Special Report. Issue 4. Digital Content & Learning Management Platforms

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1 c e n t e r f o r d i g i ta l e d u c at i o n s Special Report Issue 4 Digital Content & Learning Management Platforms

2 from the publisher In our final Special Report of 2010, we delve into the critically important world of digital content. The definition of what constitutes digital content has ballooned inspired by innovative technologies and stretched to include resources that benefit reading learners, lecture learners, auditory learners and visual learners. It s a far cry from what digital content meant only a few years ago providing content in a PDF or supplemental material on a CD-ROM. Digital content today can fully engage students while saving millions of dollars and that s only the beginning. This expansion of digital content is more important than ever before as lawmakers across the country are debating legislation that will affect the use of e-books and other digital content, and ultimately the path of U.S. education. It s clear that students educational experiences are changing in remarkable and exciting ways and we re delighted to shed more light on this conversation through research and commentary in our Special Report. We re also excited to bring you a snapshot of what s happening in the growing world of learning management systems and investigate the different options school leaders have to more effectively manage and leverage increasing amounts of diverse information. Please also see our accompanying Funding Report at for updates on legislation and for resources on acquiring the necessary dollars to jumpstart your own school or district s digital content initiatives and LMS implementations. We hope you enjoy reading this Special Report as much as we did creating it. Be sure to keep a lookout for our first report in 2011, where we focus on Digital Teaching! Classroom textbooks may soon be retired to museum displays. Sixty years from now a young person going through the American History Museum will find a U.S. History textbook in the past technologies section. Placed next to button hooks, typewriters and buggy whips, the textbook could prompt the incredulous question, Is that how granddad learned about American History? This could someday be a reality as increasing numbers of educators replace the class textbook with technology-driven alternatives based upon digital content that can better engage students and offer more meaningful learning experiences. The textbook isn t necessarily bad or ineffective, and it can certainly have its benefits. It provides vetted course content, content sequencing and supplemental materials. It offers teachers sample quizzes, guided discussion topics and packaged homework assignments for students. However, times have changed and a new set of realities is shifting the textbook s role as content king. Textbooks are expensive, inflexible and heavy. They can limit learning as they are less than dynamic and they fall short of inspiring stimuli-driven students. Modern education environments require a new model that engages students who are technologically savvy and who expect interactive experiences and desire to learn collaboratively. The Internet, inexpensive personal technology devices and the plethora of mass-produced multi-media content enable that alternative model. In short, the textbook can t compete with customized content tailored to individual student needs. To supplant the textbook s organizational function, the learning management system (LMS) has evolved to manage digital content. The LMS organizes content and provides access for students so that enriched content delivered in exciting ways is the driving force for textbook retirement. In this Special Report we investigate various aspects of this digital content revolution, including what is available and why schools are moving toward it, and some of the issues and concerns education stakeholders might have with this new learning model. Leilani Cauthen Publisher, Converge Special Reports Converge/Center for Digital Education John Halpin Vice President, Strategy and Programs Center for Digital Education 2 D i g i t a l C o n t e n t & L e a r n i n g M a n a g e m e n t S y s t e m s

3 table of contents Introduction Teaching that utilizes digital content is how we will fulfill the promise of 21st-century learning. Digital content offers the flexibility to make learning studentcentered and a lifelong endeavor that can instantly deliver consistent and engaging learning experiences. Digital content is malleable, enabling teachers and students to more easily consume, manipulate and leverage information to address specific learning objectives and to better match individual learning modalities. This Special Report discusses how digital content is transforming the way students consume information as well as how teachers prepare lessons, engage students and assess student achievement. It addresses the reasons why textbooks are taking a backseat as the primary content medium and explores how educational institutions are investigating ways in which they can benefit from these developments, including the ability to share digital content and to create their own so they can lower costs and keep content fresh. Just as digital content is transforming the classroom environment, it is also causing content providers to look at different ways to produce and market their educational content. Flat text and pictures are passé and are being replaced with video objects embedded in online resources. Even when standard textbooks are digitized onto DVDs, they are embedded with online URLs and MPEG files. These embedded rich-media objects demonstrate rather than simply talk about the topic at hand. Professors and teachers at all levels are posting lectures via lecture-capture technologies that allow students 24/7 access to class experiences. Likewise, as high-definition and multi-media objects replace flat text, content providers are developing new delivery models, pricing models and software and hardware partnerships to compete in this post-textbook environment. This evolution is providing more options for schools while helping to control costs for institutions as well as for students. The tried and true textbook does provide the useful function of managing and assembling information for students. As textbooks recede, an alternative must be found to replace this traditional model. What is evolving is the learning management system (LMS). The LMS brings a classroom s digital resources together for students and provides for a simplified content management Introduction... 3 The Digital Content Transformation A Tale of Two Texts... 4 Accessibility, Affordability and Choice. in Higher Education... 5 Why the Drive to Digital Content?... 7 Policy and Leadership Support... 7 Barriers to Adoption... 8 Teacher Training and Support... 9 Industry Support and Barriers Funding for Purchase and Refresh General Best Practices Every Time We Make a Tool, the Tool. Remakes Us: Two Different Views Knowing Digital Content is Effective Digital Learning Libraries Gaming and Virtual Realities Digital Textbook Options and Copyright Issues Learning Management Systems How are We Getting There? What are the Needs? Higher Education K What are the Options? Professional Development Future of Digital Content Glossary sponsored by: c e n t e r f o r d i g i t a l e d u c a t i o n 3

