We have been asked this question several times recently. We had an interesting discussion at our recent Talis Aspire User Group meeting (TAUG), you can watch this below.

And then recently I read Sheila MacNeil’s post – Living with the VLE dictator, in which she references D’Arcy Norman’s post on ’The False Binary of LMS vs Open’. If you have not read them yet, they are well worth 15 minutes of your time. D’Arcy in his post says –

But. We can’t just abdicate the responsibility of the institution to provide the facilities that are needed to support the activities of the instructors and students. That doesn’t mean just “hey – there’s the internet. go to it.” It means providing ways for students to register in courses. For their enrolment to be automatically processed to provision access to resources (physical classrooms, online environments, libraries, etc…). For students’ grades and records to be automatically pushed back into the Registrar’s database so they can get credit for completing the course. For integration with library systems, to grant acccess to online reserve reading materials and other resources needed as part of the course.

We know a little about this, having supported nearly half of UK universities implement a Reading List management system.

Phil Hill followed on from D’Arcy’s post with his own post titled ‘LMS and Open: The false binary is based on past, not future markets’, in which he responds –

This is an important point, in that the institutional LMS is important and will not, and should not, go away anytime soon. I have pointed out recently that the LMS is one of the very few technologies now used in a majority of courses within an institution, and the institutional responsibility described above helping to explain why.

We agree with that. VLEs (as LMS are known widely in the UK) have the tough challenge of keeping their tools simple while supporting complex enterprise workflow and management requirements. And we do not envy their job, and are certainly not about to try and build another VLE!

Phil also adds –

At the same time, the LMS does a very poor job at providing a lot of the learning technologies desired by faculty and students. There is no way that a monolithic LMS can keep up with the market – it cannot match functionality of open internet tools especially without adding feature bloat.

We observe that learning resources are at the core of most Teaching and Learning engagements. In our latest project, codenamed Lighthouse, we are exploring how we can enhance the use of digital learning resources.

And our focus is to complement the VLE. We are working hard to develop our players to embed and play nice with all major VLEs. We are interested in helping academics and students get more out of the resources they use. With the VLE taking care of much of the institutional workflows etc, it allows us to really concentrate on the resource consumption experience and deeper analytics.

As Phil points out in his post about ‘Opening up the LMS walled Garden’ –

Coexistence and interoperability, however, should not imply merely having links from the LMS to external tools as is too often the case.

We are currently working on LTI capabilities to ensure students can access and consume these resources seamlessly from their VLEs. During our pilots in the coming months, this will be a key area of focus. As we learn more, we will continue to refine the experience and integrations with the VLE.

Would you be interested in helping us shape the technologies we are building? Get involved in the pilot programme for Lighthouse. Please contact us, we would love to hear from you.