Teaching Hub

Is “Learning Management System” a Misnomer?

by Nathan Loewen, Department of Religious Studies

Is there a difference between “course delivery” and “teaching,” or are these equivocal terms? What does it mean to deliver verses to teach? Think about this for a moment in pedagogical terms. Do the following make pedagogical sense?

  • Delivering a learning objective.
  • Delivering a formative assessment.
  • Delivering the ability to compare differing perspectives.
  • Delivering critical thinking.

I am not at all convinced that pedagogy is deliverable. Here are examples of what is deliverable in a learning environment:

  • Information.

Learning does not happen merely by delivering information, or does it? I suppose there is the example of Good Will Hunting:

While students sometimes rush to their class sessions, the remainder of that story depends upon more than stumbling across the odd advanced mathematics textbook. (Will there ever be a compelling media piece about someone who struck genius vis-à-vis time spent in online courses?) Thinking about this left me wondering the other day whether “learning management system” (LMS) is a misnomer. Does an LMS manage learning, or does it manage information? Put in terms of the comparison above, does an LMS deliver or does an LMS teach?

Since the LMS is a tool, perhaps my questions are unfair. If this is the case, however, then it is clear to me that a learning management system manages information rather than learning.

I am not anti-LMS. There is indeed something that can be learned about managing information via LMS teaching technologies. Working with such tools reveals the Rube-Goldberg-esque nature of teaching. Teaching involves the coordination of several activities at once, and the LMS centralizes those which manage the delivery of information.

There is much going on behind the scenes when someone articulates that something has been learned, but not all of it is information-based. For example, which of the following possible demonstrations of having learned critical thinking skills are solely information based? Can the learning of these skills be “delivered” or “managed”?

Delphi report describing cognitive skills and sub-skills