The Future of Learning Platforms Webinar May 2021
The Future of Learning Platforms Webinar May 2021: Video automatically transcribed by Sonix
Good afternoon or good evening or morning, wherever you are joining us from today, we will be starting in about two minutes. We've had quite a few sign up for this webinar, so I want to make sure that we can get everyone signed in and settled. In the meantime, the chat is open. Feel free to type in where you are joining us from today, and then we'll get started shortly. Thank you. OK, we have a 1:00 p.m. Eastern time, I'm just going to wait about one more minute. So that those who are signing in can get in and get settled and test their audio and we will get started in about 60 seconds. So hang on tight. The chat is open. Don't be shy, put in, if you would like, where you are tuning in from a great to see where everyone is joining us from today. OK, we will get started. Hello and good day to everyone, thank you so much for joining us today on behalf of contact. It is my pleasure to welcome you to the webinar, The Future of Learning Platforms, LMS and Video to Share Top Billing. My name is Sarah Gauvreau. I'm a research associate at Contact North, and I'll be moderating the session. Just a few items before we start the chat is open. Just remember to select panelists and attendees on the pull down menu so that everyone can see your comments. But if you do have questions, please enter them in the Q&A tool and you can find that tool at the bottom of your screen. And we will be addressing the questions as we go through the presentation. We now have live captioning. You can activate it through the closed captioning tool at the bottom of your screen. It's the little CC button. Once the webinar is finished, I will post the link to the recording as well as the presentation slides teach online and I will put that link in the chat momentarily. I would like to introduce our speaker today, Phil Hill, educational technology consultant and industry analyst. Welcome, Phil, and thank you so much for joining us.
Well, thank you. Looking forward to the session today. Enjoyed it quite a bit last year. A lot of things have happened, but definitely looking forward to it.
To understand a little bit more about where I'm coming from, I've been doing market analysis and consulting, looking at learning platforms, online education, digital content, for the past 20 years. It's actually getting a little bit scary when I do an introduction and realize I've been doing the same type work for that long. But a lot of what I look at is how different technologies and different programs are implemented with schools. So I'm primarily from an academic context, higher ed and some K-12. And a lot of what we'll be talking about is that area.
But before we get to learning platforms themselves, I'd like to talk about one of my heroes, if you will, Everett Rogers. Everett Rogers grew up during the 1930s. As a kid, his father experimented with hybrid seed corn, and during the Dust Bowl and various crop failures. One of the things he learned or saw was how some of the hybrid corn survived the drought much better than others. And it was just interesting to him, seeing that innovation and what actually happened.
Fast forward - once he was a professor at Ohio State University, Everett Rogers wrote a seminal book that talks about the Diffusion of Innovations. And really what he defined it as is it's a process by which an innovation, which, by the way, it can be that innovation might be technology per se, but it might come in some other areas as well. So it's not purely technology, but the process by which an innovation is communicated over time among the participants in a social system. And this is a this is a great positioning.
And the book draws on various fields to talk about this, because it really points out the fact that if you the the choice to adopt, the choice to use technology, how many people use particular innovations and sometimes innovations are good, sometimes are bad. It's really a social construct that's happening. It's a social networking issue. A lot depends on what the participants actually care about, what they perceive, what they're are aware of. And the social system is crucial. What are their peers doing? What is the common understanding of the field?
One of the examples he uses in the book is looking at this clean water sanitation program and in Peru. And they were going out to some of the rural villages, and there were some basics. In this case, you could say it was unquestionably good from a health perspective, boiling water, washing hands, and some basic water sanitation. Why did those practices get adopted in certain villages, but they didn't get adopted in other villages? Overall, the entire program was considered a failure. They just did not change enough of the sanitation and clean water practices.
A lot of what he looked at, as well, why is that? And there you got into cultural beliefs. There is a cultural belief that people who drank boiled water after it cooled down, that they were unwell. So it was something that if you're doing it, it's showing that you're either have a disease or you have some issue you're dealing with.
There are many examples throughout the book on why certain innovations happen to get adopted widely and why others don't. And I think that's really important as we talk about learning platforms, because if you want to look at the future of learning platforms, we need to understand it through the lens of adoption and not just through the lens of the technology itself. What are the platforms? What can they do? What features? It's much broader than that. It gets to the human element in the social element of adoption.
With that in mind, that's sort of a a preview of sort of one of the key points about the future of learning platforms. Now, traditionally, if you look in academia and you look at learning platforms, so much of it is centered around the Learning Management System, or LMS. In the U.K., it's often called a virtual learning environment, which I like. It's a nice, good description. The environment is hosted virtually.
