I met with an instructor last week who thought that maybe he’d like to use the university learning management system. I asked for the syllabus, and we spent some time talking about how much time he wanted to spend online, and how he wanted to share information with students.
Turns out that he wanted to share new lecture outlines and other resources each week, but not spend time maintaining two-way communications online. He had a very specific focus, and was very clear about the limits he placed on his online world, and on the new skills he wanted to learn.
So I recommended a blog – he can post items using his email, students can go to a central location each week to get the outlines (or grab an RSS feed), and he can limit the ability to comment on the posted items. I think this is a good balance of his teaching objectives and his personal priorities. The strengths of an LMS are in the range of tools – you can choose to implement grading, discussion, content delivery and assessment in one place. This comes with a range of decision, implications and maintenance issues, however. A blog can do lots of things, and you can plug in plenty of other widgets. But what it’s really, really good at is delivering content in a consistent manner. It’s reverse chronological nature keeps it current, and the tagging makes it browsable. The comments can focus discussion (a bit, anyway) if needed, but overall, the nature of a blog keeps things moving (assuming there are new posts).
I’m happy with the conversation we had and the decisions he made. He made it easier by his conviction in what he did and didn’t want (or would do), and his willingness to look at different ideas. A good day.