See this entry from the blog Many-to-Many, which I came across via Kariosnews. One of my many side projects (with the “billhd” who posted to Kairosnews) is an article about course management systems, and this situation of being forced into using a specific package (Blackboard, WebCT, etc.) to teach a particular class. A couple of thoughts:
* You know, I’m not so sure how often this sort of thing is actually happening nowadays– I guess some research on this might be in order.
* I’m scheduled to teach an online class in Fall 2005, and the way that it works at EMU is online classes are supported through Continuing Education and they use something called eCollege. I haven’t talked with these folks about the details of all this yet, but as I understand it, the main incentive they give here to people to use eCollege is they provide quite a bit of support to teachers. I think you can even do stuff like give these folks hard copies of materials and they will digitize it.
* What I hope/assume that I will do when do this class next year is to use the eCollege interface as a “front end” for the class and then direct students to web sites and such of my own making. And I’ll probably direct them to this web domain, too– that is, I’ll send them to a site I “own” instead of an EMU web site.
* One of the things that Bill and I need to talk and then write about is the metaphor for CMS. It could be said that the institution sees CMS as the same thing as the brick-n-mortar classrooms. If that’s the case, CMS forces folks into a box that is only inches away from the classroom boxes we get forced into in face-to-face teaching. CMS might also be said to be like a required textbook or set of assignments, the sort of approach common in a lot of first year writing programs.
In either case though, it seems to me that what “good teachers” do is figure out how to work within “the system” while simultaneously attempting to subvert it. Of course, that’s easier said than done….