The LMS, in its traditional understanding, it's wrapped around some key issues, such as your course roster, grade book, some sort of discussion forum. And we're definitely going to come back to that one, a video platform that quite often is outside of the LMS, but integrated and presented within a frame of the LMS, quizzes and assessment course materials, calendars. But importantly, it's wrapped around there - the user navigation is controlled by the LMS traditionally.
In other words, the dominant experience of what students and even faculty are dealing with is wrapped up in the LMS, and this traditionally has been the default learning platform. If you're trying to understand learning platforms of the future, you have to deal with the LMS, which is still true.
But I think that the world has changed significantly, particularly over the past year, year and a half, with the pandemic. And we need to understand what that impact is.
Now, if you look at the academic LMS, one thing that's interesting is you don't have a huge number of systems that people are dealing with. This chart is showing for North American Canada and the U.S., higher education. If you looked at market share for what each year would be the top four LMS versus all others, you can see that the market's been consolidating over time.
In 2012, some 76 percent were of adoption, was on just four systems. But fast forward to today. Now you're up around 95 percent. Now, the definition of which systems are in the top four has changed a little bit over time, but the point is, you have a lot of usage just among a top four, almost an oligopoly if you will, and you have some other usage.
Now, if you look at global regions, not everything's the same. And it's particularly important to understand that North America is an outlier in global regions in terms of which systems are being used. So within post-secondary in North America, you have Canvas as a leader. You got Moodle and Blackboard Learn roughly tied. You've got D2L Brightspace behind that. But if you look in other regions, so much of the world is dominated by Moodle. Moodle has enabled e-learning throughout the world and it is still the most commonly used LMS over time.
I think these type things, what is an LMS, how is it distributed and who's winning or losing? I think that are all relevant questions. But we want to go beyond that and look deeper on where on where we are. So going back to Everett Rogers, one of his key insights is if you look at adopters, you have different types. You have innovators, you have early adopters, you have majority that tend to be pragmatists, a late majority, conservatives and laggards that are skeptics.
Basically that's showing that over time different groups adopt certain innovations or technologies at a different rate. And there tends to be similar ratios of how many people are within each group. Geoffrey Moore wrote a book called Crossing the Chasm, which pointed out the difference between the left side - the early adopters and innovators - and the majority is a huge chasm. It's not some smooth, linear change. What you're really dealing with are very different adoption types. The people on the left, they want technology, they want performance, they want new functionality. And if things aren't fully baked and everything filtered, they'll fill in the gaps themselves. Once you get to the majority or beyond, customers want solutions and they want convenience. If I'm going to have to use this, just make sure it works and don't make me go to multiple places if I don't have to.
This curve, this technology adoption curve, which most people have seen, really came from this work from Everett Rogers and then has been adapted over time. But I wanted to use this and therefore look at adoption and try to understand what's happening and what we might learn about the future of learning platforms.
Let's start up here. If you look at online education - and yes, it's true, I'm not trying to imply that learning platforms only work with fully online courses, but I think this is relevant. If you look prior to the pandemic, and this is based on U.S. post-secondary data from IPEDS, you've had a fairly smooth growth of the percentage of students who have taken at least one distance education course over time, gone from 26 percent in 2012, up to 37 percent.
Nearly two out of five students prior to the pandemic had taken at least one online course, meaning they had definitely fully been engaged with with a learning platform, likely one of the LMSs that we've dealt with, and I'm sure some others as well. But you'll notice this is a smooth curve.
You'll also notice if you get into the diffusion of innovations, the theory and the ratios is once you get above some of these numbers, you're starting to get into the mainstream. We've already started to get into mainstream adoption of learning platforms of online education prior to the pandemic. The pandemic, as you all know, is very non-linear.
Take what happened last year. This was looking at U.S. higher education, moving from traditional to fully online delivery during March of last year and attracting colleges who had gone this way. What you see is a period of three weeks, virtually the entire system had shifted to mostly fully online courses. There is an interesting point for anybody who says that higher education never adapts and is the same way it's been for hundreds of years. I would challenge them to explain how was it that higher education throughout the world, and K-12 as well, was able to handle this massive change so quickly with so few disasters? Yes, there were a lot of problems, a lot of frustrations, but notice that by and large, the transition did happen and schools adapted very quickly in a very different way than we were talking about before with the smooth growth and adoption.
