New technology to support learning, from 1970s – 2020s

I’m an historian. In the middle of this ONL course, when we should dig deeper into the future possibilities of networking and collaborating, I want to look back to see how technology have changed from 1970s up till today, and how it will change for tomorrows students, and what this development have meant for our learning and teaching possibilities. To do this, I got a lot of help from an article by Diana Laurillard and by a report from EDUCAUSE. I have put together a chart, and doing this I also tried to look forward to see what will come next. But that was difficult! Therefore, I would appreciate some help and comments from you on this.

Here’s a link to an open document on Google drive if you want to collaborate on this. Of course, I do not regard this document as my work. I just started it and hope it will continue and result in something that we have created together, and can share.

The questions are: what kind of digital technology will come the next ten years, and how will this development transform student learning? That is one important question. Another question is how this will change teacher’s situation and role in learning. But of course there is more to be said about this and more questions to put.


Date New technology Old technology
Learning support
1970s Interactive computers Writing New medium for articulating and engaging with ideas
Local hard drives and floppy discs Paper Local storage with the user
1980s WIMP interfaces Contents, indexes,  page numbers Devices for ease of access to content
Internet Printing Mass production and distribution of content
Multimedia Photography, sound, and film Elaborated forms of content presentation
1990s Worldwide Web Libraries Wide access to extensive content
Laptops Published books Personal portable access to the medium
Email Postal services Mass delivery of communications messages
Search engines Bibliographic services Easier access to extensive content
Broadband Broadcasting, telephones Choice of elaborated content and immediacy of communication
2000s 3G Mobiles Paperbacks Low-cost access to elaborate content
Blogs Pamphlets Personal mass publishing
WEB 2.0 Library or book café where you met people From monologue to dialogue in mass communication
2010-2020 Cloud Computing Floppy disks Easy access and possibilities to collaborative work
Open Educational Resources LMS Blending campus courses with digital tools
Identity Management tools Passport Better possibilities to identify students at a distance
Learning Analytics Statistical modeling Developed tools to heöp student learning
Smartphones Mobile devices From 3G to ?
Collaborative Tools Group work Connection and collaboration grows


Social/Semantic web Static web and web 2.0 A more intelligent and intuitive web serves user needs even in HE


From Diana Laurillard, “E-Learning in Higher Education”, in Changing Higher Education, Edited by Paul Ashwin, RoutledgeFalmer, (2006) and The Future of Higher Education: Beyond the Campus, © 2010 EDUCAUSE (


If you want to take the tour once again to see if something new has been added, please do so!
Just : 

Next Generation LMS

Bildresultat för next generation learning management system

Many LMS, Learning Management Systems, used in today’s higher education has been created at a time when the main idea i higher education essentially was course- as well as teacher-centered. Several studies, and the latest report from EDUCAUSE (1), has in recent years shown that our thinking about teaching and learning has undergone major changes since the beginning of the 1990’s. The structuring idea in HE has become more and more learning- and student-centered. This development should have some implications for the future design of an LMS.

”If current LMS designs are tied to a model of Teaching and Learning that is being replaced with new approaches, then what should come next?”, asks EDUCAUSE. There are many indications that higher education in the coming years will be looking for more effective and strategic Learning Management Systems, increasingly prepared to meet an organization’s expectations and demands for more flexible, mobile, and personalized learning environments, and, not least, with more intuitive tools within the system (for instance LTI (2)), which, as simply as possible, ties together tools of various kinds for a greater learning pathes and experiences for each student – and for all teachers.

Many LMS’s of today are run by commercial operators and interests – even if there also are platforms based on open sources with knowledge on future higher education – with limited knowledge of where today’s teaching and learning in higher education is going. Therefore, it is necessary that every university recognizes the ongoing changes of the learning environments and ensures to obtain as good knowledge as possible about the future of digital learning environments in general – including the future of LMS’s.

Well then, how will the next generation of an LMS look like? Development has made it more meaningful to think of a future Learning Management System as part of a digital ecosystem, rather than as a special destination for learning as it has been for long time now. The LMS of the future will be integrated with many different types of applications for learning, and students and teachers can move in and out of the platforms when needed to meet their course requirements.

