Course Management Systems (CMS) and Learning Management Systems (LMS) are not new to education. Tools like Blackboard have been around for years, and other platforms like Wimba
are offering functionality that can be applied to foreign languages. CMS platforms are normally implemented school-wide (or even district- and state-wide) to allow teachers to manage their classes on-line, 24-7, including offering quizzes and exams, assigning downloadable homework, and even allowing for remote language lab-type exercises which include listening to pre-recorded readings and then giving students a chance to record their responses so the teacher can check pronunciation at a convenient time as opposed to being in the language lab with the class.
So far as I know, no Latin/Greek course of study at the secondary school level (or junior high/middle school) is taking advantage of the above technology to administer Classics classes. With systems like Desire2Learn, students can log in at any time to do homework (including things like Latin crosswords), plus they can read their assigned texts on-line as either their primary site for reading, or as a supplement to their textbooks. I'm curious to learn if I have just made a gross generalization that is wide of the mark regarding the employment of CMS platforms for Classics, and if there are people out there using these systems for pre-college courses. My brother, a math teacher in Maryland, uses a CMS to manage his classes, but he says that many of the older faculty are extremely resistant to learning the new software. My brother is 27, and his younger colleagues have all taken to the CMS like fish to garum.
I would like to hear impressions from eClassics members on the feasibility of implementing a CMS for Classics courses, if it has been done, and if so, what were the results? I know that college Classics programs are implementing CMS platforms for their teachers and students. This also raises the question of technological parity. Can we implement software that all teachers and students are required to use, even if some students do not have access to computers? How do we address equipping those students with the technology that they need to succeed in class? Is there a middle ground?
Blackboard and Desire2Learn simply cannot keep up with the pace of technology innovation on the Internet. In addition, their university audiences are largely techno-phobic and resistant to change. This has two very negative consequences:
1) The learning experience supported by course management systems are badly impaired by the poor quality of the technology - students do not get a huge benefit from these systems (it provides more administrative benefits for the school, rather than true learning benefits for students)
2) Negative attitudes towards learning technologies among CMS users are reinforced by this poor quality learning experience, making them reluctant to try other online learning tools that are truly useful.
Of course, both Blackboard and Desire2Learn are so hideously expensive, that they are fortunately priced out of many markets, sparing people the bad experience of using them.
So, if someone is interested in exploring more about online learning technologies, avoid Blackboard and Desire2Learn - you would find anything exciting going on there at all! Blackboard and Desire2Learn are built primarily to serve the bookkeeping and central institutional needs of large universities; they are not built with the needs of students as a primary goal.
Instead, look at the AMAZING tools available online for free that promote creativity, sharing and real learning by students. These include just to name a few:
blogging tools - Blogger.com, Bloglines, etc. etc.
wikis - PBwiki.com is one I have used
collaborative editing - Google documents is amazing
web publishing - check out Google Pages!
tagging and sharing - del.icio.us, just to name one
None of these features are available in Blackboard or Desire2Learn (the so-called blogging tool in D2L is a bad joke). Instead, CMSs are glorified quizzing systems with a document repository and gradebook spreadsheet.
I've got a "cool tools" widget which shows the tools I use in teaching online (all of them free):
Cool Tools Widget
Thanks to Andrew's creation of this eClassics ning, I stumbled upon two other great nings which are focused on classroom technology - I've learned lots from loitering at these nings, too! :-)
So much great stuff is going on online, and as an online teacher I am constantly finding wonderful new tools... while using Desire2Learn to do quizzes and keep a gradebook, nothing more than that.
Blackboard is plain awful. I was on the student end of it in the spring. Avoid this dog at all costs. The interface is clunky and lacks many basic features in forum posting. Many non-tech savvy students had trouble with uploading files for grading.
On the up side, I did know exactly what my grade was. On the down side, I stopped working once I crossed the 90% line.