4 resource for the teacher. Additionally, an LMS provides teachers with a simple place to post resources as well as to track how students utilize those resources. Students can use the LMS as their single portal from which to pull resources, organize their learning efforts and gauge their learning progress. As with all areas of digital content, multiple iterations of an LMS can be found on campuses. They take differing approaches as to scope, delivery models and perspective on content management. We will investigate this LMS phenomenon in the latter portion of this paper. The Digital Content Transformation A Tale of Two Texts We are on the verge of revolution in the delivery of educational materials in K-12 and higher education. It is a revolution that brings to mind Charles Dickens classic quote from A Tale of Two Cities, It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of reason, it was the age of foolishness. Digital content delivery promises more effective, cheaper and more tailored educational materials. It promises better education in our future. But to meet those promises, it needs to overcome the digital divide, quality of content issues, security and safety concerns, and the long reach of copyright laws. The process of transformation can be chaotic and, for some, outright disorienting. The digital content transformation forces us to confront a fundamental question, Which is better print or digital? In considering the answer to this question, we must explore what students, instructors, schools and school districts need to improve the performance of our educational system, and we must examine what is most cost-effective, feasible and legal. Around the This Special Report will investigate how digital content is transforming the way students consume information as well as how teachers prepare lessons, engage students and assess student achievement. country, waves of education leaders and classroom teachers are convinced that digital is the way to go. The digital content transformation encompasses major changes in both the fundamental nature of educational materials and the medium through which those materials are delivered. For hundreds of years, educational materials have mostly been static text with pictures printed on paper and in books. The digital transformation brings us an interactive world of electronic text, active Web links, audio, graphics and video. Digital educational materials are active and alive. The delivery medium is also changing from textbooks to desktop computers, laptops, tablets, netbooks, interactive whiteboards and all manners of mobile, handheld devices (the pros and cons of these digital classroom devices are covered in the Q2 Converge Special Report on Classroom Technologies). It is difficult to give a particularly useful definition of digital content. In the education context, digital content refers to any and all materials or programs stored on an electronic or digital medium that can be transmitted or used by computers and over networks and the Internet. While accurate, this definition is too broad to be very useful for policy-makers and educators as a practical matter. It is a definition that misses the point. Unfortunately, any attempt to narrow this definition to something more concrete and meaningful results in it being under-inclusive because the digital world is 4 D i g i t a l C o n t e n t & L e a r n i n g M a n a g e m e n t S y s t e m s

5 evolving so rapidly. For example, two years ago, we might have defined digital content as meaning content delivered over the Internet. But that definition is too narrow today since there has been an explosion in communications technologies and digital delivery platforms. Instead of trying to define it precisely, a better approach is to provide examples of digital content and how such content differs from traditional, print-based educational materials. Digital content is different in how it is stored, how it may be transmitted or copied, and what it can do. Traditional educational materials are stored on paper in textbooks, on graphs and charts, on maps that can be attached to the classroom wall, on records and tapes, and on videotape and film. In other words, traditional educational materials are stored on various physical mediums. Digital content, by contrast, is stored in electronic or digital form on any of the scores of digital memory technologies that now exist, from hard drives to flash drives. And because of the power of networks and the Internet, digital content can be stored anywhere in the virtual universe. Three decades ago, it really wasn t feasible to make cheap copies of educational materials embodied in books, records, pictures, maps and movies. One had to buy the materials in whatever physical form they existed. Copying became easier as photocopying and videotaping technologies rapidly matured. But with the advent of the Internet and modern telecommunications technologies, all of these educational materials can now be transmitted and copied around the globe essentially without significant cost or delay. The powers of Web 2.0 solutions, such as blogs, wikis, mashups and social networking applications, are built around the concept of mass sharing and authoring of information. With the practical barriers to transmittal and copying virtually eliminated, legal issues related to such copying become much more important. As for what digital materials can do, we are certainly not limited to static presentations of information. In the digital world, content can be active and interactive. Content can be linked to other materials on the Internet in a way that permits students to explore. And content can demand responses and answers from the student to promote timely self-assessment and immediate feedback. Digital content solutions can be as simple as providing existing textbook material in PDF format for use on convenient and less expensive laptops, netbooks, e- books or e-pads. That s a good first step in using digital content, but it s only a first step. Students expect more than glorified PDFs. There is plenty more that can be done. A more robust digital content deployment can involve using learning management systems to monitor individual student progress as the student moves through complete digital curricula based on materials drawn from online sources, including digital learning libraries. In the remainder of this Special Report, we will explore the current boundaries of the evolving digital content transformation that is occurring in K-12 and higher education. Accessibility, Affordability and Choice in Higher Education As early as 2007, the California State University System comprised of 22 campuses created its Digital Marketplace, which emphasized the following values: accessibility, affordability and choice. The digital marketplace is this [golden] opportunity for the university press to re-emerge where faculty can c e n t e r f o r d i g i t a l e d u c a t i o n 5

