OK, so Stephen Downes doesn’t like the LMOS:
I have been sort of sympathetic to the concept of the learningmanagement operating system (LMOS) because, after all, the concept includes things that I favour: distributed resources, user access to the underlying system. But I began to falter when Mark Feldstein said “We don’t just want to offer many different affordances. we want to orchestrate them.” And following his link to Bernie Durfee has sketched out a first use case implementation sent me over the edge. I’ll say it bluntly, and apologize later: this is the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen. Durfee is describing what the rest of understand as ‘upload a file and base a discussion thread on it’. Something I did right here in about 10 seconds today. But he requires J2EE containers, portlet containers, service integration agents, native Java interfaces, a whole mess of stuff. Ridiculous. Absurd! That’s it – if that is what is meant, toast the whole LMOS concept.
I’m going to ignore the fact that he got my first name wrong. Frankly, I think language like “ridiculous” and “absurd” is unnecessarily hyperbolic when used in reference to a plan that simply articulates a language-specific implementation of fairly widely established standards for enterprise systems in general and enterprise learning frameworks in particular. It’s also not terribly collegial or respectful. And finally, it doesn’t reflect a grasp of the problems we are trying to solve.SUNY has 64 campuses with 414,000 students. If we web-enhance every face-to-face class on all 64 campuses, that comes to supporting a total of 3.2 million enrollments annually–not even counting fully online classes. Somebody has to provision all of those courses from a server, make sure it all scales, and support all of those applications. If you really want all your faculty to be empowered to dive into blended and online learning, you need to be able to support and automate your processes.
You also need to be able to customize the environment in a sustainable way. Bernie Durfee understands these challenges very well, since he was one of the early architects on the uPortal project. The broad questions we are looking to answer with LMOS are as follows:
- How can we create a system in which we can add a tool and have all other tools in the system automatically integrate with it? (And please don’t tell me that everything can be done with RSS.)
- How can we support a broad array of tools backed by a broad array of standards–current and future–with one architecture that will allow all of them to be plugged in interchangeably?
- How can we accomplish all this while being able to support a few hundred thousand students?
Those are hard challenges. Hard enough to require a reasonably complex architecture. Bernie addresses this complexity by pushing for web standards like WSDL that are precisely designed to make complex interoperability challenges as simple as possible–but no simpler.
And if Stephen is shocked by the nature of Bernie’s solution, then he frankly hasn’t been paying attention. Because Bernie basically took JISC’s widely touted e-Learning Framework, identified a few missing pieces, and described how it could actually be implemented in Java:
The ELF is nothing more than a very, very, very high level good idea. The LMOS takes that good idea and makes a real framework out of it. This picture needs to have wheels put on it so people can drive it around. It needs to have a real implementation, such as in Java to create a JELF.
A JELF would look like exactly like the ELF, but there would need to be specific interfaces declared for each service.
I’m not sure why Stephen would find this approach “ridiculous” or “absurd”, but I am surprised and disappointed by his tone. Stephen is always direct, but he’s crossed over the line from direct to insulting. If he wants to debate the merits of the LMOS constructively, then let him propose an alternative design. Ad hominem attacks are not worthy of him.
So yes, Stephen, I think you owe somebody an apology. But not me.