Course management systems put educators and their students within electronic reach of each other, but are rarely enjoyable to use. Systemically applied platforms like ULearn (formerly Web CT) and Blackboard seem clunky and outdated. The open-source Sakai Project provides interesting options, but must be customized by the institution and sometimes loses pedagogical effectiveness in that standardization. Textbook publishers like Bedford/St. Martin’s, Pearson/Longman, and Cengage all develop more usable tools tailored to individual disciplines, but those tools are often bound to the use of a particular textbook and cannot remain open for student use indefinitely.

Currently, I am researching alternatives to current course management systems. I want to learn about and help build a pedagogical landscape that jumps the fence of institutional and commercial boundaries and involves dynamic research capabilities and collaborative components. I have been teaching with a digital course space for three years, but I want to grow past it. At THAT Camp I would like gather data on what the best digital teaching environment might look like if it could harness other applications on the web, while still offering a few uniquely useful and adaptable tools within its framework.

Philosophically, this discussion might veer into evaluating the dissolution of boundaries around learning institutions. As we contemplate the impact of new digital systems, we might wonder how much teaching and learning can or should happen on the open web — outside of a log-in screen or behind the digital fence of a school. I would love to hear discussion. Functionally though,  I would like to learn about what things are currently missing from course management systems so that, collectively, we can imagine a new one(s). Even more specifically, I want to discuss how new uses of social media tools and re-imagined assessment methods can augment an online course landscape.