6 Our college is now discussing various options for course texts that provide students with choices given their financial resources and learning styles. Our college offers a variety of courses from face-to-face, hybrid and full online courses, and we want students to have similar options with texts. Dr. Kaye Bragg, Acting Business Dean, California State University, Dominguez Hills offer high-quality materials, not withstanding a monetary value and the institution can now author those materials and sell it at much lower cost. People are more empowered 20 years ago I could not publish my own book, but today, I can self publish. Technology has put a new tool in the faculty s hands, says Gerry Hanley, senior director of CSU s Academic Technology Services Department. The Digital Marketplace s success lies in the hands of faculty who can organize their selected resources and place them in an LMS. Types of materials include syllabi, tutorials, simulations, animations, lectures, presentations, library books, textbooks, e-books, e-journals, exams, quizzes, learning assignments, reference materials, image collections, online courses, training and workshop materials and other digital libraries. New search capabilities ensure faculty and students are able to locate materials quickly in the system. Students looking to purchase materials are given more options than ever before with greater flexibility. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the CSU Digital Marketplace has created data resources for evaluating effectiveness and relating content-related learning activities to outcomes. Dr. Kirti Celly, professor of Management and Marketing at CSU Dominguez Hills, is participating in the program by offering students in her Principles of Marketing course the option of purchasing the ordinary textbook, an e-book version of the textbook, or a custom-created e-book that reorders the material to match Dr. Celly s syllabus, all in an effort to help determine what students find most helpful. Several sections will have the option of using only online digital content, other sections will access only the physical text and the remainder will use both. Over the years, Dr. Celly has seen students become more accepting of paying for digital materials. Gone are the days when students bought one copy and tried to make copies for their friends, or bought one copy and printed out the entire set of materials. Now, students can only print certain sections of the content, and it is only made available for a certain amount of time. She likens the new digital course texts model to a Costco approach where students are assured that their purchase price is lower than what other retailers offer. In her course, the traditional textbook can cost as much as $190. The e-book comes in at about half that amount, and the custom version of select chapters in the particular order she wants is coming in at about $10 more than the e-book. As the coordinator of the core course in marketing, she has chosen the text and materials for all eight sections of the course at her campus. In the course where students had the option of digital content in the form of the e-book, customized e-book or traditional text, almost all of the students chose the custom e-book even with the price $10 higher than the regular e-book. 6 D i g i t a l C o n t e n t & L e a r n i n g M a n a g e m e n t S y s t e m s

7 Teachers are incorporating many interactive websites and software programs to enhance their lessons and engage today s student. Dawn Brinson, Interim Director of Technology, New Hanover County Public Schools Why the Drive to Digital Content? The primary driver for this transformation is the challenge that global competitiveness in the 21st century presents to our educational system. To be prepared to meet the challenge of global competitiveness, our students need to be well-versed in sciences, mathematics and humanities. While the world around us has been rapidly transforming itself through information and digital technologies, and industry after industry have remade themselves with technologies, we still educate our children using a centuries-old model of educational content delivery and curriculum presentation. Our students, who are early adopters of new technologies, are also driving the transformation. The proliferation of inexpensive, digitally based consumer products means our youth are much more tech-savvy than ever before. Digital content is second nature, and students are calling for easier access to increased information and choices in content. No longer satisfied with a static textbook bought at a premium price from their college bookstore, they also want access to lower-cost materials. Policy and Leadership Support In the writing of this report, we canvassed dozens of strategic players in the realm of digital content. One theme became clear transforming our educational system from textbook publishing to digital content delivery requires strong, sustained leadership. The good news is that given strong backing from top leaders of an organization, digital content development can easily gain organizational support and momentum. Leadership is taking shape at the national level. Early in 2010, the U.S. Department of Education The Ease of an E-reader E-readers are becoming increasingly popular. Students can manage their digital content in one computer application, including electronic textbooks, class materials, and notes, as well as complementary content, and reference materials. Students also have the ability to highlight and take notes or tag content. released its National Educational Technology Plan, which is focused on digital content development. Its seven action steps are a must-read for state and local educational leaders. Other national groups, such as the Digital Learning Council, are providing additional support and leadership. Headed by former governors Jeb Bush from Florida and Bob Wise from West Virginia, and supported by more than 50 key movers and shakers from multiple streams of public and private influence, the Digital Learning Council hopes to shape the future of digital education. Areas of interest for the newly developed council include online and virtual schools; personalized learning; blended learning; digital content; online and mobile social networks; and classroom technology. They are also focused on ensuring equity, security and privacy; and promoting parental choice, among other topics. The final c e n t e r f o r d i g i t a l e d u c a t i o n 7

