Feb 17, 2006

Miles Berry

I must admit, I’m not quite sure about LAMS.

LAMS is an open source, web-based tool for sequencing learning activities – so does some of the things a VLE does, but the focus is on putting activities and resources into a sequence, and controlling the progress of learners through that.

Lams branchingI attended the workshop in London today, led by Ernie Ghiglione, LAMS’ technical lead, and there was much that really impressed me – the drag and drop interface for authoring content for a start, but also the way they’re integrating with a whole host of VLEs, including Moodle, and, I think best of all, the way the still smallish user community are happy to share their ‘sequences’ with one another. For the next release, they’re going to have branching sequences (see picture below), so learners will be directed to one activity or another depending on how they’ve done on earlier work  – sounds a bit like one of those independent learning systems, but it also includes a number of communication components that can be dropped into the sequence, and will at some future date allow the parent VLE’s tools to be used in LAMS sequences.

This sort of thing is on the agenda for the UK schools learning platform functional specification, but I hadn’t realised until today that Moodle’s not unusual amongst VLEs in not providing this sort of control of a learner’s progress through the resources and activities. Given that LAMS will happily integrate into Moodle, this could be one way of Moodle meeting this aspect of the functional specification, I suppose, although Ernie himself said this would be “probably useless for elementary and high schools”!

I think my problem with it is that it presents a very behaviourist model of personalised learning, in which resources and activities may well be tailored to the learner’s own needs (or at least the course designer’s perception of them…), but the learner’s sense of responsibility for their own learning seems diminished. I also can’t see how the whole chat and forum thing can work out in a sequence which each individual follows at their own pace, although LAMS gets round this by a system of gates, so that learners progress is held at various points, whilst their peers catch up – which seems bizarre to me, but I suppose makes a warped kind of sense if you think there’s just this fixed body of knowledge to be learnt. I’d love to see the thing up and running in practice, as I’m not yet convinced that it brings a huge amount to the party.