More often than not, an LMS seems to be the center around which the whole learning environment revolves. While this is not meant to question the ability of an LMS in achieving particular learning objectives, it is a faulty system nonetheless. Developers of an LMS develop it keeping in mind their ease instead of focusing on learner centric goals. Organizations and learners alike, easily accept that an LMS is the be all and end all of the complete learning process. The assumption that learning takes place just by exposing the students to the content is equivalent to assuming the success of a program by its number of attendees.
Drawbacks of an LMS
To be succinct, the tools of LMS are its basic and the most frowned upon shortcomings. Though course delivery is made easy with the help of an LMS, it does not stimulate informal learning, performance support, and knowledge management. This happens because one tool cant deliver on all fronts without losing functionality considerably. The average user finds it increasingly difficult to use tools that are richer in features, as compared to a poorly featured tool.
Making the whole learning system LMS centric is the beginning of the end of an e-learning initiative. The learners should be provided with a wholesome learning environment and then an LMS be integrated into it to allow learners to learn according to individual needs instead of LMS design. Though an LMS can perform certain learning tasks well enough, it definitely cannot perform learning on the behalf of a learner.
A typical LMS suffers from the following drawbacks.
With an exception of recently added tools, most LMS offered simple features such as content sequencing and discussion forums. It is only recently that some of the leading LMS have incorporated synchronous learning tools that make for easy integration across platforms.
It holds the center stage in the learning process, overlooking the learning needs of learners and the requirements of instructors to render the learning initiative effective. It decides upon the nature of interaction be it instructor-learner, learner-learner or learner-content.
Understanding the nitty-gritties of the user interface is a challenge for most of the learners. Making good sense of the user interface and finding relevant information are some of the difficulties that learners face while using an LMS. This is because LMS try to multitask with a single tool. If one tool is allowed to perform not more than a single task, it will become easier for learners to use the tool. Also LMS overlook the fact the user interface design needs to done keeping the learner in mind, instead of designers and administrators.
An LMS could have been the best bet had content been able to provide a solution to all learning needs. But, this is not so, since interaction forms an integral part of the learning process. Therefore social tools too need to be a part of the LMS. Hence, selecting a method of delivery according to the varied demands of different courses is important.
What does an ideal e-learning environment comprise of?
While certain learning functions can be best performed by LMS, advanced learning cannot remain in the clutches of one tool does it all. Like structured content is beneficial in comprehension based courses. But, higher learning that is based more on discovery and exploration is rather curtailed or in the least restricted by the structured pattern of content. Hence, learner-centric, pick-and-choose tools are the need of the day.
An e leaning environment must comprise of the following things
Personal knowledge management tools
A platform to interact with the instructor, like e-mail or VoIP
A content interaction place
A platform for learner expression, like blogs or portfolios.
Keep provisions for addition of more tools depending upon what learners want.
A platform to connect with fellow learners, such as discussion forums
A platform to interact with industry veterans
Performing specific tasks by making available specialized learning tools is essential to create a rich learning environment as is the ability to add these to the existing structure.
Factors neglected by LMS
LMS need not be drab or rigid structured to impart learning. Tools that comprise of the following features are often not incorporated in LMS.
A tool that builds a learning ecology of sorts, with the learner as its nucleus. With the help of such a tool, the learners should be able to explore the learning process and express themselves according to their individual choices instead of the limitations of LMS.
An adjustable tool, that provides extended functions, which can also be individually selected, depending upon the requirements of the learner or instructor.
The tools that incorporate the above mentioned features need to be an integration of social and networking tools, blogs, collaborative spaces, wikis, and content management systems.
Social tools that allow easy learner interaction with content, and are easy to use for first timers.
Instead of making a tool that performs multiple functions, it is necessary to have connected specialization.
The key to the success of a learning platform is its ability of creating and breaking down learning structures real fast. Wikis, blogs and Google search have a quick learning structure creation and breakdown quality, which is not the case with LMS. In an LMS, a learning structure once broken down can also not be retrieved back, blocking its access to learners. But having said this, it is equally true that till a time there is a worthy replacement for LMS, they will dominate the learning scene.