Reply to Don’t let your online strategy become a conversation about which LMS to use by Tannis Morgan

Replied to Don’t let your online strategy become a conversation about which LMS to use by Tannis MorganTannis Morgan (Explorations in the EdTech World)
Here’s the short of it. LMS’s do some things really well and are not going to go away. We still use an LMS at our institution, and while I would really like the vendor to invest some of our hard earned license fees into making it a more user friendly tool, we still need an LMS. However, I’ve tried really hard to make sure our online strategy does not start and finish with the LMS, and yes, it is an ongoing battle.

This article presents an excellent point. I also see a lot of what I would call IndieWeb philosophy bubbling up within this argument, and perhaps the edtech space could benefit from some of their ideas, set up, and design?  If you like, we could take the analogy IndieWeb:Social Silos::Educational Technology:Learning Management Systems and extend it.

Much like the demise of the innovation on the web and within the blogosphere as the result of the commodification of social media by silo corporations like Facebook, Twitter, and others around 2006, the technology space in education has become too addicted to corporate products and services. Many of these services cover some broad functionality, but they have generally either slowed down or quit innovating, quit competing with each other, are often charging exorbitant prices, and frequently doing unethical things with the data they receive from their users. The major difference between the two spaces is that Big Social Media is doing it on a much bigger scale and making a lot more money and creating greater damage as a result.

Instead, let me make some recommendations to thought leaders in the space for more humanistic and holistic remedy. Follow the general philosophies and principles of the IndieWeb movement. Dump (or at least gradually move away from) your corporately built LMS and start building one of your own. Ideally, open source what you build so that others can improve it and build upon it. In the end, you, your classes, your departments, and your institutions will be all the stronger for it. You can have more direct control over your own data (and that of your students, which deserves to be treated more ethically). You can build smaller independent pieces that are interchangeable and inter-operable. The small pieces may also allow new unpredictable functionalities when put together. You can build to make better user interfaces, better functionality, and get what you’d like to have instead of just what you’re given.

Sure, doing this may be somewhat uncomfortable in the near term, but many hands over many institutions, building and crafting a variety of solutions will result in a much better and more robust product–and one that we all can “own” and benefit from. By open sourcing, many hands will make light work. Imagine what the state of online learning, Open Educational Resources (OER), and open pedagogy would look like if the hundreds of institutions had put all of their LMS related funding over the past decade into even a handful of open source programmers instead of corporately controlled interests?

Already within the article, there is a short list of potential solutions one could look to as LMS replacements. Those that are open source are literally crying out to not only be used, but to be improved upon so that everyone can benefit from those improvements. Other related options might include

For solid examples of what can be accomplished, we can also look toward individual developers like Stephen Downes and projects like gRSShopper or Alan Levine and his many open source repositories. There are also individuals like Greg McVerry, who is using free and opensource content management systems like WordPress and WithKnown to push the envelope of what is possible with classroom interactions using simple internet protocols like Webmention, Micropub, WebSub, and bleeding edge readers using MicroSub, and Robin DeRosa, who is creating her own OER materials. These are just a few of thousands of individuals hacking away at small, but discrete problems and then helping out others.

At the higher end we can see broad movements like A Domain of One’s Own (DoOO), which empowers students students and faculty by giving them their own domain names and hosting as well as web-based tools to leverage these benefits. (I often look at the DoOO movement as IndieWeb for Education, but without as much emphasis on building for oneself.)

There are even ethical companies like Reclaim Hosting who are doing some excellent and tremendous work in the DoOO space. The benefit of the way these systems are built and maintained however, is that should Reclaim cease offering their excellent support, benefits, and add-ons, individuals or institutions could relatively easily take all of their data and applications and move them to another provider. This provides a massive incentive for service companies to continue iterating and improving on their work as well as the services they offer. Sadly, some of these mechanisms don’t exist this way within much of the corporate LMS space. But they certainly could and should.

For those who are interested, feel free to do some research into some of these areas and tools. Join the DoOO or communities. Build your own tools, give feedback to developers of opensource projects to help them improve. Give them some of your time and resources to make these communities and spaces better and stronger over time. Feel free to join the IndieWeb chat to meet folks virtually and discuss these ideas, or use the IndieWeb wiki (the IndieWeb for Education page is an excellent place to start) to not only read, but to contribute back ideas, tools, links, and resources for others. (The wiki has a CC0 license.)

I’m always happy to help people begin to find their way in some of these resources if they need it to get started.

Syndicated copies to:

👓 Don’t let your online strategy become a conversation about which LMS to use |

Read Don’t let your online strategy become a conversation about which LMS to use by Tannis MorganTannis Morgan (Explorations in the EdTech World)
Here’s the short of it. LMS’s do some things really well and are not going to go away. We still use an LMS at our institution, and while I would really like the vendor to invest some of our hard earned license fees into making it a more user friendly tool, we still need an LMS. However, I’ve tried really hard to make sure our online strategy does not start and finish with the LMS, and yes, it is an ongoing battle.

