- August 28th, 2014
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The proposed changes are being heard in the EdTech Committee, and arose in response to ACCJC’s increased scrutiny of DE programs, as well as the district’s interest in mitigating FERPA exposure. While those are valid concerns, I believe that some of the proposed changes are a cause for concern.
The proposed changes:
1.2 “Authorized platforms” means the communications technology authorized by the Los Rios Community College District as appropriate for the conduct of Distance Education.
2.2 All distance education courses shall utilize authorized platforms. The use of platforms not authorized by the Los Rios Community College District is prohibited.
In my view, mandating the use of authorized platforms – in LRCCD’s case, the Learning Management System, or LMS – is problematic for a variety of reasons, including:
1. Though the LMS (authorized platform) certainly has a place in distance education, it is one of many possible tools that can be used to teach in a DE modality. Very often, the metaphor of “place” is invoked in discussions of the LMS. “Faculty can be told that they have to teach in Classroom A, so it follows that they can be told they have to teach DE in this or that authorized platform,” so the argument goes. The problem, as I see it, is that the LMS is not just a “place” to do distance ed, but a limited and proscribed selection of tools – chat, discussion boards, etc. – that dictates a “way” to do DE. It follows that limiting faculty to an authorized platform is not just telling them where to teach, but how to teach.
2. With limited resources, LRCCD can never hope to keep up with the state-of-the-art when it comes to online tools that enable faculty to provide rich and interactive instruction. Given the lengthy decision making and adoption cycles in Los Rios, any “authorized platform” is likely to be behind the curve from the moment of adoption.
3. Progressive distance educators throughout the country (and indeed the world) are making increasing use of social media tools, learning networks, and the rich toolset available on the open web – see projects like A Domain of One’s Own, DS106, OER, Thought Vectors, etc. Using an array of web and mobile tools, students can interact with the world outside of the institution, develop and maintain digital identities that follow them through their academic careers, and take ownership of their learning. The LMS is a walled garden, within which it is often difficult to do many of the things that will prepare our students to be successful in the world outside of our institution.
TL;DR Mandating a set of tools limits academic freedom and stifles innovation