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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Google and Pearson's Free Learning Management System

Last week Google announced it had teamed up with Pearson (GIS people will know them as the company that implements the Esri certification tests) to offer a free learning management system (LMS) called OpenClass. It will launch through the Google Apps for Education program. That program already has 1000 university users. The consensus is that the freebie will not replace embedded LMSs but perhaps sit alongside them.

David Kim, CIO of Central Piedmont Community College, is thinking that way. He's considering running OpenClass alongside Blackboard and Moodle. Why? It looks easy-to-use for both students and instructors. His sense is the "facebook-like" interface will work both for those just out of high school as those with gray hair.

Another possible bonus of OpenClass: instructors at one institution can collaborate with others using the same system. (I hope that's true for Moodle and Blackboard, but I certainly am not aware of it.) Blackboard maintains that its offerings integrate more deeply into the enterprise, so OpenClass is not really on par.

The whole LMS issue will continue to go round and round. And, I expect to see what we are starting to see in GIS implementations: hybrid systems. At Penn State, my department (I am no longer on the faculty), geography, was not a big fan of the school's LMS, Angel (now owned by Blackboard). So (and I don't know how this was done...seemed like magic to me!) we launched our own Drupal server (an open source content management system). The students still use Angel for mail and grading and some submissions, but from the instructor's point of view, we had our "own" environment.

I for one love to see lots of choices out there. Further, the more I hear about the different LMSs, it seems they can all do the "basic" job. I know I want faculty and students to worry more about course content and engagement than the platform in use. The more invisible that platform can be, the better. And, considering how Google has become, almost without effort, the invisible platform on which many of us already "run" in our daily lives, I expect to see great things.

- Chronicle of Higher Ed Blog