Why Choosing A Good LMS Is So Essential

eLearning experts around the globe are busy predicting the industry trends of the coming decade. The overwhelming focus on immersive learning is quite good but some things do not change with time. You need a sound Learning Management System (LMS) to make everything possible.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Contract for the Web

“A global plan of action to make our online world safe and empowering for everyone”
Contract for the Web

Last week I wrote a couple of blog posts that, well, just didn’t sit right with me (and had no real point either, other than a weak rant). So I deleted them. Through my mumbling and rambling mind I was writing about the true state of the internet as I see it, the rise and continued rise of trust, fake news, politicians and political viewpoints, climate, the dreaded #Brexit, and much, much more. I did have a point, that related to work, learning, students, etc but it was lost in the noise of the rant.

Which brings us, in a timely manner, to today and Tim Berners-Lee’s launch of the Contract for the Web.

Why have I signed it? Simple … I believe the internet can engage and improve our understanding of our environment, our physical, emotional, cultural and financial environments, and that together we can use it to improve the lives of others who are less able than ourselves. This is clearly not everyones intention. Whatever you think of the big tech companies and their use of data, your data, there is a disconnect between that is ‘right’, what is ‘right for me’, what is ‘right for them’ and what is ‘right for everyone’.

Whilst it may be legal for these big companies to move their business around the world and pay no tax, doens’t make it ‘right’ or ethical, especially if they are also accused of questionable standards their employees have to work under. Knowledge and power (and money) enables this. But it isn’t ‘right’.

“Everyone has a role to play in safeguarding the future of the Web. The Contract for the Web was created by representatives from over 80 organizations, representing governments, companies and civil society, and sets out commitments to guide digital policy agendas. To achieve the Contract’s goals, governments, companies, civil society and individuals must commit to sustained policy development, advocacy, and implementation of the Contract text.”
Tim Berners-Lee

The Contract for the Web aims to level the playing field, that everyone has a basic right to information, and that information should be consensual, truthful, respectful and free from racial or sexual bias. The contract brings experts and citizens together, with their “diverse range of experiences and perspectives — to build a global plan of action to make our online world safe and empowering for everyone.”

Ironically, large tech firms that have previously been accused of being the very organisations that have enabled the web to corrupt nad monetise our very existence (Goolge, Facebook, Twitter, etc) are also, for the moment, on the list of signatories.

I think the Matrix has me

A fairly innocuous tweet this morning had me thinking a little deeper and longer than I originally intended:

What I meant when I tweeted was that I felt I was missing out on something, but not sure what, as per ‘the Matrix has you’ line. What I ended up thinking about was the ‘glictch’ in the Matrix – the glitch in the film is an event that draws the individual to the realisation they are in a simulation. The glitch is passed off as a feeling of deja-vu, when you think you’ve seen or heard something or someone before, but you know you haven’t.

For me, the glitch today was just about repeating the same conversation I know I’ve had before, months or even years ago. When working online and starting new projects (large or small), there are some features of the kick-off meeting(s) that need to happen and be covered (timeframe, narrative, resourcing/resources, tools, etc). Saying the same thing time and time again can often feel repetitive or annoying, but it is also key to working well with colleagues (not all of them will have heard this before, some may have forgotten, some may even not think it important).

What is important is that repeating myself, in saying what needs to be said again and again, will eventually get the message across; it will eventually be more deeply understood and will ensure the project team(s) are considering the points carefully and appropriately. Being a stuck record for the sake of making a point is not helpful or welcome, but repeating yourself and offering a solution, and showing interest and care has benefits that everyone can reap. Being interested and caring, to the point of annoying others so they too care can and should be welcome.

It does of course all rest on how the glitch, the message is made. Make a fool or annoyance of yourself and the message is lost in the “oh, he’s on a rant again” background noise.

Photo by Henry & Co. on Unsplash

Purpose and Integration

I was asked recently about my thoughts on the development and advancement of technology in teaching and learning, and what are the most (!) significant developments to look out for.

I did not give the answer that was expected – I could have quoted one of the many Horizon reports, but didn’t. I think I was expected to name a particular device, system/website/tool, and the like – artificial intelligence, chatbots, etc. What I actually said was that technology, in all it’s various guises, needs to have and to fulfil a purpose and be integrated with the institutions’ ecosystem. That is more important than any individual device or system.

Let me explain.

I have seen many new tools adopted quickly, and sometimes rashly; sometimes to be the first-in-market to give all students an iPad, or to provide students with Amazon Echo in halls of residence, or other such technology-focused solution to a problem that wasn’t actually a problem? Have you heard of schools or universities changing their current online VLE or LMS from one provider to another, where the new solution doesn’t actually solve the problems (lack of use, lack of buy-in, poor tool set, lack of integration to institution ecosystem, etc.)? Technology itself is not always the solution, it’s how we use or plan to use it that counts. Without adoption, and without a purpose, it will fail.

What you often find is that the current set of tools and systems are only understood across the institution at a basic level, with pockets of more advanced useage where team(s) explore it more deeply and have actually found a purpose to it and integrated it into their daily workload or teaching. Yes, new devices and fun and shiny. Yes, new tools and systems are exciting as, on the face of it, they promise to solve the issues or problems you’ve been having or will at least fill the gap something else has.

But first off we should evaluate the current situation, decide on how well we are integrating this into the existing ecosystem, are we using is as well as we could/should, and does it fulfil a purpose? Sometimes we’ll find we’re actually not exploiting the tool fully and we can do better. Sometimes we’ll find the new ‘thing’ is actually going to offer us something we never had before (e.g. voice activated home/office automation).

But does the new technology, in any form or function, actually have purpose and can it be integrated into the wider institution?

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

When open plan offices don’t work. And times when they do

Most, if not all of you reading this will be working in an office you share with other people. Some of you will lucky enough to share with one or two other people, some of you will be sharing with 10 or more.

Does this environment work for you? Do you have enough ‘space’ for desk-work, phone calls, meetings, quiet ‘leave-me-alone-I’m-trying-to-concentrate’ work?

For me the benefits of working in an open plan environment outweigh the limitations, but only just. This is why:

  • Good: The ability to stand up and walk across to a colleague to talk through an issue, a thought, an idea, a problem. Fewer emails and more interaction/engagement with colleagues is always a good thing!
  • Bad: You never get a quiet spell to yourself to focus and concentrate. Distractions come from all different directions, people included and not just the physical environment.
  • Good: Working closely with colleagues in different teams can be difficult, even if your open plan office is limited to individual teams in different spaces. Being ‘open’ offers the opportunity to make collaboration easier.
  • Bad: Open plan offices should not have the kitchen area as part of it. From late morning to mid-afternoon you just can’t get around the smell of everyones lunch.
  • Good: Being flexible around an open plan office really only works if there are smaller, bookable and ‘closed’ spaces for people to use for meetings, phonecalls, personal time or sensitive conversations.
  • Bad: Wearing headphones all day to get your personal/quiet space is not good.
  • Good: It’s good to see your managers and the senior team of your organisation on a regular basis.
  • Bad: Individual cubicles should never be an option.

For me the best environment for work, not necessarliy ‘remote’ work but ‘office’ work, would be the kind of space I’m already in, open plan working for the contact and collaboration, but with the availability of more smaller, bookable spaces for small meetings and/or independent working (pods).

Some links for you to click:

Image source: stavos (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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