8 We have to teach our kids how to be good learners so they can dynamically change with how the content and the application of content changes over time. Scott Parks, Superintendent, Howe Public Schools materials. There is no question that delivering educational materials through digital media represents a major cost savings for students. That s good politics as well as good policy. The bill was referred earlier this year to the House Education Committee. National Education Technology Plan 1) Strengthen Leadership 2) Consider Innovative Budgeting 3) Improve Teacher Training 4) Support E-Learning and Virtual Schools 5) Encourage Broadband Access 6) Move Toward Digital Content 7) Integrate Data Systems recommendations of the Digital Learning Council will be the focus of a nationwide campaign to urge adoption of the policy principles by states, track states progress and encourage best practices. State leaders can support the digital content transformation in any number of ways. One of the most direct is to establish an e-book program that requires publishers to make their content available in digital form. In Ohio, for example, a proposed bill calls for textbooks to have an e-book counterpart within two years. The bill, called the Textbook Affordability Act, would require bookstores to post wholesale prices of texts and provide other cost-saving mechanisms for students in relation to their educational Barriers to Adoption There are of course some barriers to adoption. After all, digital content development represents a transformational change in the creation of educational materials and their presentation. For many teachers and administrators, embracing this transformation can be challenging. The key to rapid adoption is to put resources and effort into easing implementation for teachers and staff and clearly explaining the benefits of digital content development to them and their students. If they don t understand the benefits of the technology, or they think those benefits are outweighed by the costs of the transformation, the adoption will fail. Even if the policy support and leadership is there to push digital content forward, some instructors at the K-12 level and professors at the community college and university level may struggle with questions of pedagogical approach. For example, a math instructor with years of experience managing a classroom in one particular way students come in with their homework, we go over either the odds or evens, they ask for help, and we continue with the day s topic may have trouble enthusiastically embracing highly interactive digital content, at least without a lot of coaching and assistance. In his groundbreaking publication, Prensky coined the terms digital native and digital immigrants to describe the generational gap in technology adoption. Teachers of today have the capacity to learn all of the 8 D i g i t a l C o n t e n t & L e a r n i n g M a n a g e m e n t S y s t e m s

9 We provide a series of three webinars each week designed to provide instruction in the integration of technology in the classroom. Each of the webinars is copied and stored in an electronic learning community where the teachers can review or view webinars they missed. Michael Pitroff, Chief Information Technology Officer, Baltimore City Public Schools new technologies, but their students grew up with it, creating a disparity. Digital immigrants need to see that math content brought to life by interactive websites can create excitement and spur interest. When the curriculum solutions include digital content that mirrors the look of traditional websites, digital immigrants will instantly recognize it. Teacher Training and Support Teachers have so many more opportunities than ever before to personally shape learning materials. But those opportunities may not be discovered and leveraged without comprehensive professional development. Teachers will need new professional development programs to familiarize them with the variety of content delivery devices that are now available as well as to help them develop and use digital content, utilize search engines efficiently, find open source content, and ensure fair use of copyrighted materials. Handling the sheer volume of unstructured digital content can be daunting. Consider the simple problem of quickly finding a small clip in a large video program. In the classroom, every minute counts. There really isn t time to waste searching through lengthy videos. Fortunately, there are several solutions on the horizon that incorporate better search technologies into video and audio segments. With advanced speech to text capabilities, video and audio are now searchable using smarter technology that goes beyond the moving cursor at the bottom of the media viewer. Users can see where a search term was voiced within the full text combined with time markers. The faster the instructor can find the exact place in the clip, the more effective they are and the more meaningful the content becomes. But this type of teacher adaptation is going to require sustained professional development programs. A good word of caution comes from Gary Allen, the director of Educational Technology for Antelope Valley School District, who explains that the interactive whiteboard is cool looking but dusty you have to go beyond Powerpoint. Without the necessary professional development, as well as the IT support to back the technology, interactive whiteboards and other great technology investments will not give back their real value. Social networking sites are a growing resource for digital content as solution providers have multiple links to additional content embedded on their pages. These sites also serve to connect digital content user communities and can serve as a good resource for teachers new to the digital content field. Parents must also not be forgotten. Students may be aware of the ever-changing learning opportunities made available by the Web, but we need to remember that parents are one generation behind. The old school way of doing things one textbook per class per student is changing. Districts and teachers need to make sure that parents are c e n t e r f o r d i g i t a l e d u c a t i o n 9

10 Giving credit where credit is due Even when using open source materials, the interests of the author, as well as the authoring community, should be respected. Creative Commons recommends the following: 1. Provide original source information. 2. Show respect for the original work. 3. Preserve public domain marks and notices. 4. Protect the reputation of authors and providers. 5. Contribute discoveries back. 6. Share knowledge. 7. Maximize a work s potential. 8. Support efforts to enrich the public domain. informed and supportive. Likewise, adult learners in higher education need technology skill updates for the same reason. Industry Support and Barriers The publishing industry is rapidly changing before our eyes. A decade ago, we might have counted on textbook publishers to be a major barrier to the digital content transformation. Their investment in publishing equipment and capital was seriously at risk, and digital sales presented to textbook publishers the same sort of economic threat as online music presents to the music industry. But the transformation is already well underway, and with the commercial success of electronic book readers, the publishing industry is already fully committed to a digital future. In essence, the publishers don t have much of a choice. The information and communication technology industries are leading a global consumer revolution, and we are speeding headlong into a digital future where technologies will provide a medium for cost-effective digital content delivery. A much more complex issue is whether teachers will still be required to accept entire digital textbooks or curricula associated with one publisher and at one price, or whether they will have the flexibility to pull a little from here and a little from there, to build upon the work of others, and to piece together the best teaching materials for the class. This gets into the issue of copyrighted materials, fair use of copyright materials and the use of public domain content. These can be complex legal issues which, if not resolved properly, can become a barrier to widespread adoption. Fortunately, the Internet has spawned a vibrant open source community that places high value on collaborative authorship and sharing consistent with applicable laws of copyright and licensing. Groups such as Creative Commons help bridge the gap between authorship, sharing, remixing and reuse, providing a clear pathway to the broadest possible utilization of digital content. Funding for Purchase and Refresh The Converge Q4 Funding Report will cover the potential for funding streams more in depth, but we can provide at least a starting point here for funding opportunities. Federal funding programs are, of course, a good source for technology dollars, so long as the focus is on achieving specific educational objectives. Federal stimulus dollars may be available if they are connected to qualifying Title I schools, Title II-D and IDEA. Although Race to the Top (RTTT) has gone through two rounds this year, there are strong indications that the race is not completely over. The National Education Technology Plan suggests a variety of innovative budgeting practices to make the most of scarce state and local resources and to ease the transition from textbooks to digital content. 10 D i g i t a l C o n t e n t & L e a r n i n g M a n a g e m e n t S y s t e m s

