Thursday, October 13, 2011

Quick Thoughts on Pearson's New Free OpenClass LMS

We have known for a few years that the LMS market "is shifting". Thanks to the excellent work done by groups like Delta Initiative and the Campus Computing Project, our collective eyes have been lifted up beyond our own campus to see what is happening around us.

Today, articles in the Chronicle (here) and Inside Higher Ed (here) relayed information about OpenClass, a free cloud-based LMS service (currently in beta) from Pearson in partnership with Google.

As of the writing of this post, no information is yet available via Pearson. My knowledge of the product is limited to coverage in the previously mentioned articles and my participation in a private demo of Pearson's precursor "Project Berlin" a few months ago.

(Updates: Adrian Sannier tweeted a link to a "teaser site" for OpenClass: Also, Campus Technology reveals many features of OpenClass in an interview with Pearson's Katy Kappler.)

Regarding OpenClass, I found a few interesting aspects to this new product:

Social networking & modern interfaces
Obviously any new learning platform must leverage social networking features and modern communication vehicles such as robust messaging, in addition to an improved modern interface (a strength of Instructure's Canvas LMS). Traditional LMS products are playing catch-up in these areas. OpenClass seems to place a high priority on activity streams and communication notifications. OpenClass also has some integration points with Google Apps (Calendar, Docs, and later, widgets).

Pearson's "Learning Exchange"
During the "Project Berlin" demo, Pearson reps discussed LMS integration with their forthcoming "Learning Exchange", Pearson's digital content marketplace. Learning Exchange was demonstrated as a separate system where instructors can share curriculum, content and communications while discovering other resources (cost and no-cost). Pearson also mentioned that they were talking with Merlot and other OER providers as a way of providing more learning content directly to students at no cost.

The extent to which faculty will a) find useful and relevant resources, as well as b) share out their materials and ideas certainly remains to be seen.

Leadership of Adrian Sannier at Pearson
Adrian Sannier, VP of Product at Pearson, brings a wealth of academic experience as former University Technology Officer at Arizona State (where he led the first massive higher ed conversion to Gmail) and previously as a member of the faculty at Iowa State. I will be very interested to monitor the acceleration of Pearson in the non-profit higher education market and also Pearson's LMS trajectory.

Emergence of another "instructor-choice" option
Will universities' LMS landscape evolve into a hybrid model that might include a primary centrally managed/supported LMS, secondary "niche" LMS's for specific disciplines or programs, and now instructor-choice options like OpenClass and Blackboard's free CourseSites? It is likely that instructors will increasingly be tempted to adopt learning environments provided by the publishers of their course textbooks. How will this diverse LMS landscape impact students and their desire for convenience? Where will expectations be set for university support staff?

Today's news from Pearson is just one more tremor in the current landscape shift that is occurring.

What do you think is most significant about this news from Pearson and Google? I'm quite curious to hear your thoughts and questions.

I am excited for students and instructors that their experiences with learning environments are improving -- even if that means difficult work for those of us leading and supporting the change.


Anonymous said...

Barry Dahl said...

Of all the pieces that I saw about OpenClass during the first day or two of hype, the one that stands out for me is the following public post by Rovy Branon on Goog+