Course Management and Social Software

Later this week, I’m facilitating a discussion about the relationship between course management systems and social software. In my world, where course management means Blackboard, the two don’t relate together very well at all, imho. We have a third-party plugin for blogs and wikis in Blackboard, which quite a few people are using. I’d like to gather or poll these people to see if they’re finding the tool useful or not. My impression is that they feel it does what it does and they don’t expect much out of it. I don’t know of anyone using an external blog or wiki for their courses, though I have had people do that in the past.

My thoughts are, right now, that social software is the antithesis of a CMS. It’s open. It’s about sharing and collaborating with a wide group of people. Social software, to me, also involves personalization to some degree. People personalize their profiles, their blogs, etc. with their own look and feel. It’s a way of saying, “I’m part of a group, but I’m still unique.” A CMS, even in the social software arena, is about uniformity. Everything and everyone looks the same. This is my own bias, of course. But my own bias is also that education is not about developing students to all look the same, so I think the underlying technology should enable differentiation instead of uniformity. Too often, in CMS’s and other software, we force people to do the same thing, to look the same. I think it’s okay if we use the same software to simplify support, but I think that software needs to allow flexibility.

I’d love to hear my reader’s thoughts about this. Do any of you use social software in conjunction with a CMS? Successfully? Do any of you use social software within a CMS? Just social software? Why? If you haven’t used social software (blogs, wikis, facebook, etc.) in your teaching, why not? I’ll post notes or maybe even the whole presentation after it’s done.

Dismissing Open Source

This happens all the time. People mention a few software packages, in whatever realm, and don’t mention the ones that are the biggest competition–the open source ones. Yes, some open source software has such a low adoption rate that it hardly seems worth mentioning, but in the CMS area, Sakai and Moodle have both cornered a pretty significant market. Sakai is used at big universities like Michigan, Indiana and Berkeley. That’s hardly something to sneeze at.