Developing a knowledge based LMS for an ODL system
Computer Division, IGNOU, New Delhi
Knowledge is derived from information. Further, data bases are the input for deriving information at large. These data bases may be centralized or located at different locations across the world.
LMSs using ICT, generally referred as E-Learning Management System, are electronic environment that enable the delivery management and administration of range of learning activities, services, content and data.
Such quality e-learning software may, if developed, be found to be efficient and more effective for meeting ODL requirements pertaining to students, courses, and related aspects.
IGNOU, which is the world’s largest university, has deployed web based applications which are available through IGNOU web site. The facility is available for all dynamic information for student support apart from static information pertaining to IGNOU and its activities. The university is also in process of getting implemented wireless application for student supports through mobile phones.
The paper will discuss knowledge based LMS for E-learning management in ODL system with some specific reference to such facilities at IGNOU.
ODL is found to have a great potential for achieving the goal of imparting education to one and all around the glob. In the country like India it is seen as a great opportunity available for imparting education and training at all levels of requirements viz. elementary, secondary, higher education, and corporate. Electronic and digital environment, as a produce of ICT, are available to one and all living even in the most remote area world wide and, thus, filling the communication gap to a large extent in on line delivery of learning contents and related information. TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) applications through internet have greatly overcome the limitations of the existing models of teaching. In a typical LMS, it is required to manage, in general, two main activities. The first and foremost is the delivery of self-paced online academic programs (e-learning). The other one is related to services. ODL has many activities to be performed like in the conventional system but with some differences. Generally, there is no age bar. Similarly there is flexibility in qualification, duration for completing the course so that one gets good chance for enhancing his/her knowledge. It provides an opportunity to get educated through a system available at the doorsteps. In such a system, students are supposed to come to the institution only for collecting certificates/degrees etc. that too when it is not through postal system or else there is delay in delivery. The services are, thus, required to be provided for Admission, Performance Evaluation, Pre/post examination related activities, Academic courseware preparation and distribution, Multimedia production and Communication facilities, On line query handling etc. The delivery system, as such, should have well designed, developed, and ergonomically rich mechanism incorporated. Learning objects should be modular, easy to understand, easy to accessed from a remote location with quality multimedia features built into it.
IGNOU , which has over 1.4 millions of students enrolled for various programmes (out of 125 ) has a rich metadata based digital repository created recently to be used by the authenticated learners. Learning objects as the integrated materials in terms of audio/video, PPT presentations, digital course contents, audio lectures are under creation for online delivery. IGNOU site has almost an exhaustive facility for support services towards meeting the various requirements.
This paper mainly deals with online delivery of education particularly for ODL system. It also gives a brief of such services at IGNOU.
LEARNING MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
Learning Management System (LMS) manages, primarily, the delivery of self-paced online (e-learning) academic programs. Flexibility in qualification, duration for completing the course, age bar are some parameters which provide good opportunity for knowledge enhancement . Hence LMS for ODL has to address all such requirements intelligently managing both learners and learning. Additional features including authoring, synchronous, and content management tools are required to be added/modified regularly with addition/modification of course curriculum, new learner group or even when there is a change in processing rule. When LMS is seen with an organizational perspective then it should be considered in light of the overall approach to online learning within an organisation. Hence it should start with identifying the learning strategy and requirements of the organisation. In case an existing LMS needs to be customized to meet the requirements then requirements will need to be prioritized in order to find the right LMS that will meet core requirements initially, and grow to meet subsequent requirements in future. Being on line it provides ample opportunities to integrate with all other departments in the organization. This will further provide opportunity to have integrated solution connecting all departments and hence will provide consistent information/content flow through out the organization. Further analysis may result in finding out cost incurred on and impact of imparting education, for example.
Different learners learn differently. When content is viewed as the most valuable contribution to learning, an existing LMS will suffice. When interaction, connections, and communication are viewed as the most valuable aspect of learning, then options like, social tools are reasonable alternative. Ultimately, careful analysis of the learning task and tools available should drive the method selected. It is widely accepted that we better learn by doing. Over 75% of learning takes place while doing day-to-day work in the organization. Learning classes and online events contribute only 10% to 20% of what one learns at work. Here attributes like personal interest, context, opportunities for applications and similar like play pivotal role. The learning ecology and tools utilized, hence, should permit learner control - both for the type of content explored and the manner in which it is explored. Any learning environment should have the following :
- A place for learner expression (blog/portfolio)
- A place for content interaction
- A place to connect with other learners
- A place to connect the thoughts of other learners
- A place to dialogue with the instructor
- A place to dialogue with experts in the field
- A place for learning artifacts of those who have gone before i.e. content management capabilities accessible and managed by the learner (George 2004).
Apart from above, it should be modularized to accommodate additional functionalities and tools based on what learners want or need. While LMS are useful for certain learning functions, advanced thinking skills and activities require a move from one-tool-does-it-all to picking tools for the required task based on learner needs. Modularized approaches give the instructor or learner the control to follow the meandering paths of rich learning. It is proper quoting here Khan (2005, p.1) relating knowledge and learning as “If knowledge is the engine of development, then learning must be its fuel”.
