Limitations of the LMS.

While we are considering the best ways to move forward in a project that mines the activity data stored by CQUniversity’s Learning Mangement System (LMS) in order to identify aspects and behaviors that impact on teaching and learning, we must remain mindful of the limitations of both our approach and, probably more importantly, the LMS itself.

The limitations of an LMS in a typical university context have been widely documented. Some of these limitations as detailed by Beer & Jones (2008) include:

  • Organizational and instructor focus. They tend to meet the needs of the organization and the instructor more so than the learner.
  • IT Culture. Centralize and control approach to educational technology.
  • Limited informal learning possibilities.
  • Course based model that limits community development.

While others such as Coates,James and Baldwin (2005) look at the influences an LMS has on teaching and learning such as:

  • LMS features aren’t as important as the educational application of the features.
  • They are based on an overly simplistic understanding of the relationship between teachers, knowledge and student learning.
  • They can rely too heavily on automatic forms of assessment.
  • “Codified” teaching can lack the flexibility and nuances essential to effective teaching.
  • LMS are not pedagogically neutral but by their very design guide and influence teaching.
  • LMS have uncertain effects on student engagement.
  • LMS create new and complex divisions of labour between administrators and teachers.
  • LMS vendor’s appear to be seeking commercialization of content. An example is deals with publishing houses.

For me learning is about interactions and there are three categories of interactions involved.
Learner – Content. This is the interaction between the learner and the content.
Learner – Instructor. Conversations and correspondance between the learner and the instructor.
Learner – Learner. Conversations, collaboration and correspondence between learners.

Most of my learning is, I believe,  based on the last two or the social aspects of learning and it’s these two that I believe are lacking in your typical LMS. For example. Imagine your at school and have a question for your teacher. You enter the building, navigate your way to the only room where questions can asked, its pitch black, you don’t know if there is anyone else there, you ask a question and then repeat the process later on to see if the question has been answered.  Now imagine IT have designed the building, the hallways, the room and the conversation protocols and you may have an understanding of how an LMS limits the scope of social discourse within it’s boundaries.

So what does all of this mean to the indicators project? We need to know what the limitations are of the system we are measuring to ensure we are measuring the right things. I believe the three levels of interaction are a place to start and the seven principles is a framework that we can use to interpret our results.


Beer, C. & Jones, D. (2008). Learning networks: harnessing the power of online communities for discipline and lifelong learning. In D. Orr, P.A. Danaher, G. Danaher & R.E. Harreveld (Eds.), Lifelong Learning: reflecting on successes and framing futures. Keynote and refereed papers from the 5th International Lifelong Learning Conference (pp. 66-71). Rockhampton: Central Queensland University Press.

Coates, H. J., Richard.Baldwin,Gabrielle. (2005). “A critical examination of the effects of learning management systems on university teaching and learning.” Tertiary education and management 11(2005): 19-36.


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