This is huge because now I wouldn't say all, but nearly all - the vast majority of teachers and faculty, which are the primary adopters, if you will - of learning platforms, have online experiences, have taught their classes using learning platforms, and it all happened very quickly. No more smooth curve if we look at where we are.
This is a chart we put together looking at the higher education response to Covid. The argument was that this was originally put out the end of March of last year, that there was going to be a multiphase response, the rapid transition to a remote teaching and learning, which quite often that was just throw your course online, throw it into Zoom in particular and just run with it.
Phase two was where we said, listen, we know how to do online better than that. Let's re-add the basics over the summer or hopefully fall of last year. And then we were predicting that in phase three into the fall and through this spring, you would have a lot of turmoil. Things would go back and forth. Institutions needed to support a full term online, but they also might be going hybrid or face to face.
What we are discovering is now that many regions are getting through the pandemic and starting to go back to face to face. And I'm well aware that Ontario is behind a lot of other regions on when this will be happening. But this transition back to a new normal has its own challenges. They need to deal with how much of the technology you adopt are you going to keep using even when you go back to face to face? At some point you're going to get to a new normal and there's going to be a greater usage of e-learning infrastructure, technology to reliably support students.
There's no doubt that the pandemic has increased the adoption of technology, and it's done it in a very non-linear way that we're just starting to understand the full impacts of this. If you go back to it from there and then you say, all right, let's go back and look at the LMS.
The LMS back in the 2000s, the way you would look at it is very much of a walled garden type of approach. That you put the basics, the syllabus, grade book, a lot of the same things. And then the LMS would try to say, all right, we're going to wall this off. It's within our platform, and that's how you get what you need. You have the garden you need to play with. Obviously, there were a lot of negative impacts, such as not being able to leverage the open web and a lot of the innovative tools that were coming online.
Over time, people started saying, hey, social networking got created in the mid 2000s. There are blogs, there are other things that are happening. While the initial reaction of the LMS market was to say, oh, you want to blog - you see that nice blog over there, we're going to create a nice, crappy, smaller version and shove it within the walled garden. Oh, you want a social network? I don't know if people remember some of the attempts to do social networks within an LMS, but sameb type thing. We'll give you a very poor version of this. This obviously didn't satisfy people, and they needed more. True, you needed the security of a system, the privacy concerns. There were reasons we had this walled garden, but it wasn't enough.
Over time, the open web and various tools kept growing - wikis, collaboration, video, and taking the approach of trying to duplicate all these external tools with an LMS is one of the main reasons we ended up with feature bloat in systems that were really hard to use, hard to navigate, to many options, ugly, unsatisfying. This was the LMS market in the late 2000s. Thankfully, we started getting into interoperability standards, and IMS Global is probably the primary group that has enabled that through LTI, through other standards. But you have other ones, xAPI, happening as well. But the idea there is break down the walls of the walled garden.
Yes, you can have a unified experience because of the LMS, but if you need to access a blog, OK, we'll integrate it and make it easy for you, relatively easy for you to access that blog or collaboration tool without trying to duplicate that on some internal tool only.
The LMS has really become sort of a hub with integrations to various tools over time. If you look at it out on the top, right prior to the pandemic, you could argue that's the way video was perceived. It was just one of a number of external tools that could be used here and there. And they were pretty important, but it was secondary at best. And that's the thing that has probably changed more than anything else over the past 14 months during the pandemic, that you have to now look at video on its own and really come being perceived as co-equal with the LMS as a learning platform.
Part of the reason for this, and it's not the only reason, but part of it is engagement, one of the Achilles Heel, not just of the platform, but of how the academia has reacted to online and hybrid education is there's always a challenge of needing to have greater engagement within the system. And we need more. It's been a persistent issue. How do you get students to engage with each other and engage with the instructor? And how do you make it a more interactive, engaging experience? That's always been a problem. We've improved in interoperability and we've improved around the margins, but it's been a consistent issue that we're dealing with.
