The inevitable seems to be happening: college campuses seem to be moving "to the cloud" and to the Web 2.0 riches of the social Web. With the Pearson-Google announcement of a Web-based, free LMS -- OpenClass, we see more strong evidence that the line between cultural software and campus software is vanishing.
How many of us have wished that the technology we work with on campus had the magic of Facebook or YouTube or Twitter or LinkedIn?
Once educational technology moves -- as it is doing -- to "the cloud" (i.e., served by a company, not your campus computing folks, and accessible through the Web), then the rules of the game have changed. What is used in the culture can also be used on campus. If software providers no longer need a separate group of developers for the education market because of the cloud, then all the blessings of Silicon Valley (and Kendall Square) creativity can be bestowed on educational institutions.
We have long lamented that students have access to better applications on their smart phones than is provided by the campus computing group. Faculty development staff face the task of helping faculty use applications that are harder to use than what they use at home. But, in fact, we don't need to live with this disconnect any longer.
A quote from Wired Campus:
“Anytime Pearson and Google are used in the same sentence, it’s going to get people’s attention,” says Don Smithmier, chief executive and founder of Sophia
, another community-based learning system that is backed by Capella Education, the corporation behind the online educator Capella University. “I believe the world will be shifting away from a classic LMS approach defined by the institution. Openness and social education is a very powerful idea.” (Chronicle
"Wired Campus"; Oct 25, 2011).
Interestingly, electronic portfolio providers have already moved to the cloud with only one or two exceptions. They are also starting to sell individual accounts. ePortfolios should
be cultural software since they are best when they are literally owned by learners at all stages of a career. When will we see a similar announcement about a global software company offering free accounts? Oh, we already have seen that. That's already happening. And we already have eportfolio companies partnering with Google.
The Web 2.0 business model is based on advertising OR on premium services. Premium services means that the basic application is free and then if you want other capabilities, you add those for a monthly fee, automatically renewable.
But most eportfolio providers still combine personal eportfolios with an assessment management system. But, personal portfolios can and should go "cultural." Holding them back is the fact that assessment management systems are owned by the institution for its own reporting purposes and could not or should not "go cultural."
The two components should be unbundled so that each can follow its logical trajectory: assessment management systems integrated with rubrics and fine-grained outcomes to include all student learning in assessment, and personal portfolios becoming cultural tools with all the benefits of Web 2.0 inventiveness and ease of use.
Unbundling seems to me inevitable since assessment management systems and personal portfolios are so dissimilar in all ways. If personal portfolios do
"go cultural," then our community is in for some interesting challenges.