Ding ding! Web 2.0 versus the LMS: are we opening the cage or shrink wrapping knowledge?

This post has been created as part of an assignment for the Education and Digital cultures course from the University of Edinburgh’s MSc in Digital Education. I’ve shared it in order to make it publicly accessible and allow discussion around the topic of web 2.0 and Learning Management systems as social learning tools.  I have chosen to publicly post this in direct opposition to another copy which is hosted on the university learning management system to show the differences afforded by the internet versus a closed system for learning. To make the comparison about openness and access rather than one being more visually stimulating than the other, both are simple, text based, digital, pieces.

I will monitor and join in with the discussion on this page until May 14th 2017 as part of this assignment representation.

Please feel free to post comments to join in the discussion although the discussion.



Ding ding! Web 2.0 versus the LMS: are we opening the cage or shrink wrapping knowledge?


  “Today’s students, are mobile, can commonly find access to learning resources on their own and place limited value on physical presence and face-to-face communication.” (Daniel et al., 2009, p. 34).

All photography is the author’s own Eli Appleby-Donald 2017

The internet is a valuable resource for learning today (Downes 2005, Brown and Adler 2008), heavily used by the current and coming student population who were raised in a world of accessible, digital technology but who are experiencing digital dissonance in educational institutions (Chattie and Jarke, 2007).

Studies suggest that some students have difficulty setting boundaries between formal or informal learning and that web 2.0 applications are a necessary part of the 21st-century student toolkit (Clark et al., 2009).

This digital essay will examine the affordances of web 2.0 as a tool to create social learning, by looking at its value as an open technology, the amount of control afforded to the creator of content and at the potential outcomes of using the tool. Then turn this focus onto the learning management system to ask if the homogeneity of education technology is helpful or hindering.

This will be carried out in two stages;

  • First, this essay will be presented using freely available web 2.0 technology to express the creativity, collaboration, and informality available before being published on the web to encourage conversation and discussion amongst the internet community.
  • Second, it will then be reproduced on the Blackboard Learn LMS as a representation of the more formal institutional delivery using common institution design settings seen in higher education and importantly in a closed classroom environment where there are social learning tools available, but they are contained within that class cohort.

The outcome of these two representations will allow the viewer to experience the information in both formats for a more rounded experience incorporating both the openness, personalisation, and potential for connection on the web and the restriction and closed classroom style of learning management systems in higher education.

 Openness of technologies

All photography is the author’s own Eli Appleby-Donald 2017

For the purpose of this essay, I define open or openness of technology as its ability to allow a student to work unhindered by choice of environment, an ability to share or exchange and lastly its cost to the user. I will not be assessing either web 2.0 or learning management platforms as open education resources which have a defined status set by the Open Education Movement which is not part of this analysis.

Why web 2.0?

Web 2.0 is defined broadly as the more communicative, personal and participatory form of the world-wide web, emphasising active participation, collaboration and connectivity to share knowledge and ideas and to actively contribute content. It is also sometimes referred to as the “Read-Write Web” (Price 2006; Richardson 2006) as it offers more than the read-only, passivity of the original web. Web 2.0 applications, have received growing interest from the educational sector over the last ten years (Alexander 2006) as they are seen to hold potential for addressing the needs of today’s millennial student population, enhancing the learning experiences through networking, collaboration and community (Bryant 2006).  This then reinforces constructivist pedagogies popular in teaching (Gillani 2000; Jonassen 1995; Jonassen & Land 2000; Relan & Gillani 1996).

Web 2.0 contains software or applications which support social learning through community and group interaction, although we could argue that the previous form of the web supported social interaction through email, chatrooms and discussion boards, the tools available through web 2.0 not only offer social interaction, feedback and networking, but are more flexible and collaborative allowing media to be shared, combined and built on to create new ideas, concepts, and mashups. Social networking applications like facebook and twitter now also offer users the possibility to interact in real time using webcams and microphones.  Web 2.0 is not radically different from the previous version of the web; rather it is the affordances offered by the applications available which have changed.

It is these affordances which offer the opportunity to use web 2.0 as an open tool for education. Blogs, wikis, social networking, and video sharing applications all have potential as a pedagogical tool to offer the opportunity to increase communication, interaction and co-creation, supporting learning which occurs in a social, collaborative form when students use these tools to create collective activity.

Being web based and created with communication in mind, there are little boundaries for the opportunity to communicate and share globally with other users.