Reply to Taylor Jadin about planet functionality for education

Replied to a tweet by Taylor JadinTaylor Jadin (Twitter)
It was a pretty productive Open Domains Lab for me. Got my sort "funnel" site set somewhat set up using FeedWordpress.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts after using it. It sounds like it has a lot of functionality overlap with Press Forward (for WordPress). Planet-like functionality is commonly requested in the education and technology space. Are there others? Stephen DownesgRSShopper perhaps?



Syndicated copies to:

🔖 An Urgency of Teachers: The Work of Critical Digital Pedagogy by Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel

Bookmarked An Urgency of Teachers: the Work of Critical Digital Pedagogy by Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel (
This collection of essays explores the authors’ work in, inquiry into, and critique of online learning, educational technology, and the trends, techniques, hopes, fears, and possibilities of digital pedagogy. For more information, visit
Syndicated copies to:

👓 Digital learning experts reflect on evolving field in new book | Inside Higher Ed

Read Digital learning experts reflect on evolving field in new book by Mark Lieberman (Inside Higher Ed)
Jesse Stommel and Sean Michael Morris examine their evolving thoughts on classroom technology and online education. A lot has changed in a short time, they found.

Nice little interview. Definitely makes me want to read the book.

Syndicated copies to:

👓 The risks of treating 'academic innovation' as a discipline (opinion) | Inside Higher Ed

Read The risks of treating 'academic innovation' as a discipline (opinion) (Inside Higher Ed)
Calls to create a discipline around the term risk reinforcing existing problems with how it is used -- and misused -- in higher education, Rolin Moe writes.
Syndicated copies to:

👓 The role of the faculty in the post-LMS world (opinion) | Inside Higher Ed

Read The role of the faculty in the post-LMS world (opinion) (Inside Higher Ed)
If it isn’t already, the learning management system will soon be obsolete, Jonathan Rees argues. Let’s replace it in ways that treat professors like the professionals they are.

This article has the flavor of IndieWeb about it…

Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia

The real internet is structured by myriad people with different aesthetics and different needs. Online course design decisions should reflect the instructor’s individuality in the same way that everyone else’s webpages do.  

September 26, 2018 at 05:22PM

Third, the post-LMS world should protect the pedagogical prerogatives and intellectual property rights of faculty members at all levels of employment. This means, for example, that contingent faculty should be free to take the online courses they develop wherever they happen to be teaching. Similarly, professors who choose to tape their own lectures should retain exclusive rights to those tapes. After all, it’s not as if you have to turn over your lecture notes to your old university whenever you change jobs.  

Own your pedagogy. Send just like anything else out there…
September 26, 2018 at 05:27PM

Syndicated copies to:

👓 Electracy | Wikipedia

Read Electracy (Wikipedia)
Electracy is a theory by Gregory Ulmer that describes the kind of skills and facility necessary to exploit the full communicative potential of new electronic media such as multimedia, hypermedia, social software, and virtual worlds. According to Ulmer, electracy "is to digital media what literacy is to print." It encompasses the broader cultural, institutional, pedagogical, and ideological implications inherent in the transition from a culture of print literacy to a culture saturated with electronic media. "Electracy" is the term he gives to what is resulting from this major transition that our society is undergoing. The term is a portmanteau word, combining "electrical" with "literacy", to allude to one of the fundamental terms used by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida to name the relational spacing that enables and delimits any signification in any medium.
Syndicated copies to:

👓 Update on Badging with Webmentions | Greg McVerry

Read Update on Badging with Webmentions by Greg McVerryGreg McVerry (
As #EDU522 Digital Teaching and Learning Too wraps up I find myself reflecting on my goals for the class…I mean “my goals” in the class not the hopes on the instructional design. Much more on that later. All summer, well before EDU 522 began, I set off to create a remixable template others cou...

I suspect that Dr. McVerry could have gotten further a bit faster had he built the course on WordPress directly instead of on a remixable platform. This would have made it easier to send webmention-based badges which could have been done by creating a badge page on which he could have added simple links to all of the student pages that had earned them. This would have made things a bit less manual on his part.

But at the same time, he’s now also got a remixable platform that others can borrow and use for similar courses!

Syndicated copies to:

👓 ‘Inclusive access’ takes off as model for college textbook sales | Inside HigherEd

Read 'Inclusive access' takes off as model for college textbook sales (
Hundreds of colleges are signing on to publishers’ programs, with apparent savings to students. Some applaud the movement, while others are skeptical.

Inclusive Access is a great marketing term. It sounds nice, but has some insidious implications. It would be interesting to do some additonal in-depth reporting on the economics of these models. The article could have done at least a back of the envelop calculation and been far more skeptical of what was going on here.

Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia

The “inclusive” aspect of the model means that every student has the same materials on the first day of class, with the charge included as part of their tuition.  

It almost sounds to me like they know they’re not getting a cut of the money from poorer students who are finding the material for free online anyway, so they’re trying to up the stakes of the piece of pie that they’re getting from a different angle.