A future LMS needs to be adjusted for the following, and according to EDUCAUSE this is the minimum requirements for every LMS:

  • Interoperability and Integration – A standard LTI allows for quick and seamless integration of most, if not all, of the tools used for learning. The standard is available today, but needs to be developed further so every teacher, or student, herself should be able to connect the tools, inside or outside of the LMS, to be used in a specific learning situation.
  • Personalization – Teachers and students should be able to create personal environments of tools and resources, and individual students or groups of students will also be able to find their most suitable routes through a course, with tools that are adapted to solve the tasks.
  • Analytics, Advising, and Learning Assessment – Already today there often are good opportunities to accumulate great formative and summative data in an LMS. Despite this, the next generation LMS must focus even more on possibilities to create reports that both facilitates reporting to other systems for exams (and badges), and also for the teacher points out appropriate steps to enhance the quality of learning. These systems need not necessarily be part of the course management system. Instead, it is sufficient that a ”dashboard”, through an LTI link, is available on the platform. There are currently three types of data that ought to be better linked to each other than now: biographical and demographic data, data on the course and engagement in the course, as well as data on student activities (for instance published materials).
  • Collaboration Most LMS’s today has poorly developed collaborative tools. Next generation must invest far more than we have done so far to integrate such opportunities for networking and collaboration. Litterature on future learning predicts that this type of learning will increase significantly in the near future. (3)
  • Accessibility and Universal Design – Many LMS’s already have developed some kind of accessibility tools and tools supporting universal design requirements. But there are much more to be done concerning applicability for all kinds of people.


(1) Malcolm Brown, Joanne Dehoney, Nancy Millichap, The Next Generation Digital Learning Environment. A Report on Research, EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative

(2) Learning Tools Interoperability. Se more on this here

(3) On collaborative learning, see blogpost ONL and collaborative learning

Se also these references used for the text:

Malcolm Brown, The LMS of the Future: Exploring the Next Generation Digital Learning Environment

Tom Vander Ark, How Learning Will Work in the Near Future: 12 Features of Next-Gen Platforms

Tom Vander Ark, Beyond the LMS: What Next-Gen Learning Platforms Should Do

Eden Dahlstrom, Christopher Brooks, Jacqueline Bichsel, The Current Ecosystem of Learning Management Systems in Higher Education: Student, Faculty, and IT Perspectives. EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research

eLearning Implementation Toolkit Infographic

TONY BATES, EDUCAUSE looks beyond the (current) LMS environment: is it a future we want?

ICDEs report (April 2015)
The questionaire are here:

ONL and collaborative learning


The ONL course blog says: “The ONL course design builds on open, collaborative and networked learning practices …”.[1] In this short post, I will focus on the collaborative part of the course.[2] It is perhaps the most difficult of all learning types to learn through collaboration. Recent empirical studies have shown that students do not know the difference between collaboration and co-operation, and they do not necessarily collaborate when they are being put together in a group. So why does this course builds on collaborative learning? Moreover, what is it?

In the ONL course, we want to develop a kind of community of practice that can explore the possibilities to collaborate on, create and present knowledge and solutions to various problem areas. Every second week we get a new topic to discuss and work on, towards building a shared public presentation.

What is collaborative learning?

The simplest definition of collaborative learning is “a situation in which two or more people learn or attempt to learn something together”, but saying this is not enough. Collaborative learning is more about taking part in the process of building knowledge “through participation and negotiation with peers” and to share this knowledge with other people. [3] Of course, all of this could be done both synchronously and asynchronously. The collaborating group has to coordinate all this work from the starting point to its conclusion; it has to make all necessary attempts in order to succeed; the group develops and constructs, together and individually, their ideas; and finally, they has to agree on a shared conception – and present this conception in one way or another. All parts of this process are important. Not the least the final part: to share a common conception about a problem. Each member of a group could learn from how other members of the group work and how they express a thought and address a certain topic. They will learn through the process of trying to articulate their own ideas and criticizing their peers’ ideas, but also modifying their own ideas after having been criticized. After spending some time together, synchronously and asynchronously, all members in the group are more motivated to continue her or his journey, than if each person individually had studied the topics in question.

skillsIn learning through collaboration all members develops more skills than in any other learning type. In the literature one therefore talks about skills involved in collaborative peer communication: listening, explaining, questioning, summarizing, speculating, and hypothesizing. For all this to happen, it is very important that each and every one understand, that as contributors to the group work, each person have the intention to learn something, and therefore also should be recognized by other group members to have that intention.

What teachers/facilitators, supporting collaborative learning, could do?

Because collaborative learning do not necessarily happen when learners are put together in groups, it is more important than ever to develop a kind of scaffold to support this way of learning. But as research in this area is not as comprehensive as it should be, there is not so much advice to give on how to support these types of learning.

To start with, however, there are some elements that works in every kind of learning situations, which also should be taken care of when groups for collaborative learning are formed, such as learnings objectives, requirements and ground rules for group members interaction, group size, and so on. These things are important even for getting collaborative learning to work. Moreover, a facilitator also ought to interact with the group in many other ways, such as:

  • how to give feedback (on discussions or on a final common presentation);
  • if the work should revolve around exchanging ideas or creating presentations of the findings;
  • if focus for the group should be on discussion, ending in a common idea on what to present, or different arguments for multiple alternatives showing qualities for each alternative also ending in a common presentation.

Can digital tools help the teachers/facilitators as well as learners?

Collaboration, towards a common goal after having interact with one another, and co-create a common presentation have been an essential component since online courses and learning began taking shape. Moreover, collaborative learning spread all over the world at the same time as the digital revolution swept over every continent. Therefore, in this way collaborative learning is connected to the digital revolution. In recent years, many companies have developed digital tools to support this kind of learning. Their concern has not been to replicate a face-to-face learning situation, but instead to look for what technology has to offer when it comes to newer types of learning, for instance collaborative learning.[4] Below I will dwell on some examples to show how technology has shaped the possibilities for creating collaborative learning situations.

In many years, Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) has collected research from all over the world and discussed the possibilities of technology to enhance collaborative learning. Technology has already proved to be supportive for communication and representations, so of course it also could contribute to a type of learning that requires both of these learning activities.[5] In addition, learning in the digital age is no longer dependent on individual knowledge acquisition. Today it can rely on the learning that together with a supportive framework could occur in connected social networks and groups.[6]

Google docs, drive and Google+ works really good for collaborative activities and learning. A good way of doing this could be to let several smaller groups work on a common document but not at the same place in the document. The groups are instead responsible for editing their part of this document, answering questions or writing down observations. After some time the members of the group have to switch areas, facing what other groups have done. The new group could then be asked to give some feedback on what the other group had come up with or to present some answers on questions posed from the first group.

Google docs also have other very useful features. It is, for instance, possible to go back in the document history and see every revision of a document, and also identify who made the modifications and who contributed most of all to the document. This last feature is very useful if the document is being used as part of an assessed activity.

Google docs also works on smart phones, which not just makes these tools powerful, they also let the participants be mobile.

There are many other tools which supports collaborative activities, such as MindMeister, Padlet, CoSketch, ThingLink, and many, many more. Here is also a good starting point for reading about learning types, such as collaborative learning: The UNESCO/COL OER Knowledge Cloud.

I have to end here. Otherwise, I will be too tedious!


[1], 2017-02-28.

[2] I have just read D Laurillards book, “Teaching as a Design Science. Building Pedagogical Patterns for Learning and Technology”, NY and London, 2012, and this post builds upon her book.

[3] Laurillard 2012, p. 187.

[4] See Computer Supported Collaborative Learning and the International Journal of Computer Support for Collaborative Learning (ijCSCL).

[5] Laurillard 2012, p. 194.

[6] Jane E. Brindley, Christine Walti and Lisa M. Blaschke, “Creating Effective Collaborative Learning Groups in an Online Environment”, in The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, Vol 10, No 3 (2009).

Digital literacy, politics and democracy

When it comes to digital literacy, two questions have popped up.
1. Are every person obligated to acquire digital skills and literacy, or is this a much deeper and a more political issue?
2. Could digital skills and literacies develop democracy and human rights?

I’m an historian. Usually I start a discussion with the old greeks! But this time I will not begin with Platon and Aristotle. Literacy, the capacity to read and write and knowing how to handle texts, were in western Europe developed with increasing speed from late 1600s into modern times. Even if it began at a very slow pace, it increased gradually and in late 1900th century, literacy became possible to achieve for every man and woman. But it took some time further before it became a democratic right to be able to get a proper education in the art of reading and writing. At first, literacy only contributed to a wider gap between those in power and those that had no power.

