Learning Management Systems Developments:


A Symposium to Evaluate Past Practices to Design a Future


June 26 * 8 AM – 5 PM

Symposium Blog:




Alan Amory, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

James Dalziel, Macquarie University, Australia

Joe Luca, Edith Cowan University, Australia

Program Description


Given that:

  • content is insufficient to promote learning (Winn, 1997);
  • technology should be used as a tool to make concrete an educational philosophy (Collis, 1997);
  • theory should drive the application of technology within educational contexts rather than technology itself (Greening, 1998);
  • meaningful learning should include simulation, incidental learning, reflection, exploration and include case-based scenarios (Schank and Cleary, 1995);
  • and that interactive learning resources could include simulations and microworlds (where learner explore, manipulate or construct within a world to discover real or abstract concepts), animated guides or intelligent agents (to provide adaptive guidance to the learner as they explore an environment or carry out tasks), cognitive tools (that assist the learner in constructing representations of their knowledge), practice tools (to provide feedback on the learner’s performance) and scaffolding tools (to provide structured support) (Dalgarno, 2001),

why does Wikipedia define a Learning Management System (LMS) as:

  • software that enables management and delivery of learning content and resources to students;
  • a web-based system that can be used “anywhere, anytime” to access content and for administration; and
  • a delivery and tracking system that includes testing.

Recently Reeves, Herrington and Oliver (2004) argue that developing “innovative collaborative online learning environments is not hindered only by the misapplication of course management tools or the lack of development time” but “the challenge is more a conceptual one than a technological one” where “many faculty members and other specialists involved in online course development seem to be content with converting traditional courses into an online format without pedagogical change”.

This symposium is organized to provide a forum where we can explore and debate the use of on-line learning systems where technology can act as a transformation rather than a distribution/control agent. Therefore we have divided the activities into three focus areas that raise interesting points, which might also be contentious, for discussion. Each focus area will include the views from 5 panel members followed by group discussions and group reports. Group participants can set their own agenda/questions within the general framework of each focus area.

Focus Area 1

Theme:  The development and use of on-line learning systems are ideological driven

Facilitator: Alan Amory

Introduction: It could be argued that most of the currently available on-line learning systems are a logical extension of the neo-liberalism approaches prevalent in educational administrative (new managerialism) where students are reconceptualised as consumers. Neo-liberalism is based on the idea that the use of a market-driven educational system; neo-conservative standards; the maintenance of traditional hierarchies of gender, class and race; accountability; national curriculum and national assessment policies would result in better education. However, many authors argue that such an approach is contrary to contemporary educational thinking and suggest that technology should rather offers us the opportunity to build learning environments that are authentic, collaborative, adaptive and  multidisciplinary. Therefore, how can Learning Management Systems be reconceived to include critical pedagogical approaches to refocuses learner-facilitator relationships and to be more important than management procedures?

Focus Area 2

Theme:  Open Source: The only way to innovation and creativity in on-line learning environments.

Facilitator: Joe Luca

Introduction: Over the past few years the open source community has developed a great variety of effective and free software. Gone are the days where large amounts of money are required to purchase required educational software. Learning management systems, blogs, bulletin boards, chat systems, testing software, whiteboards etc. are now all freely available. Many of these are implemented using PHP/MySQL which has increased in uptake from 1.25 million domains in Jan 2000, to 230 million domains in Oct 2005! Why then do many higher education institutions continue to purchase expensive proprietary learning management systems? Are they more flexible or usable? Or are they actually more restrictive for the end users, and stifle creativity? It could be argued that open source solutions promote creativity and innovation as they allow academics and instructional designers to take control and easily customise (or freely source) pedagogical tools exactly to their requirements, rather than be forced to use a collection of tools supplied by companies that provide commercial/proprietary applications.

Focus Area 3

Theme: Does the LMS have a future? Alternative visions for Learning Platforms

Facilitator: James Dalziel


It only took a decade for the LMS to go from being a good idea to being a software system used by most universities. But does the LMS have a certain future? Growing challenges may soon disrupt the existing marketplace – these include:

  • Frustration among many leading LMS users with the slow pace of pedagogical innovation by LMS vendors;
  • Ongoing difficulties in integrating other products into LMS platforms;
  • The rise of other major learning technologies such as Repositories, Learning Content Management systems, Assessment systems, Virtual Classrooms and Learning Design systems;
  • New approaches to building software based on a “Service Oriented Architecture/Approach” (SOA); and
  • The increasing impact of open source software, and open standards.

Perhaps the greatest challenge may arise from a fundamental shift away from LMSs as the central “platform” for learning. An alternative vision for Learning Platforms is growing around the concept of an overarching portal system that integrates various specialist learning systems (such as repositories, learning design, etc) into a composite learning systems framework (sometimes called a Learning Management Operating System – LMOS). This session will explore current and future challenges for LMSs, how LMSs may respond, and alternative visions for Learning Platforms.


8.00 AM   Introduction

8.30 AM   Panel Focus Area 1 presentations

9.30 AM   Group discussions with tea and muffins

10.30 AM   Group report back

11.00 AM   Panel Focus Area 2 presentations

12.00  PM   Group discussions with lunch

1.30 PM   Group report back

2.00 PM   Panel Focus Area 3 presentations

3.00 PM   Group discussion with tea and biscuits

4.00 PM   Group report back

4.30 PM   Final comments

5.00 PM   Close



Symposium registration is $145 USD and includes morning and afternoon beverage breaks and lunch.



Collis, B. (1997). Pedagogical re-engineering: A pedagogical approach to course enrichment and redesign with the WWW. Educational Technology Research and Development, 8, 11–15.

Dalgarno, B. (2001). Technologies supporting highly interactive learning resources on the Web: An analysis. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 12 (2), 153–171.

Greening, T. (1998). Building constructivist toolbox: An exploration of cognitive technologies. Educational Technology, 38, 23–35.

Kearsley, G. (1988). Authoring considerations for hypertext. Educational Technology, 28(11), 21–24.

Schank, R. C., & Cleary, C. (1995). Engines for education. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Winn, W. (1997). Learning in hyperspace. Retrieved November 22, 2005, from http://www.umuc.edu/ide/potentialweb97/winn.html

Reeves, T. C., Herrington, J., & Oliver, R. (2004). A development research agenda for online collaborative learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 52(4), 53–65.


Copyright 2009 Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education