Modular Learning Platforms for CBE

Block Head And Stacks
In response to 2U Learning Platform Update: Removal of Moodle, addition of accessibility options

This article confirms what I suspected about 2U — that really the secret sauce in that solution is good quality instructional design. When I started learning about how they were using Moodle, it really looked to me like a robust Adobe Connect collaboration instance sitting on top of Moodle just to hold things together, and this article sounds like that’s exactly what it is. The fact that they take the time to transcribe videos and then overlay the closed captioning is an arduous extra step – good practice that too often goes undone.

It also confirms my long-term belief that leaving faculty to do their own instructional design is a recipe for messy, mismatched, and ineffective online courses. 2U appears to benefit from a consistent course template allowing them to ensure that types of content match the features and functions of the web platform it exists within. I have admired Lynda.com for the very same reason — they have a consistent course template using good tools for delivering video with text transcriptions along with practice features. Again, the challenge 2U and Lynda have overcome is not technological, it’s organizational. They’ve invested in instructional designers, developed a consistent course template and stuck to it consistently, which frees them to invest in building out a unified set of purpose-built eLearning tools to support commonly used course activities.

A modular set of learning tools is a critical component of a future CBE-native LMS (as nicely described in Michael Feldstein’s series) because it lets an adaptive learning engine route the student through learning activities dynamically, not following a traditional course sequence. Competency based education and adaptive learning require us to be able to link between different content and activities seamlessly, non-linearly, in response to student performance on previous tasks. In music terms, courses become a jukebox, not a playlist. The sequencing of the student experience is orchestrated by the adaptive engine, not by the one-size-fits-all course sequence that the LMS is designed to encourage/enforce.

By having a robust set of learning interaction tools that can be deployed independently on each destination page, we can build single competency activities and deploy them in whatever sequence works best for students.

I’m currently playing with the set of open source eLearning interaction tools called H5P which were developed by edX.org for their MOOC offerings, and which promise to deliver modular html5 eLearning activities from within the WordPress or Drupal content management systems. This seems like a step in the right direction towards the “small pieces loosely joined” solution that CBE course delivery is calling for. Be on the lookout for a more in-depth exploration of H5P tools here soon.

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