Online Course Management Systems

Interrupting hiatus for brief rant-like post…

I just spent an hour doing TWEN training with our teaching faculty and their staff assistants.  Am I the only person that’s bothered by (a) Wexis created course management systems, and (b) TWEN’s dominance in these?

I don’t have a problem with TWEN as a system. It works fine for me. However, I don’t like how it (and the Lexis CMS, although in my various affiliations with four different law schools, I’ve yet to see a law professor use it) make the experience of using a legal database…less special. Hmmm. I’m trying to think how to phrase this without sounding like the talk my mother gave me about sex when I was 13. Shoot. I don’t think I can.

Okay, Lexis and Westlaw are great. They’re filled with all sorts of information and can deliver it quickly. However, using them is not without consequences. So a legal researcher really shouldn’t use them until they’re ready and can appreciate all the consequences. Given the severity of the consequences, using Wexis should be a really special event. And when a student is logging into TWEN every day to check a syllabus or see the standings in the Ping-Pong Tournament (an actual TWEN page at UK), Westlaw starts to feel like just another web page and not something that will let them rack up a $60,000 bill in two hours. (Again, an actual story I heard from a firm librarian.) As far as TWEN’s dominance, I think it gives West a little more of a leg up over Lexis in the hearts and minds of our students.

So, what to do about this? Well, I suppose that one could request that professors use both the West and Lexis CMS’s in their classes. That’s pretty unlikely to happen, though. We could hope that Hein creates a CMS, which would take out the competition between the the two big guys. Or, we could MacGyver something up with Web 2.0 apps.

In the most recent edition of LOEX Quarterly, Krista Graham has an article titled “Piecing Together an Online Toolkit,” which goes through some free applications that can take the place of a commercial Course Management system. They are:

Just through some poking around the Internet, I’ve also found the Sakai Project and ATutor, which are both Open Source Course Management systems. I wonder how possible it would be to get buy-in from our teaching faculty to use one of these?

Okay, back to hiatus and back to taking care of business.

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4 Responses

  1. When I taught my first distance ed course, I got so frustrated using TWEN, Blackboard and Moodle that I built my own courseware from scratch using Drupal.

    But I’m a dork.

  2. I did see mentions of DrupalEd, and thought about including that in my links. So here it is: http://groups.drupal.org/drupal-education

  3. We have a few profs who use the Lexis web courses CMS.

    To make matters worse than “just another web page they check,” when I asked about a feature today, my Lexis rep told me there is an enhancement that will allow students to receive course updates via none other than Facebook.

  4. Oh yeah, I saw you mention that on Twitter! I can’t wait to find out more about how that’s going to work out.

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