inclusive education.

We should also remember that the Virtual Learning Environments as discussed above are not exclusively for ODL. They can be made use of in formal face2face setups also for enhanced learning and teaching experiences. We call it blended learning.

When you talk about LMS, simply forget the brand names of popular LMS solutions that people tend to see synonymous to LMS, and consider it as a system embodying and relating pedagogic principles, content delivery and course management.  If you are able to do this, all your confusion over these different terminoligies will be gone.

writing in progress...

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