Usage examples:

  • Connectivity and Social Networking: Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn support and collate networks and facilitate connections between them. Gee (2004) refers to this as affinity spaces, where students can acquire both social and communication skills as they are becoming engaged in participation through web 2.0.  Through these applications, there is an opportunity to engage in informal learning, creative and expressive behaviours and identity seeking while developing digital literacies.
  • Collaborative discovery and sharing: Blogs or social bookmarking tools like dig and del.icio.us allow students to create collections of information such as links to readings and ideas which can be organised and tagged before being shared.  Communities of learning can be formed as users with similar interests can share and actively contribute to the growth and evolution of “folksonomy” creating both content and knowledge on the web.
  • Content creation: Web 2.0 highlights content creation over content consumption allowing anyone to create, remix and share content for their own needs and those of others and groups. Open educational content, creative commons, and wikis support user generated content enabling teams and individuals to work together to create new knowledge.

 The LMS

These collaborative tools and their benefits are widely recognised within our higher education institutions, and the implementation of single point of access technology platforms incorporating these tools are now widespread and known as learning management systems. These systems are mostly propriety in nature created specifically for the purpose of managing learners, teaching materials and student work in an educational setting.

Accessibility to education, control of overheads and quality control are the three most commonly given reasons for the shift in delivery modes to that of technology-driven delivery (Daniel 2003). It’s ability to meet these needs means the adoption of “learning management systems (LMS)” has been swift (Oblinger and Kidwell, 2000), with ninety-five percent of UK universities now using them (Lonn and Teasley, 2009) with these platforms combine a range of course management and pedagogical tools to provide a method of designing, building and delivering teaching.

The greatest potential of the LMS to the university is that they are scalable systems able to support a class cohort of hundreds as easily as ten thereby offering the opportunity to enroll and teach a larger volume of students offering an economy of scale. They can also be used to provide administrative support to an entire university’s teaching programmes or to house the entire catalogue of teaching materials but are creating a battle over control of teaching and pedagogy (Chattie and Jarke 2007). The key to the use of these technologies by the University, however, is the enrollment of students. These systems are locked down only allowing access to the materials and tools within to those who are enrolled as users, meaning the university dictates the community within.

Web 2.0 technologies in general, are seen to reinforce constructivist pedagogies (Gillani 2000; Jonassen 1995; Relan & Gillani 1996). Theorists claim that the internet can improve learning by giving learners access to an infinite library of resources. Arguing that internet technologies can be used to make course contents more cognitively accessible ( Coates et al., 2005) to the individual by encouraging interaction with a richer, more diverse knowledge network.

Some LMS do offer tools for course administration and pedagogical functions including; synchronous and asynchronous communication like email, instant messaging, announcement pages, and discussion forums content development and delivery by hosting learning resources in repositories, offering links to resources and text-based information areas choice tests and group work and feedback tools, as well as course or student management from enrollment to managing student activities, But the network connections of these are restricted within the “safe” confines of the institution’s systems, reducing the potential for the creation of communities of learning or collaboration outwith that student’s class cohort. LMS, therefore, suggest a closed classroom approach to learning at a time when some scholars are calling for the increased use of open, community technologies to be brought into effective learning and teaching for the twenty-first century (Brown and Adler 2008).


All photography is the author’s own Eli Appleby-Donald 2017

LMS offer “universities a hitherto undreamt-of capacity to control and regulate teaching” (Coates et al., 2005, p.p. 25). The built in functionality within each system allows for easy customisation of the look and feel of the student experience, within limits, without the need for web development skills. Many institutions provide a ready to use standardised template or guides for such customisation to ensure quality control and to help reduce the administrative workload placed on staff. This allows course owners to make use of customised headers and graphics to identify their course from others but limits the ability to alter structure or tool performance, Essentially forcing conformity. LMS can also be seen to conform to a classroom metaphor, encouraging didactic teaching (Sheely, 2006) rather than creativity and by “locking down” the system elements, transfer the control of teaching material design from the academic and onto the institution itself reducing the influence of the academic over the teaching of her class.

In contrast to the restriction of community and locking of design, web 2.0 applications like blogs allow infinite customisation options to users through both editable “skins” and access to the underlying code for those who are more skilled. The content users generate on these can also then be shared publicly through the platform used to create the content or by sharing with other platforms and application.

The term itself, Learning Management System, “suggests disempowerment – an attempt to manage and control activities… by the University” (Sclater,2008, p. 2) rather than the freedom of informal and community learning offered by the web 2.0 pedagogy.


