An Interview with Dr. Michael Stephens and Kenley Neufeld, by Kyle Jones
Stephens and Neufeld are instructors who each use BuddyPress as a learning management system.
Online learning has become ubiquitous across most educational organizations in the United States. To support this learning environment, institutions have typically chosen to implement one or two learning management systems on campus. These large software implementations bring standardization, support, and integration into existing campus systems. But these standard systems don't always meet the needs of students and faculty. Both Michael Stephens and Kenley Neufeld have been experimenting with alternative tools. In this discussion, we explore how these two professors have implemented a WordPress/ BuddyPress learning system for their students.
Kyle: Do you find that creating a virtual learning community is much more feasible now, with today's technical tools like Word_Press, than it was several years ago?
Kenley: We've reached a point of critical mass. The tools and software available are pretty ubiquitous. If you think about WordPress, anybody can get a WordPress site up and running even if they are not fully aware that's what they are doing. It's moved outside just the fringe and more into the mainstream. This makes it easier for people to step into it. If I use the word Word_Press in public, some might actually know what that is, or if I just mention blog then they most likely will understand. Whereas a decade ago if I had said a MOO, I'd have to spend ten minutes explaining it and even then they might not get it. Part of this has to do with the change in the Internet landscape. A decade ago it wasn't small, but the Internet has become pretty much present in everybody's lives today. Everyone seems to be engaged with it on some level. That alone is going to shift the tool mechanisms to facilitate learning environments. Blackboard was really the only player on the market a decade ago.
Michael: I'm reminded of the years I spent doing tech training at the public library and then taking over the training and development department. Between 1996 and 2003, we really struggled to design an intranet which now all you need is a blog behind a firewall and you suddenly have an intranet. It amazes me how easy this stuff is now. Because the technology got easier and more popular, everyday folks now understand "We're running this on WordPress or Drupal or Blogger." That's been one of the most exciting things about this. And this is why we should be doing these things in library school and in the university--these are the tools of the moment. In three or four years we might be talking about something else. But the ideas and motivations remain the same.
Kyle: You both work at institutions where you have some kind of formal learning management system. Why did you make the decision to not use the resources you had? You could have made your lives extremely easier going with the norm,...
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