SCoPE: WebCT & Blackboard Merger: November 21-December 4, 2005

Will Administrators Have The Final Word On LMS ? And Should They?

Will Administrators Have The Final Word On LMS ? And Should They?

by Elizabeth Wallace -
Number of replies: 1

Another thread has emerged through dicussion of Open Source vs WebCT/Blackboard. (And let me immediately acknowledge all the contributors who have said that it needn't be either or or, and have pointed out that many institutions support more than one platform.)

Comments are being made about how important it is to have the faculty involved in discussion about the teaching learning environment, and sitting at the table when the question of platforms is settled.

David laments the paucity of discussion among faculty members and points out that the main thrust is: to get the course mounted and the faculty member(s) comfortable with the LMS navigation and administrative features.

Corrie states: Few institutions have a committment to pedagogical innovation.  Most faculty simply teach the way they were taught, and have no incentive to change.  I mean that quite literally.  There is usually absolutely no incentive in the form of release time, extra pay, decreased duties, etc. to take on the additional cognitive load of learning and trying out a new strategy, much less a whole new way of teaching.

Andrew maintains: We need such a [pedagogical] focus in our discussion of online educational environments and this requires faculty input, faculty input not just about the matters of most concern to administrators and computer center personnel but to teachers and students. Of course, if faculty don't rise to the occasion it is up to others to make decisions for them. (And faculty have certainly been known to disappear just when you need them!) But they should be included and if necessary prodded to participate in the discussion in terms of their own concerns.

It's no secret that faculty across institutions claim they are not consulted about LMS issues. But it's also widely apparent that few faculty members turn up when meetings are held to discuss the use of educational technology.  This leaves administrators either making decisions they know will be challenged over the lack of faculty input, or remaining indecisive because they are afraid of a faculty backlash.

So perhaps there is an argument that educators who are not actually teaching (and there are many) should be entrusted to make decisions about an LMS, regardless of how many faculty members want to be involved, or not. Shouldn't educational leaders be empowered to lead, and trusted to take into account the best interests of students and faculty? Would the sky fall if an administrator just made a decision based on the most effective use of resources? Does faculty input really make a difference? 

In reply to Elizabeth Wallace

Re: Will Administrators Have The Final Word On LMS ? And Should They?

by Andrew Feenberg -
That's quite a conclusion! I wonder if it's true that faculty are so disinterested. I think at SFU you could get some discussion going if you tried. As for  administrators, I fear they have two liabilities: first, they may evade responsibility by delegating this as a technical decision to the technical personnel who can at least be counted on (you hope!) to get something that works; and second, they may be the least likely person to do what Corrie suggests, namely, demanding release time for training and innovation. Perhaps more faculty discussion, even if it were not enough to decide issues, would embolden administrators, who have been teachers and know about the classroom, to intervene and play a more active role.

Actually, I think there is a deep issue with administration at the core of the LMS debate having to do with class size. Discussing class material with students in a web forum takes more time per student than similar discussions in a real time face to face classroom. From this flow two possible conclusions: where equal class sizes are maintained as between face to face and online classes, faculty are likely to avoid discussion in the latter to have time to eat and sleep; or administrators transfer some of the savings on buildings and parking lots they gain from online delivery to offering smaller classes online, enabling faculty to manage discussion there in a realistic time frame. But has this choice been clearly articulated? I don't think so.