Top Hat did a study during the middle of the pandemic, showing that even though we're recovering or we were handling the pandemic shutdowns and the shift to remote and online learning, the biggest complaint was classroom engagement. It's unengaging. People are spending less time. They don't enjoy it. They miss that interaction. One of the big challenges has been how do you solve this problem? And this is not just an LMS problem. This is an overall online and hybrid education challenge. You can argue it's obviously an issue even for face to face classes as a challenge of that we need to work through. And they're not the only ones who have detected this, of course,
This is from Tyton Partners, and they were working with Every Learner Everywhere group, and they put out a survey series called Time for Class, and they would ask some fairly consistent questions in each of the surveys so that you could track during the pandemic how things were changing over time. And this was looking at faculty priorities for the coming term. This chart was done in November, so the coming term was the one we're in right now, spring 2021. If you look at what are the biggest issues, it was the biggest issue last spring is the biggest issue in the fall. It's still the biggest issue, increasing student engagement in class. That is just been this long term need, but now the need is much bigger because so many more people are dealing with online remote hybrid education, other things providing timely feedback, increasing student collaboration, which gets into engagement as well. Officially, grading, ensuring accessibility for all students is one thing that we struggled with during the pandemic. It's interesting to see that that went down. I think it somewhat indicates that we did shift from the phases of the pandemic where early on so much was thrown online and through synchronous video without any reference to whether students had Internet access or a quiet place to work at the particular time, or international students who had to go back home. And that synchronous video was at two a.m. and it was unrealistic. So this chart shows again just how important the need is for improving student engagement, student engagement, student collaboration. So where does that lead us?
There's no simple answer, but I think it provides context, and this is where we want to jump in and look at live video. Zoom University is one thing that we're all familiar with. This is good and bad. A lot of people just threw, attempted to use Zoom or Microsoft Teams or another tool, but to simply replicate their face to face class in an online environment. Now, people who have been in the field and anybody who's taught knows that's not the optimal way to teach with a different medium. However, when you're dealing with a pandemic, you're dealing with a shift online in a matter of weeks. A lot of it was mandatory. And you can view this as saving us during the rapid change and ensuring that education at least continued. And the challenge is, well, how do you actually do that but start improving it.
Synchronous video is a way to save us and to keep education happening, but also as an engagement way to maintain the possibility for live synchronous interactions. [Video] has been a key experience moving forward, including people who had been using other learning platforms. But it had very light or no usage of live video as part of the mix. Their experience has changed as well. We've worked with some schools where, they certainly had LMS usage and they certainly did a lot of asynchronous work. But given their experience, they know that there's something that can be done with live video that you just can't do any other way. And they're trying to figure out how do you actually incorporate that moving forward. There's been just a world of change around live video, both good and bad.
Going back to the Every Learner Everywhere survey, if you look at the tools used during the fall and spring terms, there is there's an enormous usage, obviously, of the LMS going up in the 90 percent level. But the second by far now is video conferencing tools, it's no longer just one of many other tools that gets used. Video conferencing just became over the past 12 months, a dominant method of adoption. Digital textbooks course where we are. There are other things that increased, but video conferencing is really which by which live video is the biggest increase. And in fact, if you look at the percentage of people using the tool for the college for the first time, the number of people using it for the first time, fully 85 percent of faculty ended up saying that they're using video conferencing tools in the classroom in this past fall for the first time. That's a dramatic change in adoption patterns.
The LMS was widely used, but it was already being used. So it's being used by 14 percent of people for the first time. But most faculty had experiences there. Now, one question that's worth asking is - imagine what the pandemic would have done to education if if had happened five to seven years ago before we had widespread adoption of Zoom or Microsoft Teams, or before the predominant LMS hosting model was within the cloud. I've talked to several vendors about this, and they've said privately, wow, I can't imagine that we could have handled the rapid increase of adoption and usage of the deeper adoption and and the stability, and we just couldn't have done it five or seven years ago. You would have been reading disaster stories like school is out for an entire term across a province or something else. But it's an interesting question to consider the timing and how fortunate we are, if you want to find the silver lining to the cloud that it hass happened now and it didn't happen five to seven years ago. So just food for thought.
There's negative sides to this video conferencing usage. This, by the way, I like this chart as part of Penn State where they were trying to provide help for people who are teaching through Zoom or, you know, and that's a placeholder for any video conferencing. Part of the issue is not all students are active. You know what you see in the marketing pictures and the theory - Everybody's there. Everybody's paying attention.
That's not necessarily what's happening in reality. One thing that people have had to deal with is they've had to deal with, well, what happens when people don't even have their video on or it's clear they're not paying attention, they're doing Netflix or something else on the side. You have other people, only one person who really is answering. So there's a lot of challenges with this as well. We need to recognize that.
By the way, I just did want to pick out there was a comment earlier on arguing that student engagement is not an online issue, it's a pedagogical issue that sits outside the mode of delivery. I would agree that that's a pedagogical issue. But online and hybrid delivery has increased the visibility of the problem. And it's made it more challenging because teachers are used to teaching face to face and at least they have a history and they have tools on calling on people. So I'm not saying face to face there was no issue, but I think there's a correlation between them, or online and hybrid really increased the impact in the importance of this issue. But it's not solely related to the medium. I do agree with that.