All photography is the author’s own Eli Appleby-Donald 2017

The hyperbole of technology being an educational remedy often stalls critical discussion of educational technology as a tool for teaching and learning (McLoughlin and Lee, 2008a). Therefore research tends to focus on implementation rather than pedagogy with regard to an LMS (Lonn and Teasley 2009) meaning more investigation is needed into pedagogy and learning to allow implementation decisions to focus on these rather than administrative wins.

“LMS are not pedagogically neutral technologies” (Coates et al., 2005, 27),  instead through their design, they can and do influence teaching. As the LMS and other learning technologies become part of everyday academic practices, they will invisibly influence and may even define teachers’ creativity, expectations, and behaviours. This may be particularly the case for newer academics with less experience (Frand 2000). The inclusion of LMS into universities makes it likely that new academics will gain a great deal of their experience in design and delivery of teaching through these systems (Coates et al., 2005). These are important considerations given the possibility that, increasingly, LMS will play the major role in how academics learn to teach.  Currently, there has been a lack, if any studies on the pedagogical effects of LMS and this must be corrected.

Although web 2.0 applications can offer increased community of learning opportunities and control over the student’s own work, it must be remembered that these too come with potential outcomes for the student and teaching. Access to a great library of content to use and share must be respected, and web 2.0 and its sharing abilities for learning and teaching should go hand in hand with teaching about responsibilities and rights regarding the work of others. Because the ability to share everything is available, means students must be taught about when it is and isn’t appropriate to shared.


All photography is the author’s own Eli Appleby-Donald 2017

Web 2.0 applications allow users choice and control as well as learning opportunities through rich, global, communities of knowledge rather than passive and solitary learning. However by restricting the ability of the student to access these tools or for the teacher to design to incorporate these tools, or by simple restricting the community students can access, we are offering no more than the didactic or cartesian classrooms of the industrial era. Learning management systems offer much in the way of cost reduction and quality assurance for institutions, but aside from being a single point of entry, offer little to improve student learning and shackle the creativity of the teacher.

Educational technology can only raise the levels of learning and teaching if we allow it to be fully part of the process of both rather than merely an administrative tool clothed as pedagogy.


Alexander, B., 2006. A New Wave of Innovation for Teaching and Learning? Educause Review, 42(2), pp.32–44. Available at: https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM0621.pdf

Brown, J. S. & Adler, R. P. 2008. Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0. Educause Review, 43(1), pp.16–32. Available at: http://er.educause.edu/~/media/files/article-downloads/erm0811.pdf

Bryant, T. 2006. Social software in academia, Educause Quarterly, 29(2), 61-64.http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/EQM0627.pdf

Chatti, M.A., Jarke, M. & Frosch-Wilke, D. 2007. The future of e-learning: a shift to knowledge networking and social software. International Journal of Knowledge and Learning, 3(4-5), pp.404–420. Available at: http://www.inderscienceonline.com/doi/abs/10.1504/IJKL.2007.016702

Clark, W. et al., 2009. Beyond Web 2.0: mapping the technology landscapes of young learners. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 25(1), pp.56–69. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2729.2008.00305.x

Coates, H., James, R. & Baldwin, G., 2005. A critical examination of the effects of learning management systems on university teaching and learning. Tertiary Education and Management, 11(1), pp.19–36. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13583883.2005.9967137

Daniel, J., Kanwar, A. & Uvalić-Trumbić, S. 2009. Breaking Higher Education’s Iron Triangle: Access, Cost, and Quality. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 41(2), pp.30–35. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.3200/CHNG.41.2.30-35

Downes, S. 2005. E-learning 2.0. eLearn Magazine, an ACM Publication. Available at: http://elearnmag.acm.org/featured.cfm?aid=1104968

Frand, J.L. 2000. The Information Age Mindset:Changes in Students and Implications for Higher Education. Educause Review 35(5),14-24. Available at: https://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM0051.pdf

Gillani, B.B. 2000. Using the Web to Create Student Centred Curriculum. In R.A.Cole(ed.), Issues in Web Based Pedagogy. London:Greenwood Press.

Jonassen,D.H.1995.Constructivism: Implications for Designs and Delivery of Instruction. New York:Scholastics.

