Online learning at tertiary institutions has traditionally been delivered using learning management systems (LMS) such as WebCT, Blackboard and Moodle. However, despite these LMS having some advantages such as allowing faculty to manage students’ online learning and to quickly publish course content, there are also some disadvantages. The main disadvantage is that traditional LMS-based courses are closed in nature, being both time bound and walled off. One solution to this problem is to use web-based blogs to deliver online courses, but this solution also has some associated problems such as privacy issues, intellectual property concerns and assessment challenges. A way to address the above problems is to combine open, web-based components and closed, traditional LMS-based components in a blended LMS. One such blended LMS, used in the Liberal Studies programme at the Sharjah Higher Colleges of Technology in the United Arab Emirates, is featured in this paper. The paper describes in detail how the blended LMS has been created by using a locally-hosted, WordPress multi-site blog to deliver the open, web-based component and a traditional LMS, Blackboard 9, to deliver the closed component. The benefits of this system are discussed, as well as the problems encountered during the design and implementation stages.
With technology playing an increasingly important role in the learning environment, educators are under pressure to provide, in a timely fashion, their students with more interactive, online learning materials. Fortunately, there is a range of easy-to-use authoring packages that allow educators to do this. However, the downside to this ability to author materials quickly is that it may result in learning activities being produced that have glossed over or even skipped some key stages in the design process. This need not be the case as using frameworks such as Instructional Systems Design (ISD) and rapid prototyping can ensure that pedagogicallysound online materials can be produced quickly. This article aims at showing how this can be done. First, the ISD model, rapid-prototyping and Gagne’s (1985) theory of instruction are outlined. Then, there is a detailed discussion on how the above three concepts have been applied to a set of online learning materials designed and developed for my students.