How do we Break the Rules?!

I struggled with what was ailing me this week and then the light bulb went on! As the light grew brighter I realized the issue had been growing over the past few months and in many ways, driving me nuts!  And what is the topic you might ask?  Our new learning management system aka the LMS!

Let me give you some history on this which will provide insights and hopefully perspective on what troubles me. All the home care programs in Ontario sit under the umbrella of a provincial body; although not a governing body their program and services drive our technology systems and other events. Although we can choose how to use their products and processes at local levels they do provide structure at a higher level.

Approximately four years ago, local organizations were provided access to a free LMS; free as it came with the vendor agreement. But imagine what a free LMS might look like? I was the administrator and truthfully had little knowledge of how to implement in an organization that had limited experiences with online learning nor did ‘I’ have any experience – told to ‘just do it’. Were we ready? Did we have the right supports & infrastructure in place? But let’s go back to my question of a free LMS first. Although benefits included access 24/7, pre existing learning courses (no we weren’t asked for input) were poorly structured, sometimes didn’t work and the reporting was nonexistent. As I learned much later from our IT department; it really wasn’t a LMS…more of a framework or shell for housing our elearning.

Jump ahead in time now; turns out all the local organizations were feeling the drive and necessity to leverage for flexibility, opportunities and all the other reasons we have noted past few weeks. Fortunately the vendor LMS had a time limit & it ran out. Enter next….an RFP process (request for proposal) & I was thrilled to be a part of the evaluation group. So what was different this time?  Local levels went through a needs assessment, educators were engaged & a product was selected.  But…and here comes my but…although courses are more interactive, tailored to needs and reporting exists; there have been multiple challenges implementing.  Although the vendor promised wonderful things with their learning solution, issues have appeared related to multiple different sites accessing the software as well as firewall challenges from a security stand point.  All in all, this has created excessive workload for those who are administrators and ongoing frustration.

Naturally I was intrigued by Josh Klein’s talk on TedxTalks when he commented that “work is broken” and sometimes our “tools aren’t very good”.  I was quickly reminded that although our new LMS is much better it does continue with bugs which create excessive unnecessary workload for learners and administrators alike.  Klein further offered that organizations will often tote ‘access’ in the workplace as the number one priority however ‘price’ always sneaks back in and there is no question, our LMS was less costly than other systems.  His final thoughts that we must “examine systems and continue breaking rules to make things better” certainly causes me to pause and consider; technology in the workplace can be wonderful enablers of learning however without the right infrastructures, supports and efficiencies in place, it instead becomes a hindrance and blocks the learning process.  I believe as educators we must be tasked to offer stewardship of learning technology in workplaces and work closely with stakeholders to look for alternate ways to ‘break the rules’ when the technology is broken. What are the solutions available but more importantly, how to we use them to enhance our learning rather than becoming dependent on the technology itself.