Editorial Policy: Notes on recent reviews of CBE learning platforms

Oh let the sun beat down upon my face, stars to fill my dream
I am a traveler of both time and space, to be where I have been
To sit with elders of the gentle race, this world has seldom seen
They talk of days for which they sit and wait and all will be revealed

– R Plant, Kashmir

Over the past half year or so I’ve provided more in-depth product reviews of several learning platforms than is typical – Helix, FlatWorld, LoudCloud, Bridge. Understanding that at e-Literate we are not a review site nor do we tend to analyze technology for technology’s sake, it’s worth asking ‘why the change?’. There has been a lot of worthwhile discussion in several blogs recently about whether the LMS is obsolete or critical to the future of higher ed, and this discussion even raised the subject of how we got to the current situation in the first place.

An interesting development I’ve observed is that the learning environment of the future might already be emerging on its own, but not necessarily coming from the institution-wide LMS market. Canvas, for all its market-changing power, is almost a half decade old. The area of competency-based education (CBE), with its hundreds of pilot programs, appears to be generating a new generation of learning platforms that are designed around the learner (rather than the course) and around learning (or at least the proxy of competency frameworks). It seems useful to get a more direct look at these platforms to understand the future of the market and to understand that the next generation environment is not necessarily a concept yet to be designed.

At the same time, CBE is a very important development in higher ed, yet there are plenty of signs of assuming that CBE is students working in isolation to learn regurgitated facts assessed by multiple choice questions. Yes, that does happen in cases and is a risk for the field, but CBE is far richer. Criticize CBE if you will, but do so based on what’s actually happening[1].

Both Michael and I have observed and even participated in efforts that seek to explore CBE and the learning environment of the future.

Perhaps given that I’m prone to visual communication approaches, the best approach for me to work out my own thoughts on the subjects as well as share more broadly through e-Literate has been to do more in-depth product reviews with screenshots.

Bridge, from Instructure, is a different case. I frequently get into discussions about how Instructure might evolve as a company, especially given their potential IPO. The public markets will demand continued growth, so what will this change in terms of their support of Canvas as a higher education LMS? Will they get into adjacent markets? With the latest news of the company raising $40 million in what is likely the last pre-IPO VC funding round as well as their introduction of Bridge to move into the corporate learning space, we now have a pretty solid basis for answering these questions. Understanding that Bridge is a separate product and seeing how the company approaches both its design and lack of change to Canvas are the keys.

With this in mind, it’s worth noting some editorial policy stuff at e-Literate:

  • We do not endorse products; in fact, we generally focus on the academic or administrative need first as well as how a product is selected and implemented.
  • We do not take solicitations to review products, even if a vendor’s competitors have been reviewed. The reviews mentioned above were more about understanding market changes and understanding CBE as a concept than about the products per se.
  • We might accept a vendor’s offer of a demo at our own discretion, either online or at a conference, but even then we do not promise to cover within a blog post.

OK, the lead-in quote is a stretch, but it does tie in to one of the best videos I have seen in a while.

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  1. And you would do well to read Michael’s excellent post on CBE meant for faculty trying to understand the subject. []

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About Phil Hill

Phil is a consultant and industry analyst covering the educational technology market primarily for higher education. He has written for e-Literate since Aug 2011. For a more complete biography, view his profile page.
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