We can now see that what we today call digital literacy has evolved radically in just one or two decades. But is this, as the art of read and write was in the 19th century, in focus for the education system today? Could we in HE expect that students should have sufficient knowledge in digital literacies? I would say, despite all good texts that have been written on digital literacies in higher education, they are poorly developed amongst our students. To be able to use more digital tools, read and write, in a more digital world we must get the issue on digital literacies into every curriculum and make it a political question, not an exclusively individual question.  Morover, as has been proposed at least since the beginning av 21st century, we have to take a leap from a ‘weak’ digital literacy (skills of interpretation and strategies of reception) to strong digital literacy (authorship and autonomous skills and capacities). (1)

How about digital literacies and democracy? Al Gore once said in a well known speech, called Information Superhighways Speech, held on Monday March 21, 1994:

”I see a new Athenian Age of democracy forged in the fora the Global Information Infrastructure will create.” That was a very promesing speech. Since the, all over the world the computer, internet and cell phone has given rise to the interactive and participatory role of youth in many political actions. (2) To analyze the meaning of this we should try to keep two things in mind at the same time: first there is the development of higher speed internet and the usage of computers and internet; then there is the question of learning how to ”read and write” in the digital world, the digital literacies. If we look at the use of the computer and of the internet it looks very promesing:

Global Internet usage – from Wikipedia – let us know that the developing world developes at a higher speed then the rest of the world, which is very promising.

Global Internet usage

Source:, 2017-03-06

Internet Users by Country (2016)

Source:, 2017-03-06

In both India and China the internet users exceeds the people without internet, and both this countries saw the largest number of people in the whole world getting access to the internet last year. In China there was over 500 millions internet user 2015, whereas USA only got some 200 millions internet users – although there in these countries still are many people left without internet acess. In China this could become very important and promising for next young internet generation, despite the fact that free internet access is questioned by those in power,
whereas India have a growing middle class that soon will ask for – or claim – to get some influence over political decisions.

This was two examples of how this will influence coming generations of policy makers. More examples could be mentioned. They have in common that they gives us the potential to change things. To realize this potential, coming generations of people have to get involved in different activities concerning how to ”read and write” on the internet – otherwise they will not succeed to get control of policy makers more skilled ways of presenting political decisions.


(1) Breaking Radical Monopolies: towards political economy of digital literacy TERE VADÉN University of Tampere, Finland JUHA SUORANTA University of Joensuu, Finland , in E-Learning and Digital Media, Volume 1, Number 2, 2004

(2) Digital-Literacy as the Predictor of Political- Participation a Survey of University Graduates in Dikhan, KP, Pakistan By Zafar Abbas & Dr. Allah Nawaz , in  Global Journal of HUMAN-SOCIAL SCIENCE: F Political Science, Volume 14, Issue 8, Version 1.0, Year 2014

Questions on LMS and OER (Open Educational Resources)


During this course I have often come back to the claimed differences between an LMS and the OER. In this last post on the course I will answer the questions posed by our fascilitators by trying to formulate questions that would come up when you meet your colleagues at our different institutiones – and formulate my answers to this questions. The answers was written with the intention to be used at Lund University.

1. Will the future development of student portals, LMS and the use of OER require new knowledge and skills from students, teachers and administrators?

Answer: Yes, it will affect students, teachers and administrators. Therefore, they must be offered opportunities to attain training and support to cope with the challenges of future education and teaching.

2. This is a two part question:

A. Does the LMS have a future?

Answer: Yes, the LMS has a future. They are not static but dynamic and can respond to new needs that may exist in teaching and learning. They are open to everyone that takes a higher education.

B. Can an LMS be combined or modified to work with Web 2.0 tools?

Answer: Yes, there should not be any problems. In an LMS, other learning tools can very easily be integrated. It is, however, a technical question about how this integration should be implemented practically and how far-reaching it should be.

3. Can the use of an LMS restrict the value contained in more student-driven tools such as social media, search engines and others, e.g. mobile technology?