Lonn, S. & Teasley, S.D. 2009, “Saving time or innovating practice: investigating perceptions and uses of learning management systems”, Computers and Education, Vol. 53 No. 3, pp. 686-94. Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360131509001006

McLoughlin, C. and Lee, M.J.W. 2008. The three P’s of pedagogy for the networked society: personalization,participation,and productivity, International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 10-27. Available at: http://www.isetl.org/ijtlhe/past2.cfm?v=20&i=1

Oblinger, D. & Kidwell, J. 2000.Distance Learning:Are we being Realistic? Educause Review 35(3), 30-39. Available at: https://er.educause.edu/~/media/files/articles/2000/5/erm0032.pdf?la=en

Price, K. 2006. Web 2.0 and education: What it means for us all. Paper presented at the 2006 Australian Computers in Education Conference, 2-4 October, Cairns, Australia.

Relan, A. & Gillani, B.B. 1996. Web Based Instruction and the Traditional Classroom:Similarities and Differences.In B.H.Khan(ed.),Web Based Instruction. Englewood Cliffs: Educational Technology Publications.

Richardson, W. 2006. Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and other powerful tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks,CA: Sage.

Sheely, S. 2006. Persistent technologies: Why can’t we stop lecturing online? In L. Markauskaite, P.Goodyear & P. Reimann (Eds), Who’s learning? Whose technology? Proceedings of the 23rd ASCILITE Conference (pp. 769-774). Sydney, NSW: CoCo, University of Sydney.http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/sydney06/proceeding/pdf_papers/p167.pdf

Sclater, N. 2008. Web 2.0, Personal Learning Environments, and the Future of Learning Management Systems. Available at: https://library.educause.edu/resources/2008/6/web-20-personal-learning-environments-and-the-future-of-learning-management-systems


Final blog summary

Lifestream analytics

Twelve weeks of being open and connecting in a network of learning “located in the connections and interactions between learners, teachers and resources” (J. Knox)

I started my EDC journey on the 5th of January with a tweet, since then my lifestream blog has seen 179 posts from a variety of tools with twitter being the easiest to incorporate into IFTTT and Media Hopper which was impossible to incorporate. During these 12 weeks, my lifestream blog has acted as a “proxy” for my learning experience to show my development in the topics of…

Culture – block 1

I grappled with trans and post-humanism, and I wouldn’t say I overcame but rather the learning continues, I did however really enjoy delving into the aspects of cyborg and the dystopian themes of sci-fi cultures. One of the learning lightbulbs for me in this block came about thanks to a catch up for those of us who missed the together tube film fun, we held out own catch up and one of my classmates commented on all the fear we were seeing in the films and how it was the opposite of how she felt about technology. My artefact on the duality of tech culture was born out of this fear versus promise moment. Unfortunately, the low light of this block for me was finally getting to see Blade Runner. It didn’t live up to the hype .

Community – block 2

We switched from culture to delve deeper into the community, the heart of culture. I found it really interesting to turn the reading of Kozinets and Lister onto my own experiences of being part of the blogging and youtube community and to put this learning into practise in both the netnography we were asked to complete and in my own netnography for fun where I looked a the youtube community I am part of.

Algorithms – block 3

Proved a meaty opportunity to jump into learning analytics and have fun with stats. WordPress, twitter and youtube were all examined and toyed with as I got my head around the big questions of use of analytics, both for good and with the possibility of misuse. The chaos of the tweetorial was fun, and even let me get my work colleagues involved in trying to help me keep up with the conversations in real time. Learning analytics is something I will take away with me and intend to study further.

In reviewing my lifestream for the last 12 weeks, I am happy to see my progress from the very tentative, shy steps of week one, to the exciting blog posts of week 10 and 11 where I am seeing things through different eyes. I stopped fighting IFTTT and let my blog happen organically, although it went against my very blogging soul, but even in that, I have learned. I learned about the use of a lifestream blog to track learning and in itself become a sort of learning analytic, a tool to show progress.  I eventually learned that the objective of this exercise was not to produce a blog as such but to provide a record.


Tweet! Even my filming gigs are about algorithms

I was filming a lecture today for the Digital Playgrounds course at ECA and would you believe it but the relevance fairies have been at it again, the lecture was about some visual works that were created using algorithms to show climate change in various outputs.

Was a great lecture, really enjoyable and again, great to see algorithms in a different light, something a mile away from learning analytics.


Tweet! It’s happening

Social situations or the support of peers has always been an important part of the learning process for me,  it worked so well with IDEL that I wanted to give people to chance to participate in something similar. I’m not sure if everyone will find it useful, but I certainly have.


