Course Management Systems and Implications for Practice

Article excerpt

Abstract

The development of online tools and the use of course management systems (CMS) in education are accelerating due to the improvement of the interactive features of Web 2.0. This article outlines the different types of CMSs and explores the selection process of implementing an appropriate system. After reviewing past research on web-based instruction, the article focuses on employing a CMS in an educational setting with particular emphasis on multi-user implementation and multimedia integration. Specific examples of an online environment at a higher education institution in Asia are illustrated.

Keywords: Course management system - virtual learning environment - online learning - Web 2.0

Transforming Online Learning

While rudimentary systems for managing content or knowledge have been in place since the beginning of recorded history, it is only recently that we have been able to digitalize, process, and share this knowledge over high-speed networks. Due to rapid developments in information technology, one would expect that teachers and learners would have become exponentially more productive in both acquiring and sharing knowledge - compared with previous times - by utilizing and implementing today's available new technologies. But to what extent are educational institutions, administrators, teachers and learners harnessing the vast power of the most current digital technologies to manage content, and to what extent are they able to fabricate a learning environment that facilitates knowledge acquisition for today's learners?

The Web as Platform

Online learning is accelerating largely due to the development of the interactive features of Web 2.0. While the terminology implies that Web 2.0 (the read/write web) follows Web 1.0 (the read-only web), some argue Web 1.0 was already in fact an interactive network connecting communities (Berners-Lee 2006). Warschauer & Grimes (2007) describe the shift between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 as "changes in the communicative uses of the underlying web platform" (p. 2) rather than a new version of web technology. Others suggest that the differences between the two define the dynamics of the 'next generation' of web applications and software. One example, as noted by O'Reilly (2005) is the morphing of Britannica Online and similar static information resources to Wikipedia, with the latter a widely used collaborative platform that accepts contributions, additions, and corrections from users. Web 2.0 is a platform built on an architecture of participation, open source development, and an emphasis on community building and collaboration. It incorporates social software designed to allow users to actively produce content, rather than merely being an audience for it and offers interconnected services that allow the users to access their content - from wherever they happen to be - on a variety of web enabled electronic devices.

For educational institutions, Web 2.0 technologies have the potential to shape both the way instructors teach and the way students learn. Web 2.0 not only expresses the dynamics of changes in the web through social networking sites, for example, but also serves as a platform for open source productivity and online learning through the new dynamics of collaboration.

Types of Management Systems

A practical starting point to understanding how Web 2.0 can facilitate online learning would be an investigation into the types of information management systems and their applications. Course management systems (CMSs), learning management systems (LMS), and virtual learning environments (VLE) each play important roles in supporting digital learning content both inside and outside of the classroom. Whether it is text, links, graphics, sound or video, and whether the task is that of creating, storing, retrieving and viewing, or listening to digital material, database-driven management systems based on Web 2.0 technologies are the best prospects for organizing and delivering learning materials. …