There's good and bad, but it's happened. It's the adoption that's key. So my argument is that video conferencing, it's real and the bottom right that's looking to the K-12 market. But if you look at video conferencing, adoption over time, 2020, it just exploded. Wo many school districts had to adopt this and go that way. And it's true in higher education as well. And yes, I do agree that's a very good point.
If you look at it, the predominant methods were Zoom and then secondarily Microsoft Teams, there are others like Blackboard Collaborate. And that led to sort of the Zoom University concept. But that this is real and it's not just a temporary. My argument is it's not just a temporary change while we're in the pandemic, That this will persist and that if you look at the future of learning platforms, it's going to be not dominated, but it's going to be heavily influenced in a way that just wasn't true 18 months ago.
That's the key to understanding what's happening. And if you looked at this, I think the challenge, one of the challenges, it'd be a mistake to see the flaws that exist in video classrooms as an indication of a return to the status quo. And by that, is where I've seen the arguments: 'Can't wait till we're done with doing Zoom U and we can go back to the way we know how to do online classrooms.' I think that's that's a mistaken view that we're not going back to the old normal or the previous status quo. Too much has changed since then, including a key part of it is if you ask the end users, the faculty and the students primarily what their definition of a learning platform is.
What you now hear is people saying, oh, I've got class. Well, what do you mean by that? Oh, that's the time when I have a live session that I deal with it. They just mentally quite often associate class with being in live video - not in every case, but in so many cases.
And then the view of the LMS. It's interesting that that's no longer viewed simply as the sole home of an online course like that is your student experiences. The UK says the virtual learning environment. Now, sometimes they're talking about the video class synchronous and sometimes they're talking about others. But it's changed the natural assumptions of the end users about what a virtual class is.
I don't think many people are arguing that we should do this, but I just want to call it out - It would be a mistake also to accept the flaws and live video classrooms and say, 'hey, things are working and let's keep moving on.' We have some real issues to deal with. And, you know, one of the biggest ones, if not the biggest one, is the access issue with students, not just a broadband access, but can they access if you just have a live option, can they do it at that time? And we're already seeing very much the answer to that question is disparate based on your socioeconomic place, where you are. We have a learning gap and an access gap that's getting made worse by the pandemic. We can't accept that. We need to go correct these problems and get through it.
Fatigue is another problem, particularly where you have the younger students. If you have students sitting in front of a classroom in front of a screen all day long with only small breaks, I mean, we're seeing plenty of studies where it's driving kids crazy. Their mental health is going down there. We have a lot of problems based on not just fatigue, but that social isolation. So there's a lot of flaws. And it'd be a mistake to simply accept those as is.
The likely trends, I would say are twofold. One is improvements to video classrooms because they are here to stay. Well, what can we do? What's available to make them better, if you will. And if you look at that, there are different attempts or different approaches that people are taking to make the improvements. Some of it is purely pedagogical, how you get course designers and faculty to understand the tools and the limitations of the tools and how they use them within a classroom. And one of it is don't rely on it as everything. I mean, it might be a key element now, but be careful of your assumptions that got you through the fall. But it's not the best improvement now. So that's across the board.
Take Zoom and Microsoft Teams, the two most used video classroom technology, they certainly are investing in their and their tools and their technology, adding new features, improving the service. I mean, just from the beginning, there was a thing of opening up the free usage for schools so they didn't have the 40 minute limit or whatever. But there are other features that are getting added. If you look at the existing players, they have their own improvements,
But then you have other players as well. So, for example, two highly funded startups and we had mentioned them early, is Class for Zoom. They've changed their name several times. Now it's just Class.Edu. And essentially they are billed as plug ins on top of Zoom on their programming interfaces to turn it much more into a classroom approach. Have a place, a permanent place for the instructor or a teacher to be at the top of the class to be able to call on students as opposed to just randomly letting the matrix of students happen. They've received very high funding for that approach and a huge interest in schools saying, 'hey, we've already invested in Zoom, how do we make it better?' And that's their approach on trying to make it better.
Engagli, that's another startup. And they a lot of these are the founders of Coursera. And part of their view is, 'hey, we know how to do scalable video based systems that are just easy to use and very engaging.' And while a lot of the lessons about how to make things engaging came from their Coursera experience of what didn't work.