11 Suggestions include systematic restructuring of budgets to generate efficiencies, savings and reallocation within budget cycles (e.g., reallocations from textbooks, traditional instructional supplies, and space and computer labs, to allocations for digital content delivery in the classroom), reducing upfront expenditures by leasing equipment on a 3-5 year refresh cycle, and creating a technology innovation fund available across budget years to support strategic investments. In terms of grant programs, successful government grantees know that it is the language and communication themes developed in the application which sells the story. Funds for Title I schools may be determined by a systematic formula, but it is often the grant writer s gift of prose that greatly impacts the bottom line. Several themes have proven again and again to be the golden egg when applying for funding: Students first, educators second Long-term benefits beyond the life of the grant Professional development that is sustainable with extended learning opportunities Demonstrating data-driven decision-making Working what works in K-12 and higher education research Strong evaluative components with measurable objectives and milestones Backwards mapping the grant writing timeline Above all, knowing the schedules of those people who need to sign off on the grant up to the last hour of the last day it is due General Best Practices Introducing a program of digital content transformation into a school or school district can be a daunting challenge, but there are best practices to help lead the way through the transformation. A clearly articulated vision of success from top leaders in the organization is paramount. Key stakeholder groups can brainstorm blueprints as a pre-deliverable activity that can then be commented on after the first 100 days. Marking key outcomes and learning milestones on a publicly accessible calendar will ensure all participants know what is expected and when. Track with intensity early and late adopters. Sales 101 will teach you to figure out why late adopters were late and incorporate that in the institutional story or you will be facing the same obstacle for the next technological adoption. Involve as many of the employees across divisions and departments as possible to ensure adequate voice. Know your labor and union issues associated with the new technology earlier rather than later. Many school districts and universities are proactive by bringing on union representation and key academic senate leaders to the review table of potential vendors. Best practices also require good digital content but how do schools and institutions get there? For school districts, one clear benefit of using published texts has been the clearly established approval process from the top down. From the state down to the board of education and curriculum directors, there is a system of checks and balances for stamps of approval. When it comes to technology, we are sometimes fond of thinking that more bandwidth, more networks and more CPU cycles equal greater quality. More is better. But that equation doesn t necessarily hold true with digital content. Quality and value to students also depends upon delivering quality content that is aligned with classroom objectives as well as local, state or national standards. Best practice starts with good content that is tailored to a student s needs. c e n t e r f o r d i g i t a l e d u c a t i o n 11

12 The first thing to keep in mind is that copyright protection is all around us. It is pervasive. It is in almost everything and everywhere on the Internet. The moment any work is created it is protectable and potentially copyrighted. Step one is to understand it is all around us. Step two is that it is hard to know for any good law-abiding citizen whether a work is protected. You don t know who put it up on the Internet and if they cleared the copyright or are the copyright owner. Professor Oren Bracha, University of Texas at Austin, School of Law Every time we make a tool, the tool remakes us: two different views New tools and new technologies always bring out competing visions of value, the value of the way things are currently done and the value of the way things could be done with the new tool. Digital content technologies are no different. We present two differing views. An outspoken critic of over reliance on technology in higher education, CSU Fresno s English Professor Howard Hendrix is concerned about teaching to the tech. In distance education, he argues, courses and course content are built around particular technologies, and the technologies promote a plug and chug model of education. Professor Hendrix also raises concerns about who owns digital content authored by university professors the university, which provides the materials used to author and deliver digital content, or the professor, who provides the intellectual creativity? Conversely, Professor Diane Zorn of York University, Toronto, has fully embraced distance and digital technologies, but she recognizes that teaching styles and philosophies need to change to get the most out of the new environment. According to Professor Zorn, we need to unlearn emotional habits that are grounded in central widespread myths about online education. First myth, that the best online learning environments are ones that replicate the in-class experience; and second myth, that faculty members are experts who can best fulfill their role by a stand and delivery approach. Professor Zorn argues that professors in an online learning environment need to recognize that their role can change to be more of a facilitator, coach and mentor to students who can use the new technologies to go far beyond the content that would be presented in a more traditional methodology. Knowing Digital Content is effective Online learning and distance education have had to face this issue head on over the past few years, spawning new services that review and certify digital content for compliance with applicable standards. Working with individual courses, schools, districts and institutions at the community college and university level the business of quality becomes a key consideration. When deans and K-12 curriculum directors stand in front of their respective governing bodies to pitch digital content, knowing that the course materials are independently certified for compliance with applicable standards makes a difference. The National Online Resource Consortium (NORC), a nonprofit organization, performs an equivalent function with courses contributed by developers from leading academic institutions across the United States. Because these are open source materials, the NORC stamp assures instructors, as well as individual users, that all courses have been reviewed to ensure they meet standards of scholarship and instructional value. Ultimately, digital content materials should be subject to the same rigorous assessment and quality standards that apply to other educational content. For some, the attractiveness of using already-vetted academic publishers and known content providers outweighs the lure of the open source market. School boards in particular appreciate the strength of their respective state s recognized list of approved 12 D i g i t a l C o n t e n t & L e a r n i n g M a n a g e m e n t S y s t e m s

