In my recent webcast with Patrick Masson for WCET, we described the growing usage of learning tools outside the official LMS solution. Patrick described survey results done by UMassOnline that captured the rich source of (often free) learning tools used in UMass courses. Much of educational technology is moving from an enterprise LMS market – with feature-rich LMS solutions expected to provide the majority of learning tools – to a learning platform market – with interoperable tools patched together with or without the official LMS by either campus staff or even directly by faculty. These tools are quite often free, and as such they are targeted at faculty and student adoption, rather than institutional adoption via a Request for Proposal process.

One example of these tools is Piazza, which is a “a place where students can come together to ask, answer, and explore under the guidance of their instructor”. Think of the tool as an combination of discussion board, chat room, and wiki, with some design elements from Google Wave. While the description might be hard to understand, that is part of the issue – Piazza is not targeted to replace the LMS or to replicate specific LMS functionality.


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