In both these cases, these are two startups where a lot of the motivation were the founders having kids in classes and they watch what happened with their kids and how unengaging it was. And they said there's got to be a better way. So there are two startups who are trying to change the virtual video based classroom approach.
Blackboard Collaborate, that's long been a tool that they've used. But now that it's obvious that video needs to be much more important, they're making improvements to that service and trying to provide it all within Blackboard. But a lot of the LMS are saying, OK, we're going to improve our integration with the existing video platforms. Moodle does a lot with Big Blue Button. Intructure has a deal with Microsoft Teams, and they're trying to make that integration much easier.
I do see two questions. I think I'm going to come back to those later on, but the point is we need to improve video conferencing. And there are very different approaches that companies and schools are taking on how to make that improvement. And that's where a lot of it happens and then the integration of the user experience, because right now it's sort of coequal, but it's not tightly integrated. That's where a lot of the future video platform changes are going to come from, is how do you provide both an engaging and hopefully seamless manner?
Let's put let's what are the long term impacts of this big change, one of the that's sort of plays out that same idea of adoption where you have the early adopters and innovators on the left and the EdTech enthusiasts, we call people who are willing to take risks to try things out. I'll figure this out myself. Don't hold me back. Then you've got a lot more of the mainstream people who are saying, 'OK, I want I'll do this, but I've got a need to have some guardrails on how I use learning platforms to make this easy for me. And it better work. And I want it to be a safe thing for me to try. I don't want to look bad in my class in front of the students.' That's a key driver as well. One of the challenges is for academic technologist, for really even faculty, for schools. You no longer get to choose which side of the chasm you're going to serve. You no longer get to say, hey, we're really trying to help out the innovative of the people who want to try different things or we only serve the mainstream.
It gets much more into the need to serve two different sides of this chasm that have very different needs. And that's a lot of the challenge. How do you do both of these now? At the same time, we need to understand that online versus face to face is not really a a binary choice.
One way to view this is we really have the hybridization of higher education and somewhat of a K-12 that's happening where there are different ways to combine online components, virtual components with face to face. And this gets to the subject that as we get out of the pandemic, as the restrictions ease, when we talk about let's go back to face to face. You could view it as a slider between these things. This slider has changed. We're going to have a lot greater percentage of learning activities and learning in the classroom or even administrative activities that are happening virtually even when you have a face to face class. So it's hybrid. Sometimes the hybrid is going to be based on . . . The fully online to the left means it's all virtual or virtually all. You might change it by calendar. Sometimes you have something face to face on some activities or virtual depending on the calendar. You have much more of a mixed course and HyFlex. But there are different ways.
It's this whole blending of face to face and virtual including and face to face courses that we're going to be seeing this moving forward. So what's the net effect?
My biggest argument is that the net effect is going to look at design much more than individual features. When you look at the future of learning platforms you need to have this. Has already happened before, but now it's just really ramped up in importance. You need to have intuitive learning platform design, pleasing to use and little training required.
We've talked a bit about how virtual conferencing really saved us, if you will, in terms of at least from a disaster. And we've talked about imagine if this had happened five to seven years ago. One of the biggest reasons this did work out, at least to the level that it did, was because of the innovations of these video platforms that made them so intuitive and so easy to use.
I think that's also been happening with the learning management systems. But it's over time that's been happening. That intuitive design that that has little training required other than pedagogical, that core design is going to be driving so much of the future of of learning platforms.
Scalable, hosting, and I call it cloud hosting. Not everything has to be public cloud. Not everything has to be Amazon Web Services or one of the public cloud solutions. However, it's very difficult to justify self hosting of systems, particularly when you have environments like this where you have to rapidly scale up, adapt, and have the systems very scalable. So much of the market is moving towards cloud hosting. There's private and hybrid cloud that could be involved. But the whole point is the scalability that you can handle the rapid influx of usage without falling apart, That you have stable systems that don't go down.
Those are two trends that were already happening. But there really have been moving forward, they're really going to be the key to the market. How do you do it now? Going back to the intuitive design, part of that intuitive design is going to come down to how do you deal with two different types of learning platforms and not separate the experience of something that's confusing. It gets to that integration question of how do you have a seamless experience between an LMS and a video platform and the other third party tools? But it's really important and going to become more so in the future.
One of the challenges is not everything needs to be simple and intuitive. I guess the way I would view it as simple and intuitive are table stakes. You have to have that to really have a decent solution at all. And then you need to have the ability secondarily to have a rich system with configuration capabilities. But one is more important than the other. Or you need to solve simple intuitive first and then be able to solve lots of features and rich tools and configurations.
