It’s been far to easy in the past for various people to claim ‘such and such commerical CMS simply won’t do because it doesn’t deal with my pedagogical model.’ And sometimes it’s true – the kind of interaction you want to promote may not be doable within a specific environment because its user model and application logic simply were never built to accomodate it. But it’s also served as an all to easy excuse to trash some of the commercial CMS, when the real issue lay as often in the fact that they were commercial systems, and that someone had ‘imposed’ the choice of that system on the faculty member.
This short case study from Kingston College in the U.K. stands in contrast to that rather polarized debate as a model of sanity. After two years of using Blackboard, they came to realize that it seemed to be more effective in certain kinds of courses, and that for it to be more effective in all the kinds of courses they taught they needed to look at how the system was being used, and link that to the kinds of learning and interactions that were needed. As they say, “approaches in the classroom for these three different levels of course will differ. We now recognise that the way in which e-learning is utilised must also differ. Emerging from the review process has been a simple model, which maps out the key functions in Blackboard, that appear to be most productive for each form of pedagogy.”
After re-reading it, I think I am giving the article too much credit – while they took the step of recognizing that certain tools never came into play in certain types of learning (and thus could turn them off and not have students searching for material where none was), they don’t appear to be advocating the further step of recognizing that the specific tools can be used differently in different contexts, and that while the design of a tool may prescribe its uses in some ways, it does not dictate them. – SWL