13 vendors in this area as it is far easier to work with approved content in hand than with online content that still needs to be approved. Each state is currently approving online materials at a separate pace. As more trust in digital content builds, it will become easier to rely upon open source as well as more digitized content. Digital Learning Libraries With digital content being generated at a breakneck pace, the rush is now on to produce digital learning libraries (DLL) at the K-12 and higher education levels where media can be accessed by grade and subject level with state and national standards alignment. In the 1800s and 1900s, the community public school was envisioned as a building that guaranteed free access to education. Similarly, a key aspect of the DLL is to provide free access to educational materials. But unlike a building, which is one size for all in the community, institutions using DLLs are able to customize their digital content and provide individual users with interactive materials that respond to their needs. And the building and the classroom may no longer be as central to educational delivery. The states of Wyoming and Pennsylvania are leading the way in this area. Their successful launches are based on quality text content from their state universities combined with quality video and audio content from local public broadcasting stations (PBS). Especially attractive to teachers are the digestible smaller segments of content versus the minute PBS original programming time periods. Teachers are able to trust the produced content knowing that the material is coming from well-respected public entities. With the advent of more and more digital materials, issues of trust, safety, appropriateness and security are always top of mind. Districts can also partner with private commercial entities known for quality programming in the education and media business who can assure educators that their content is relevant with high-quality, ageappropriate media images. Not to be outshined by cable offerings, almost all major academic publishing houses have ramped up their digital content offerings to be competitive in this emerging market. Gaming and Virtual Realities Ask any K-12 student what is the most influential movie in the past three years using computers, and you will hear a shout out to Avatar. For most of us, the term Avatar conjures up an image of blue people with elfin ears, but in the technological world the term has much greater depth. What parents may not know is how avatars in virtual worlds and 3-D simulations are now influencing educational technology publishers to capture student attention. Taking the cue from early roleplaying adventure games such as Dungeons and Dragons, modern online gaming includes avatars with distinct personalities and personal and work histories that may shadow the user s own. Imagine a scientific learning world in which a young budding scientist in the 9th grade has embodied an avatar reminiscent of Einstein, wandering the streets of Munich as a patent clerk, interacting with other students as he or she thinks through his or her early notions of relativity. Science education has just moved from the printed page to the very active virtual world of Internet gaming. Ignoring the positive influence of gaming is a mistake for K-12 and higher education. Digital Textbook Options and Copyright Issues Digital content development raises difficult questions about how copyrights, trademarks and other intellectual property rights govern authoring, transmittal and c e n t e r f o r d i g i t a l e d u c a t i o n 13

14 use. No university president or superintendent wants to receive a call from their legal counsel concerning infringements or misappropriations because a professor or teacher, taking a very broad view of an educational author s rights, inappropriately took some text or image off the Internet. Unfortunately, the risk of inappropriate copying and use is high because it can be very difficult to determine whether digital content is protected or not. On the Internet, for example, works can be copied, published, multiplied, and within seconds, transmitted around the globe in different formats. How do you know whether the text or photo or video that you want to include in your curricular materials is protected? Be In the Know About Copyright Laws United States Copyright Office Official Summary of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 from the U.S. Copyright Office: Official Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act of 2002 full text: The TEACH Act of 2002 provides for the use of copyrighted works by accredited nonprofit educational institutions in distance education. Creating, working with and using digital content brings authorship questions to the forefront. How do I know if this image is copyrighted? As a general rule, it is unlawful to copy, distribute or adapt a copyrighted work without the copyright owner s permission. These are very broad rights intended to protect the original author s intellectual property interests for a lengthy period of time. After the statutory time period for copyright has expired, a work enters the public domain and may be freely copied by anyone. In addition, there is a narrow, technical exception known as fair use which protects insubstantial, non-commercial uses of copyrighted materials. Schools can often walk a fine line in this area, claiming that educational purposes are a protected fair use. At the same time, K-12 and higher educational markets are big business and for that reason, large scale republication of textbooks would not be fair use, according to Professor Oren Bracha of the University of Texas at Austin School of Law. With fair use, it is all a matter of degree. The mashup or remix of works that have been altered by combining, adding and subtracting parts and pixels create complex questions about the legality of derivative works. The law protects the original author s right to make derivative works. For the classroom teacher, the creativity and collaborative potential of this type of interactive authoring is attractive. For the district general counsel, the legal issues can be worrisome. One of the benefits of digital learning libraries or materials available from services such as Creative Commons is that the intellectual property issues have been more clearly resolved in favor of broad use. The same can be said for the whole open source movement beginning to take hold in the education marketplace. To reduce the risk of teachers inadvertently violating copyrights or other intellectual property rights, it is important to cover these subjects in professional development courses and activities. This is a complex area of law; teachers and professors will need guidance in this area to avoid getting themselves and their schools into trouble. In the next section, learning management systems which provide the much-needed delivery model for digital content are covered more in depth. 14 D i g i t a l C o n t e n t & L e a r n i n g M a n a g e m e n t S y s t e m s