That's an area where, again, you see the vendors taking different approaches to how do you try to eat your cake and have it too. For example, if you look at the LMS side, Canvas started out with the idea that they were not going to create a feature bloat system and they had a reduced set of functionality, but they always emphasized the integration with third party tools and that you could customize that way. From the beginning, Ca vas said, this is our general approach to try to solve this problem and we will be disciplined about saying no to a lot of new features if it makes it too complicated for the majority.
If you look at D2L Brightspace, a lot of that's been redesigned, they take more of a Progressive Disclosure approach, that as you select a certain functionality, only then will it disclose progressively additional choices and configurations that you might need.
Blackboard Learn with Learn Ultra went with a single page app approach - fewer downloads of the site, and I realize I'm oversimplifying it.
The point is, the vendors are trying to figure out how do you solve these challenges of being simple, intuitive, but have the configuration and the rich functionality that other people need to do?
Another challenge is staying in business, this is an expensive market to be in, and this increased adoption is not easy to handle.
Going back to the forum, we've got to do better than the threaded discussion board. This has been an Achilles heel, a problem on the engagement side. It's not the only reason we have a challenge with engagement, but the whole ecosystem needs to improve the approach. You know, we don't have the innovations and academic learning platforms to the degree that we do in corporate life. You don't have Slack that has radically changed how people communicate with each other, and it has just created a new ecosystem of communication and teams, for good and bad by the way. You don't have that within learning platforms, and we need more of that where there's just radically improved ability to interact with each other and with the faculty moving forward.
I do want to get to some questions, but first, if I just sort of had to wrap it up where I think we are, I think we're at an inflection point in education driven by mainstream adoption. That's the key driver of the trend, it's not the technology or the pure innovation itself. What the artificial intelligence system or like key features, those are not really going to drive the trends moving forward. They could be important, but adoption, getting the systems usable, communicating the advantages to the faculty in particular, and getting people to adopt something successfully, that adoption is going to drive the trends much more than the pure technology. And a lot of this is happening, triggered by Covid-19. That's accelerating a lot of these trends.
And the net effect is I think it's increased importance on intuitive design, scalability, reliability. And about this last part is the ability to enable revised academic models. I don't have time to go through that here. But that's really getting into short courses, competency based education, the ability to change the academic model and leverage these learning platforms to do it. That's that's where we are and what I think will be driving the future of learning platforms.
But I would like to address some of the questions that we had right now. I'll take a quick break to answer a particular question.
Sounds good. Well, we'll start with Paul. He asked now that K-12 has got Zoom, Teams, et cetera, for video, can we expect K-12 not only in the US and Canada to sign up for a modern top four academic LMS now? Some signs in the U.K. that such LMS are moving beyond higher ed to 12 and vocational.
Yeah, I think that the quality of LMSs in the K-12 market is definitely happening, but that is sort of the definition of the big four is different in K-12 market. So in K-12 you certainly have Canvas and Moodle as part of the big four in K-12, but you have to add their Google Classroom and Schoology, which is owned by PowerSchool. Now, they had a massive increase of adoption in the K-12 market happening. So I think the trends that that Paul is describing is definitely happening, but not necessarily with the exact same vendors. There's a mix of vendors, but that in particular with Google Classroom and Schoology, you have some very K-12 specific vendors, but the types of trends are still happening there as well.
All right, thanks for that, Phil, Matt: Do you have any advice for midsize Ontario University comparing LMSs today, looking to tender in the fall?
The main advice I would say is the fact don't get caught ... It's the process. I think the modern LMS, there are several that could serve you very well for a midsize Ontario University. The biggest success factor, however, is much more based around the actual process. Don't turn this into a two year selection process. You're going to need some sort of open RFP, I'm sure. But you can still do that in a streamlined manner and make sure that it's driven by your culture and your usage, and there are ways to do it. I realize I'm not giving a vendor based answer, but I really don't think that's the success factor. It's the process. You need to be efficient, it shouldn't all be about the vendor per se. It's about how they partner with you and fit your culture and can be adopted quickly. Maybe offline I can be more specific. But that's my initial answers - get the process right first.
Right, thanks for that, Phil. Next question is from Joni. Is there an estimated LMS life length before it doesn't keep up to competitors? Are institutions tending to stick with their selected LMS or looking to assess and move to another LMS or as you say, keep their investment, for example Zoom and consider additional plug ins?
