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Future of Education Q2 2022

Adopting an ecosystem approach to digital education

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Patrick Kiely

Vice-President, Irish Learning Technology Association
and Director, Flux Learning Ltd.

It is evident from conversations with colleagues, practitioners and learned academics that impactful and sustainable delivery of internationally benchmarked good practice in digital education requires an ecosystem approach.

The learning management system (LMS) was for a long time the centrepiece of the education experience for learners, educators and administrators. But it is now viewed differently by users and stakeholders. It still provides core functionality but in tandem with a suite of other specific digital learning tools and apps with more focused functionality and defined use cases. 

This inevitably impacts on how platforms are procured, how the supplier evaluation is weighted and how the learning journey has to be communicated to the end users. Exhaustive feature sets and simple functionality box ticking gives way to the well documented APIs and frictionless extensibility. LMS cannot and should not be expected to do it all. When they claim to, there are bountiful examples of everything being done to a lower standard – the fabled jack of all trades and master of none! 

LMS cannot and should not be expected to do it all.

Value of extensibility

The defining characteristic of a modern LMS is the ease with which extensibility is achievable. This impacts on procurement and on how all those involved with digital learning and training and development implement their courses, modules and training. 

For the learner, the LMS is still a ‘one stop shop’ but now one that provides instructional signposts to the appropriate digital learning tool based on pedagogical need and organisational ecosystem. Login to your LMS to view your course progressions and submit assignments, go to the video content management system to view video content and upload video assignments, go to the ePortfolio provider to document your learning journey and provide evidence of your achievement of learning goals. 

Creating better experience for user

An ecosystem approach where the best in class tools are well integrated using common standards (API and LTI for example) yields a better experience with more accessibility for the learner when appropriately signposted in courses. Crucially, it provides additional functionality and pedagogical flexibility for instructional designers, educational developers and subject matter experts also. 

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