15 The learning management system enables project-based learning. The calendar, discussion boards, , and grouping tool inside the LMS make the logistics and management of science projects, social studies projects and others easier for the teacher to control and assess. It also allows the teacher an opportunity to explain to students and parents about the connections between the standards being studied and the project requirements. Bailey Mitchell, Chief Technology and Information Officer, Forsyth County School District Learning Management Systems As mentioned in the introduction, the learning management system (LMS) is what makes widescale use of digital content possible. To the student, it is the course portal and content organizer. An LMS provides pathways and tools to direct students toward resources including basic content, enrichment opportunities and assessments. For the teacher, it is a convenient spot to populate digital material for students. In a purely digital curriculum, it is the organizing tool for the course or even for an entire student body. The LMS not only accumulates all materials, but provides scope and sequencing that properly paces the student throughout the course. It also empowers teachers to be creative and more inclusive with all sorts of supplemental materials as the modern LMS can accommodate objects from all versions of media, including audio files, visual files, live and interactive sessions as well as asynchronous messaging sessions involving video clips made by faculty, experts or student peers. It is in sessions like this that a learning management system can offer collaborative experiences for peers. The LMS is becoming the primary interface for digital learning and is literally the face of the institution for those students who engage in online learning. As a result, an effective LMS must integrate with other specialized campus tools, including systems that are involved with content management, resource control, assessments and student support. It must be flexible and capable of addressing mobile learning, and as a mission-critical tool, it must be robust and always available. Addressing all of these criteria is an evolutionary process and very few schools can claim they are all the way there. (Look to the sidebar Learning Support Systems for a partial list of integrated systems.) How Are We Getting There? The learning management system is evolving and various companies, philosophies and processes are at play. Some enterprise resource planning companies are beginning to add the LMS functionality as an adjunct to their general ERP offering. They are taking an approach that since they are the primary management software solution on a campus or in the district, then they are in the best position to provide a 360-degree view of all activities on campus including the learning platform. Other companies that provide student information systems are expanding their offerings to incorporate some, if not most, of key LMS components. These c e n t e r f o r d i g i t a l e d u c a t i o n 15

16 Accessing digital content from various technologies provides students and teachers options and capabilities that a traditional textbook lacks. See the different options below and how each can uniquely benefit digital content delivery. E-pads transform the education environment by fully utilizing digital content through Web, graphics, text and video. With their low price point, netbooks help ensure elementary students have access to digital content. The Digital Content Advantage 16 D i g i t a l C o n t e n t & L e a r n i n g M a n a g e m e n t S y s t e m s

17 Students gain access to information traditionally found in textbooks at a lower price and in a more convenient format with an e-reader. Mobility matters: Students can access digital content on the go with a smart phone.. Digital content spurs classroom collaboration through an interactive whiteboard. No more bulky backpacks! Digital content can be accessed through the traditional desktop, which every campus has. c e n t e r f o r d i g i t a l e d u c a t i o n 17

18 Learning Support Systems As learning management systems become the portal for learning, they must integrate with other systems on campus. Although these functionalities could be housed within the LMS, many are quite specialized and would require their own system architecture. In this case the LMS must provide seamless integration. Here is a partial list of those systems: Learning Management Platform a software application that manages educational systems containing digital content such as curriculum objects, reference materials, online resources, multi-media objects and various course administrative systems. Learning Management System a software application that administers, delivers and reports on courseware content to support classroom, online and blended learning activities. Media Management System a software application that inventories, manages access to and provides reporting on the use of multi-media, files and content. Student Information System a software application that manages student data including assessments, student schedules, student attendance and other student-related data. Attendance System a software application that tracks time spent in class or on class activities. Grading System a software system that tracks student learning performance. Data Warehouse System a software application that stores, manages and secures campus instructional information and student performance data. Longitudinal Data System a software application that tracks student performance individually and collectively across a number of schools or departments over many years. companies have the view that since their systems are designed around the student it is the natural place to offer pertinent student-related data and access to resources. Still other companies believe the LMS is so unique and critical to the core purpose of educational institutions that it must be designed from the ground up to optimize LMS functions. These solution providers take digital content as the core organizing principal around their solutions and don t attempt to perform all of the storage and management tasks within the LMS, instead creating an open platform from which various specialized sub-systems can be integrated. This approach attempts to take advantage of various best-of-breed solutions as well as incumbent campus systems while providing a flexible, scalable and easily usable learning platform for students and faculty. If these were not enough, there is yet another approach. For those campuses that are on a tight budget, building or buying a turn-key LMS is not in the cards. They feel they must roll out their own if they are to get something going. These institutions begin with the concept of a learning management system as a repository and facilitator for learning objects exchange and then build their own platforms using readily available file sharing software solutions. These practitioners either write their own applications or work in consortium with other like-minded institutions to share applications in order to build economically. The core software platform for this approach could be shrinkwrapped or open sourced. Likewise, so could the specialized applications running on this platform. What are the Needs? If one were to do an Internet search for a list of learning management system companies, the results would fill over 12 pages. However, this staggering number of companies could be easily whittled down into three main categories: those who provide solutions for business training (the most prevalent), those who provide solutions for higher education institutions and those who offer solutions for K-12 school districts. Because colleges, universities and K-12 school districts all have unique needs, their LMS solutions must accommodate them. Let s address these differences. 18 D i g i t a l C o n t e n t & L e a r n i n g M a n a g e m e n t S y s t e m s