I guess the thing that we're seeing in the data, that we collect in conjunction with LISTedTECH, is that the typical contracts are three to five year contracts for the LMS. But if you look at how quickly people migrate between systems, it's much more in the five to 10 year type of era. I would also say there was a major question during the pandemic of will schools continue to make selections and migrate, because there's an argument saying stick with what you have and focus on all of your other problems. We're not seeing that. We're seeing schools almost take the opposite approach, saying, well, if we're going to have to do so much on our LMS and other learning platforms, then we better get it right. And if we have a frustration with poor user design, we want to have a good system, if that's what we're going to invest in. So five to 10 years is tends to be how quickly people migrate off and it looks to be accelerating during the pandemic right now.
Ok, great, thanks, Phil. Douglas: is going back to your bell curve of adoption. Is there not much to learn from the right tale? Those who resist adoption, some of their resistance is fear based, but surely some of it is concern for putting energy, time and resources into pedagogy. Any thoughts on that?
Absolutely. There's something to learn from mainstream or even laggards. A lot of their criticisms. like we mentioned, are fear. The things that aren't very useful, if you will, was either fear or 'I think online can't be as good. I just don't think anything online is good. I'm not even going to look at it.' However, the resistance to using a system that goes down during finals week, the resistance, if you look at there have been a couple of cases where grading is too difficult or other things, and that pushback from the mainstream saying this better work and it better be intuitive. I think a lot of that change and improvement and innovative design that we've already seen has been driven by the right side. And quite honestly, there have been some early adopters who have been too much arguing 'I want this to be a blue button when I do this scheduled release only under these conditions and only when I do it.' Sometimes you get the case where early adopters are too specific in their demands, whereas people in the mainstream are saying, no, the overall design needs to work. So I do think the right side is contributing to the improvement of learning platforms.
Hey, thanks for that, Phil. I have a question from Nick. Is there a serious argument, do you think, for disaggregating the functions of the LMS into an integrated technology stack that meets the local needs rather than looking for the best LMS?
Is there an argument for it? Yes, and I've been hearing it for two, two plus decades. And it's not that the arguments are wrong. I mean, people have talked about this for a while. The SUNY Learning Network had sort of the LMSOS type of concept. So there's a lot of argument on paper for a disaggregated system.
But I guess what I would point out, if you look at actual adoption, it's going in the opposite direction. It's going much more towards increased adoption of an LMS and quite often increased importance of a consistent, unified learning experience. So reality is not going that direction other than a few isolated cases. And I guess that sort of gets to what my core thesis is in this presentation, that it's the adoption issues that are driving what's happening in learning platforms more than the technology or the pure innovation. Some of the disaggregation, it makes a lot of sense and there's some really cool things, but it ignores some adoption issues. And I think that's part of what we're seeing. So it's not that they don't make sense, but that's not the direction I see things going.
Ok, thanks, Phil. We'll squeeze one more question in and then we'll wrap up. Brendan asks, Are there particular resources or best practices you recommend to increase engagement, an online or hybrid courses?
That's a loaded question. I don't think they have all of the answers, but the survey that I mentioned from Every Learner Everywhere, and Tyton Partners. They have some resources online that go into that exact topic, such as pedagogical and some ideas for improving. One of the resources would be to look at some of the reports that they went on that they put out.
I think those were very useful, but there are other places as well. So that's just a starting place. But the other thing is pay attention to your peers. I mean, there's a lot to learn from each other on what's happening. And one of the things we need to do in webinars like this - and groups such as Contact North can play an important role - in highlighting the visibility of what other people are doing.
Great, thanks for that, Phil, thanks for that shout out, I will add, and I put it in the I'll put it in the chat if you visit the online. We have a number of articles on how to create engaging online courses, and we've done a few webinars that are recorded that you are welcome to browse through and listen to.
So that concludes our our webinar today. Thank you so much for sharing your insights and expertise about learning management systems and videoconferencing systems. Very informative. A lot of great takeaways. Thank everyone for joining us. And thank you for your great questions. I hope you found this session as interesting as I did. I will post the recording to this session once it is processed on Teach Online. And you'll also find the upcoming webinar on the TeachOnline.CA As well.
Next week, we are featuring Dr. Mark Nichols, executive director of Learning and Design and development at the Open Polytechnic in New Zealand, about transforming universities with digital distance education. So hope you can make it and see you there. Thank you again, Phil. Thanks, everyone, and have a great rest of your day. Thank you.
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