April 26th, 2012
just gone through a 90-minute demo of Sakai OAE, my head is spinning. For
more than a decade, the distinctions between LMS’s and eportfolios have been
LMS’s are course based; eportfolios are learner-based
- LMS’s are
faculty-centered; eportfolios are student-centered
content disappears after the course; eportfolio content persists
LMS’s are owned by the institution; eportfolios are owned by the student
LMS’s support the status quo; eportfolios anticipate the future
so on. In conversations I’ve been involved with, LMS’s almost took on the
reputation of a "necessary evil.” Still, there was no sign of them going
away. And eportfolios, it seemed, continued to hold the place of the
minor player on the stage of educational technology.
the distinctions just listed between LMS’s and eportfolios may be disappearing.
One could almost say – though only as a reflection of bias in my case – that
the eportfolio gestalt has won the day. LMSs may be taking on the
characteristics of eportfolios:
OAE, all users have equal privileges – students and faculty – except
within the tiny "membership” category of a course (one can have dozens of
memberships, all treated equally) where there is a slight tilt toward the
Still, the new architecture behind Sakai OAE ("Open Academic Environment”)
is "learning centered” – that is, not course centered.
easily incorporates "widgets” which might be better termed "apps.”
Within rSmart Academic (based on OAE with extra functionality), you’ll
find a kind of "app store” with technologies that can be incorporated into
the institutional instance of OAE.
Content can be placed in a library that can be shared on campus to all or
to a select group. The library persists over time and thus takes on
the nature of a local OER repository (OER – Open Educational Resources).
Through one’s "profile,” users can create, now, an
"almost-eportfolo.” The profile can in fact be used now for
promotion and tenure documentation. New features are being added as
OAE continues to be developed in the community that will flesh out the
now encompasses life and all learning. It reflects the fact that the
culture now owns learning.
Probably the most profound statement that OAE makes epistemologically is
that "knowledge,” as in the libraries and in the Piazza discussion forum,
is a continuing process. Knowledge is not a thing that can be
chopped into segments as in the classic course structure but is a
is an architecture that eliminates the distinction between LMS and eportfolio.
By enlarging the problem space almost infinitely (because it’s open to
including apps from the Web), it is more than the sum of LMS and eportfolio,
but something much larger.
does not yet have the learning outcomes backend that Sakai CLE has. It is
still evolving. That’s why NYU, University of Michigan, Indiana
University, Berkeley, Cambridge, and Charles Sturt University (AU) still use
CLE even while they pilot OAE.
we see is a conceptual breakthrough in LMS thinking that brings LMS’s closer to
the epistemology behind eportfolio technology. This new thinking – and I
know it is not limited to the Sakai development community – is a watershed
moment in the history of educational technology. We see both the
influence of the social Web and of our accumulated knowledge about learning in
this new architecture. ‘tis a consummation Devoutly to be wished.
disclosure: I was the chair of the board of the Open Source Portfolio
Initiative, which produced OSP (which was inserted into Sakai) with funding
from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and from rSmart, and leadership from