Answer: It depends on which LMS is being used, but above all on how the teachers choose to use it. But today, development sometimes is driven ahead by various cloud technologies, and by so called “free access” to many tools and the low cost of Web 2.0 technology. Changes therefore currently occur primarily outside an LMS, but a good LMS should be able to integrate new tools if needed/desired. But an LMS also is a perfect toolbox (a common course structure) for all kinds of tools. And good LMS always develops when necessary.

4. What is the demand on the new open educational resources (OER) and other more student-driven tools? Can these new tools be accommodated within an existing LMS?

Answer: Right now individual teachers try out different digital tools for higher education. The problem is that very few of these tools are quality assured by some responsible institution, in order to be used in higher education. The good part of this development is of course that many teachers have realized the importance of seeking new ways to communicate with their students and new ways for students to collaborate. The negative part is that much time is devoted to distinguish the good from the bad – it’s like tumbling around in darkness. One should both assure the quality of a wide range of smaller tools and also ensure that those tools will work together with the chosen LMS that the university supports. In the future, we need to secure the possibility to combine the chosen LMS with the new Web 2.0 Tools.

5. Have the technical development progressed so far that today there is stable and sustainable tools that enables institutions to plan and manage their education without constant interruptions for complicated updates and / or implementations of new tools and interfaces?

Answer: No, updates will always be needed. But it is now possible to manage change in such a way that they support the goals and strategies for institutions, teachers and students. These updates can then be done in a way that does not interfere with the educational work that is done every day. If these updates not are made, one will risk remaining in the technology of the old Century.

6. What should institutions and teachers do now to learn to apply the tools and platforms made possible with the more interactive Web 2.0 technologies?

Answer: You should ensure that there is a strategic plan with clear guidelines that can guide individual teachers who want to develop their teaching towards more online learning. E-learning needs to be discussed at each institution to make sure that each and every one, students and teachers, comfortable with this kind of learning. Further, you should check that there is an appropriate management structure in place, a really good scaffolding, to cope with the changes that need to be done when teaching changes. This means that you should have a plan for developing knowledge that teachers acquire to run this kind of courses and also have a plan for how this skills should be passed on to the next generation of teachers. We also need to discuss how the material created in digital tools and platforms may be used and to what extent they may be spread further. To cope with this, a continuous training of teachers regarding the pedagogical use of digital technology is needed. Teachers should also have the freedom to choose the technology that best suits their educational needs, but within clear and well communicated institutional frameworks with respect to the availability, integrity and technical support.

7. What should an institution do for planning for five – or ten – years ahead?

Answer: It is necessary to handle the constant and rapid change that seems to characterize the digital technology, to best support and transform teaching and learning towards a greater use of digital environments. You should plan for continued development in learning technics towards more student-generated content, learner centered teaching and learning, skills that many students already possess, but which they will need to learn more about in the future to master the new technology and to solve their tasks. You should also plan for developing a rich multimedia learning environment that supports different types of learning, and this will go hand in hand with other and new ways of teaching and learning.

Google – collects data like squirrels collect nuts!


Recently I politely turned down a proposal to participate in a study on the use of online tools in education. The reason for this became clear after reading what kind of information Google collect. In contrast to squirrels Google knows how to handle this information to make business!

Information we collect

”We collect information in two ways:

  • Information you give us. For example, many of our services require you to sign up for a Google Account. When you do, we’ll ask for personal information, like your name, email address, telephone number or credit card. If you want to take full advantage of the sharing features we offer, we might also ask you to create a publicly visible Google Profile, which may include your name and photo.
  • Information we get from your use of our services. We may collect information about the services that you use and how you use them, like when you visit a website that uses our advertising services or you view and interact with our ads and content. This information includes:
    • Device information

      We may collect device-specific information (such as your hardware model, operating system version, unique device identifiers, and mobile network information including phone number). Google may associate your device identifiers or phone number with your Google Account.

    • Log information

      When you use our services or view content provided by Google, we may automatically collect and store certain information in server logs. This may include:

      • details of how you used our service, such as your search queries.
      • telephony log information like your phone number, calling-party number, forwarding numbers, time and date of calls, duration of calls, SMS routing information and types of calls.
      • Internet protocol address.
      • device event information such as crashes, system activity, hardware settings, browser type, browser language, the date and time of your request and referral URL.
      • cookies that may uniquely identify your browser or your Google Account.
    • Location information

      When you use a location-enabled Google service, we may collect and process information about your actual location, like GPS signals sent by a mobile device. We may also use various technologies to determine location, such as sensor data from your device that may, for example, provide information on nearby Wi-Fi access points and cell towers.

