The LMS-less MOOC

I am excited to take part in my fifth MOOC. As with all the past MOOCs, I anticipate learning through collaboration, sharing, networking, and experimentation. I hope to meet and learn from diverse people around the world. I have no doubt that I will grow, learn, and be inspired by the creativity and innovation of others.  I also expect to learn more about the design of MOOCs.  More than any of these, however, I am delighted that ETMOOC is my first LMS-less open course experience.  A wide variety of platforms, communities, and technologies will blend to offer a fully open classroom without walls.

Four or five years ago, I was a attending a distance learning and teaching conference and I was interviewed about the future of distance learning.  I responded by sharing my very first experience designing online courses.  It was around 1995 and I was working in a high school in Illinois. I was studying for my first master’s degree at the time, and much of my research in that program related to the promise of online learning in secondary education.  So, I decided to start a pilot online program that would offer a series of 5-7 high school electives, courses that would not otherwise be offered at the high school.  It was great fun working with various content experts.  We built a world literature course using a visual interface that simulated the students going on a trip around the world.  We designed a history course that explored modern history, but blended it with a study the leadership through the successes and failures of ten distinct and diverse historical characters. We even built a high school course that explored the relationships between science and religion.

One thing that was distinct about these early online course designs is that we did not have a learning management system.  Instead, we leveraged seven or eight free or inexpensive platforms to weave a digital learning environment.  We used traditional web pages, a discussion board, email, newsgroups, a real-time chat tool, and a variety of other tools of that time.  Now, almost twenty years later, having designed almost two hundred online courses in a variety of learning management systems, I still contend that this early LMS-less online course design experience included some of my best instructional design work.  So, when someone asked me to predict something about the future of distance learning, I shared a hope more than a prediction.  My hope was a future where we once again returned to technology mashups for online courses, removing the walls of the online course and embracing a more expansive and open vision for distance learning.  To the best of my knowledge, ETMOOC does just that, and I am delighted to experience it with a massive group of co-learners around the world.