19 Higher Education Colleges and universities need access to an array of static and interactive resources that could be instructorspecific. These digital resources often contain highly interactive and rich media that might require special handling, and campus IT professionals might want to customize applications to meet unique institutional needs. Instructors must have simple access to the system so they can easily add resources or modify courseware to address changing circumstances. Faculty members also want to assess student utilization and to engage students directly through the system. Ultimately, institutions would like the platform to provide predictive alerts that could help students stay on a positive learning track. For instance, the system could track the student s current assessment data and match it to that student s utilization of resources and to historical data from past student achievements to predict the student s success rate. The system would then notify the student that his or her profile offers only an X percent chance of passing the course, but if he or she were to redo specific tasks satisfactorily it would improve his or her chances to Y percent. Peer participation in course development can be yet another role the LMS can play for higher education. A well-designed LMS can allow for ongoing review and encourage collaboration in that process. Additionally, it can offer a vehicle for student input into the course assessment and improvement process. K-12 K-12 school districts have been late-comers to the LMS table. Some have tried earlier learning management systems, but have not been completely happy with the results. The primary reason for those earlier disappointments was that learning management systems were originally designed to address higher education needs. For K-12 districts, the LMS must not only provide digital course materials, it must ensure these are properly presented to meet specific curriculum guidelines. These proscribed guidelines could originate from either state or district entities and could involve usability, privacy or even age-appropriate concerns. Additionally, the LMS must adapt to various school-specific issues that could involve computer access limitations and bandwidth restrictions. The LMS must also tie tightly into the longitudinal data system, student information systems and other administrative systems so timely student data can be available to district and instructional decision-makers. These issues are not likely to impact a college, but are quite real in a K-12 environment. If schools don t implement an LMS, can they provide a platform for digital content? The answer is yes. Many innovative instructors and teachers aren t waiting for an institutional solution. Some may have an institutional solution but prefer to go it their own way, using off-the-shelf Web 2.0 tools to perform digital content functions. Although blogs, Facebook, Google docs and YouTube provide a convenient organizing platform, they also could present problems for an institution. Educational technology is complex and needs special tools to manage it well. Open access Web 2.0 tools don t provide the management and support rigor most institutions require and they place a burden on the instructor to fill in the missing gaps for students as well as to manage reporting requirements to the institution. This burden on faculty is not sustainable and is not consistent across the campus. Furthermore, a tracking mechanism is not available for faculty to see how students are using these resources or to track that c e n t e r f o r d i g i t a l e d u c a t i o n 19

20 LMS Feature and Function Linkages Course organizer for: Digital content Activities Access portal Assessment portal to: Organize assessments Deliver assessments Track and report assessments Communication facilitator for: Teacher Student Parent Quality control checkpoint for: Content Standards Rubrics Skills Professional development in: Content Assessments Certifications Talent management usage to assignments. Ultimately, the LMS should become the productivity and guidance system so faculty can focus on higher-order learning skills. Open access Web 2.0 tools place added burdens on students as well. Web 2.0 platforms are not transparent nor are they consistent for all classes. They require students to use different URL log-in procedures and unique passwords, and cannot benefit from content interoperability. Web 2.0 tools don t allow the school to monitor activity for regulatory compliances such as FERPA, FISA or CIPA, nor do they protect fair use standards for educational institutions, opening the school up to legal ramifications. Beyond making access to digital resources easier for students, an LMS presents a universal face and becomes part of the institution s brand. What are the options? Now that we understand why an LMS is needed, let s see how schools are instituting these LMS solutions on their campuses. Just as there are a number of ways schools look at learning management, there are basically three different approaches to implement an LMS: an institution can buy an LMS fully packaged and supported from a corporate provider; it can build its own and take responsibility for maintaining and enhancing it using open source software or other software solutions; or it can develop and maintain its own LMS in partnership with other schools and communities of interest. Although the market has begun to consolidate, there are still a number of companies from which to choose. A commercial LMS solution can be purchased from over a dozen providers. Most can offer a well-honed system complete with IT support structures and professional development for faculty. They also offer a variety of reporting packages as well as a set of optional enhancement modules to address integration with other systems. Commercial learning management systems can be purchased in a number of ways, including outright as a premise-based solution residing in the institution s data center and maintained by the institution, or they could be subscribed to as a service whereby the provider hosts and manages the LMS as a cloud offering and prices it as a service based upon usage. Institutional leaders must decide if they are willing to treat the LMS as a capital expense or an operational expense as well as whether they must have direct control or if they can be comfortable having an outside entity manage it. Open source or homegrown solutions are the second alternative. They can offer greater control if not lower overall costs. When discussing the true costs of open source software, there are a few things to consider. The acquisition may be cheap, but the installation, maintenance and training can be quite expensive. Clearly those institutions that choose to establish their LMS in this manner do so because start-up costs might be less, but the reason they keep these homegrown systems is the desire to have direct control. They relish the ability to customize their applications to meet campus needs and appreciate the ability to set priorities. They also 20 D i g i t a l C o n t e n t & L e a r n i n g M a n a g e m e n t S y s t e m s

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