    • Unique application numbers

      Certain services include a unique application number. This number and information about your installation (for example, the operating system type and application version number) may be sent to Google when you install or uninstall that service or when that service periodically contacts our servers, such as for automatic updates.

    • Local storage

      We may collect and store information (including personal information) locally on your device using mechanisms such as browser web storage (including HTML 5) and application data caches.

    • Cookies and anonymous identifiers

      We and our partners use various technologies to collect and store information when you visit a Google service, and this may include sending one or more cookies or anonymous identifiers to your device. We also use cookies and anonymous identifiers when you interact with services we offer to our partners, such as advertising services or Google features that may appear on other sites.”

Now I know why I’m a bit skeptical about using Google for all kinds of ”services”.


Timing tools and support in a course

support I would like to investigate if it is possible to concentrate on specific tools and support  as course continues and also when we could rely on and develop students inner motivations to continue the course and not drop out. The questions for this short post is (1): Which tools could be used for all this? When would for example tools for face-to-face contact, for peer support, and so on be most effective?

When needed

What is needed

When course start

When in the middle of a course When course ends
tools that could be used Community-building tools

Online resources and printed materials

Community-building tools

Face-to-face contact

Online resources and printed materials

Community-building tools

Face-to-face contact

Engaging with relevant professional groups

support that is needed Registration

Technological support

Library resources: how to search databases

Facilitate the building of study groups

Encourage peer support and greater participation from all students

Technological support

Feedback on assignments

Encourage peer support and greater participation from all students

Assistance in writing papers and referencing (web-based resources)

Technological support

Feedback on assignments

Encourage peer support and greater participation from all students

Assistance in writing papers and referencing (web-based resources)

when/how could we trust on and develop existing strengths in students Emphasise the positive during initial contact Identify underlying values, goals and motivation

Identify resources, protective factors and potentials of learners

Focus on existing assets and competencies

Encourage narration (life story, putting life in perspective, making sense of it)

Building psycho-social connections between peers

Validate effort rather than achievement.

Draw out past successes and high point moments

Encourage ‘positive affect’ (hope and elevated thoughts)

Emphasised psycho-social connections within the study groups

Validate effort rather than achievement..

It seems to me that many of these tools, supportive actions or trust on students strengths don’t focus on difficulties to finish a course. They may work well in the middle of a course but to me it has become obvious that we need special tools and support aimed for the last months or weeks of a course to prevent students from droping out. At the end of a course it often becomes harder  and harder for learners to keep up the good work as thoughts on the life without the course emerges as a possible reality. Then we should focus on community-building tools ,tools for face-to-face contact and to  engage students in relevant professional groups. We ought to continue with a high standard of technological support, give supportive feedback on assignments, encourage peer support and greater participation from all students and give assistance in writing papers and referencing litterature. At the end of a course it also becomes more important to draw out past successes and high point moments from the course, give and encourage ‘positive affect’ (such as hope and elevated thoughts), emphasise psycho-social connections within the study groups and validate effort rather than achievement.

(1) Thanks to Fariborz Zelli for summing up this weeks litterture in our G+ document (that is: Simpson, O. (2008). Motivating learners in open and distance learning: do we need a new theory of learner support?. Open Learning, 23(3), 159-170; The 3E Framework by Keith Smyth; Anderson, T. (Ed.). (2008). The theory and practice of online learning (pp 419-439). Athabasca University Press)

Tools, support and student inner motivation

The ratio between tools being used, support given and trust on and development of existing strengths in students

In the table below 1 is the lowest amount of investments in tools, support or developing students inner motivations and 7 is the highest amount of investments. By combining advices from the litterature for this week, I think one can come  up with the following conclusions:


  1. Tools ought to switch to more interactive face-to-face online tools the longer the course is in progress. This will motivate the students to continue the good work.
  2. Support ought to be more personal the longer the course is in progress. It also ought to be more forward-looking.Students need personal feedback when their own motivation drops and they also need to focus on the end of the course in order to keep the good work up.
  3. A students inner motivation develops from enthusiasm and high motivation to bad conscience for not having enough time to keep up the good work.