Week 11 summary

Not a wealth of variety for a week 11 summary as this week I haven’t really been on twitter etc so much but this has given me time to think about my final assignment and to read through some of the course materials from the previous blocks which were maybe a mistake as I uncovered so many interesting things I had forgotten about.

This last week also saw a real mix of thoughts from all the blocks of the course starting with algorithms in a different light. Instead of as learning analytics, as fun in a music video. I then dipped into the cyborg again with tales of Elon Musk. Week 11 gave me the chance to visit some of my classmates’ blogs again, which I don’t get the chance to do as often as I’d like, and it’s nice to have random chats on twitter just for fun.

Reviewing my own blog was fun as well, I originally thought about going back to try to fill any gaps I have missed, but instead found new thoughts on topics past, like on culture, my week 11 head saw things differently from the Eli of week 1.

A tweet from a friend also saw me take a look at sci-fi culture through a different lens and understand a little more of Harraway’s (2007) perspective and of course, the quiet has let me thing about my final assignment, panic about my final assignment, give in about my final assignment and back to the start.


Taking cyberpunks out of the dystopia

umwdtlt – Jim Groom as Edupunk
CC BY 2.0 Created: 28 May 2008

Block 1 concentrated on the big picture of digital culture through the lens of the sci-fi film and fiction genre and introduced us, through our together tube sessions to the concept of the cyberpunk, although we never referenced them directly, only saw them in action.

So what is cyberpunk? Well, cyberpunks are the underground rebellion against the big capitalist corporations controlling the technology in the not too distant dystopian future of the sci-fi genre. They scavenge technology, much like Hector in Memory 2.0, as the megacorporations control access to and use of clean, safe and costly “official versions” of the same technology.

In Memory 2.0, Henry begins by visiting the business selling the virtual memory experience but ends up visiting the seedy world of the cyberpunk and specifically Hector, when the corporation can’t or won’t meet his needs.  Due to the unregulated and amateur set up of the cyberpunk provider, this has consequences. A moral tale to the viewer that we shouldn’t be involved in the underground and disreputable world of the rebellion perhaps.

Cole (2005, pp. 259) describes the power struggle between the cyberpunk and the megacorporations where “power is imposed by a system of social domination”,  the rebellion against this power and authority being the source of the moniker of punk for this community relating to the punk subculture of the 1970s where common punk community goals included anti-authoritarianism, a DIY ethic, non-conformity and direct action (Wikipedia 2017). The cyberpunks DIY ethis being in their technology use.

Fast forward to 2008 and the punk subculture influence is seen again in a movement which was to be named “EDUPUNK”, a movement defined by Tom Kultz (2008) as “an approach to teaching that avoids mainstream tools like PowerPoint and Blackboard, and instead aims to bring the rebellious attitude and DIY ethos of ’70s bands like The Clash to the classroom. EDUPUNK sees teachers react against the rapid implementation of course-management systems, which provide “cookie-cutter” tools that promote uniformity at the expense of pedagogy.  Jim Groom, an instructional-technology specialist and adjunct professor at the University of Mary Washington, is credited for coining the term and declared himself a poster boy for the movement and “ds106” was the course which launched Jim Groom into the public consciousness as an EDUPUNK. He took all the essential elements of teaching for his course and put made them open and online, choosing to use an array of available web tools instead of relying on the institutionally provided VLE, which he claims waters down the elements of web 2.0 and dilutes the social aspect of learning.  Again we see the anti-authoritarian approach matched with the DIY ethic. The moniker this time focussing on the educational focus of the punk attitude rather than focusing on the technology element, which is also strong.

Listen to Jim Groom talk about ds106: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9EFMMghmp8U


Cole, D.R., 2005. Education and the Politics of Cyberpunk. Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies, 27(2), pp.159–170.

Escapist Movies, 2014. Memory 2.0 – Dugan O’Neal/Wilson Bethel (Prototype), Youtube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cd2ka3-hvKA 

Kultz, T., 2008. The Buzz for “EDUPUNK.” The New York Times. Available at: https://ideas.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/17/the-buzz-for-edupunk/

TEDx Talks, 2012. TEDxNYED – April 28, 2012 – Jim Groom, Youtube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9EFMMghmp8U

Wikipedia contributors, 2017. Punk subculture. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Punk_subculture&oldid=767545516

Wikipedia contributors, 2017.EDUPUNK. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Edupunk&oldid=771717086