The very notion of managing learning conflicts with how people are actually learning today. Outside of primary and secondary school, most of our learning falls into the “topping up what we know” category. As a result we need tools that allows for rapid creation and breakdown. An LMS has a long creation/breakdown process. We currently do not have a tool accessible to most educators that does what an LMS does. This creates a challenge in defining which path to take : work with LMS vendors to restructure their systems to reflect end-user needs, or walk away from LMS altogether and develop and alternative based on decentralized, learner-in-control, piece-it-together tools? Until these questions are answered, learning management systems will continue to have a role in the overall structure of online learning.
Features which must have place in LMS as the prime ones may be enumerated as below :
- browser based system both for the learner and the administrators with proper authentication and task wise access rights
- various type of user registration - open, approval required, closed
- publish courses of various academic programs
- multilevel course catalogue
- launch and track courses/programs
- keeping tack of scores and results of individual questions
- online reports
- place learners in groups
- assign courses to all learners - old and newly registered and providing access to course content
- use style sheets to configure graphics, layout, colors and fonts
- e asy to install, open to large extent, low cost, and customizable
- provide links to various related study/presentation materials
- FAQs and discussion forum, tools to contact
- Marks/grade scored semester and course wise and in aggregate (grade card/mark sheet)
- Posting announcements, assignments, results
- Class and individual email maintenance
For offline evaluation, material dispatch to students and other such support related activities respective facilities should be built into for online viewing the status.
Knowledge on a specific field of interest may be defined as `facts' derived from a set of information known to a person, organisation or other entity. In general, it is gained either by experience, learning and perception, or through association and reasoning. It also relates to the in depth understanding of a subject, potentially with the ability to use the same. There are many definitions available, however, to summarize following two are found to be well suiting the context -
Knowledge is “information combined with experience, context, interpretation, and reflection. It is a high-value form of information that is ready to apply to decisions and actions”. (T. Davenport et al., 1998)
Knowledge is “information evaluated and organized by the human mind so that it can be used purposefully, e.g., conclusions or explanations”. (Rousa, 2002).
Hierarchical structure which provides the knowledge as the derivative of information is better known as DIKW, that is, Data, Information, Knowledge and Wisdom. Each layer, here, adds certain attributes over and above the previous one. `Data' is the most basic level; `Information' adds context; `Knowledge' is created by using the information for action. It answers the questions “how”. Knowledge is a local practice or relationship that works. Wisdom is created through use of knowledge. It answers the questions “why” and “when” as they relate to actions.
Data has commonly been seen as simple isolated facts that can be structured to become information. Information, in turn, becomes knowledge when it is interpreted, put into context and combined within a structure, or when meaning is added to it. As such, we first need to have data before information can be created, and only when we have information, knowledge can emerge. So, we have four levels in our understanding and decision making hierarchy. The whole purpose in collecting data, information and knowledge is to be able to make wise decisions. However, if the data sources are flawed, then in most cases the decisions will also be flawed. Figure 3 presents DIKW in brief.
Knowledge is broadly categorized into two - Explicit and Tacit. While the former can be easily captured, translated, documented, defined, and used directly the later is one which is difficult to represent. It can be changed to explicit only after discussion with the person having `that' knowledge. Once discussed the tacit knowledge may be documented for further use. (Marwick, 2006)illustrates the transformation from one to another as i) Tacit to Tacit e.g. discussions, seminars, conferences, meetings; ii) Tacit to Explicit e.g. intra team meetings for solution to a problem, doubt clearing sessions; iii) Explicit to Tacit e.g. learning from a report, the procedure manuals; iv) Explicit to Explicit e.g. email a report. Once the knowledge is documented it may be utilized for metadata creation at that level.
Organizational `know how' consists of both the explicit and tacit knowledge. The organizational environment helps converting these two types of knowledge from one into another as depicted in the Figure 1. Tacit knowledge are translated after having organized discussion, seminar, conferences, and team work on a particular job or subject (Chris, 2006). Brain drain results, thus, affecting production in case applicable tacit knowledge are not translated well before time.
KNOWLEDGE BASED LMS
Normally, knowledge base consists of explicit knowledge of an organization. This may include articles, reports, manuals containing various procedures, trouble shooting and others. In other words, the organizational knowledge base will accommodate all related to `know how' represented in explicit knowledge. Hence it is always desirable to have various modules responsible for different jobs in the organisation. Exhaustive and careful analysis of requirements should be preceded by well designed structure. Hence job classifications, content formats, search engine, and various links should have prominent coverage.
In ODL, when we consider developing or customizing knowledge based LMS, following two broad categories should get covered:
- course content delivery , and
- support service delivery.
Figure 1: Organisational Environment Creating/Using Knowledge Base
Figure 2: An Overall View of Knowledge Based LMS