This other model of subscription at the level of the college or university is also one that they’re well aware of based on involvement with subscription fees for journal access.
August 21, 2018 at 10:17PM

She said that her institution, which has inclusive-access agreements with more than 25 publishers, had saved students more than $2 million this semester alone. Morrone said this figure was calculated by taking the retail price of a textbook, subtracting the cost that students paid for the equivalent etextbook and then dividing the cost saving in half to account for the fact that many students would not have bought the book new.  

$ 2million compared to what? To everyone having purchased the textbooks at going rates before? This is a false comparison because not everyone bought new in the first place. Many bought used, and many more still probably either pirated, borrowed from a friend, from the library, or simply went without.
August 21, 2018 at 10:21PM

Students like the convenience of the system, said Anderson, and all have access to the most up-to-date content, instead of some students having different editions of the same textbook.  

They’re also touting the most up-to-date content here, when it’s an open secret that for the majority of textbooks don’t really change that much from edition to edition.
August 21, 2018 at 10:24PM

A key difference between inclusive access and buying print textbooks is that students effectively lease the content for the duration of their course, rather than owning the material. If students want to download the content to access it beyond the duration of their course, there is often an additional fee.  

So now we need to revisit the calculation above and put this new piece of data into the model.

Seriously?! It’s now a “rental price”?
August 21, 2018 at 10:26PM

Campus stores are often the ones driving inclusive-access initiatives, as they receive a cut of the sales. While the profit margins are smaller than for print, inclusive access means that the stores receive revenue from a larger number of customers. Donovan Garcia, course materials manager at the University of Mary Washington, said that lower margins were also mitigated by lower overheads. “We’re not purchasing books, we’re not paying shipping, we’re not having to put any time or effort into returning unused books or paying restocking fees,” said Garcia.  

I suspect the publisher is also saving on sales commissions to their sales staff as well.
August 21, 2018 at 10:27PM

Syndicated copies to:

👓 Make Your Daughter Practice Math. She’ll Thank You Later. | New York Times

Read Opinion | Make Your Daughter Practice Math. She’ll Thank You Later. (
The way we teach math in America hurts all students, but it may be hurting girls the most.
Syndicated copies to:

Reply to Greg McVerry on Memes as Lazy Metaphors

Replied to Memes as Lazy Metaphors by Greg McVerryGreg McVerry (
You could choose any picture in the world to represent you and you chose a meme… Day One We started off our #dailyponderances in #EDU522 thinking visually. Each person was asked to post a picture that represented how you felt. The funny memes flooded in I laughed, but I also grasped how frustrated...

As I’ve been reflecting on this further, it does dawn on me that on day one or two of the course many of us had probably just read the Schedule of Assignments/Workflow page of the course site, which also carries the title How The Sausage is Made.

Perhaps we all went to meme-speak because you had subtly primed us to go there? You could try a nice experiment when you teach this course again…



I had almost forgotten that it was not so long ago that I’d outlined how I use Hypothesis to own my own highlights and annotations on my website. For the benefit of those in Dr. McVerry’s EDU522 course, I’ve included a link to it here.

For those who would like to see some examples you can find several below:
Specific stand-alone highlight posts
Specific stand-alone annotation posts
Other posts (typically reads) which I’ve highlighted and/or otherwise annotated things

I created the stand-alone posts using customized post kinds using some custom code for the Post Kinds Plugin.

I’ll begin tagging some of these pieces with the tag “backstage” for those in the EDU522 class that wish to follow along with how I’ve built or done certain things. You can subscribe to these future posts by adding /feed/ to the end of the URL for this tag archive.

To some extent my IndieWeb Collection/Research page has a lot of these “backstage” type posts for those who are interested. As part of the IndieWeb community, I’ve been documenting how and what I’ve been doing on my site for a while, hopefully these backstage posts will help other educators follow in my path without need to blaze as much of it anew for themselves.

Backstage posts are in actuality a very IndieWeb thing:

As we discover new ways to do things, we can document the crap out of them. —


IndieWeb technology for online pedagogy

An ongoing case study

Very slick! Greg McVerry, a professor, can post all of the readings, assignments, etc. for his EDU522 online course on his own website, and I can indicate that I’ve read the pieces, watched the videos, or post my responses to assignments and other classwork (as well as to fellow classmates’ work and questions) on my own website while sending notifications via Webmention of all of the above to the original posts on their sites.

When I’m done with the course I’ll have my own archive of everything I did for the entire course (as well as copies on the Internet Archive, since I ping it as I go). His class website and my responses there could be used for the purposes of grading.

I can subscribe to his feed of posts for the class (or an aggregated one he’s made–sometimes known as a planet) and use the feed reader of choice to consume the content (and that of my peers’) at my own pace to work my way through the course.

This is a lot closer to what I think online pedagogy or even the use of a Domain of One’s Own in an educational setting could and should be. I hope other educators might follow suit based on our examples. As an added bonus, if you’d like to try it out, Greg’s three week course is, in fact, an open course for using IndieWeb and DoOO technologies for teaching. It’s just started, so I hope more will join us.

He’s focusing primarily on using WordPress as the platform of choice in the course, but one could just as easily use other Webmention enabled CMSes like WithKnown, Grav, Perch, Drupal, et al. to participate.

Syndicated copies to: