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Mash Ups

The adoption and use of Learning Management Systems (LMS) by schools has grown a lot in recent years. So too has the use of social networking and Web2.0 applications. With this proliferation of tools and applications it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a single system that meets the specific needs of each school or class (or learner for that matter). Many of our learners are using a variety of web-based applications to create and manage their own digital content—quite separate from what they may be doing within the environment of the institutional LMS.

Rather than try to create a single system that forces everyone to conform, we are seeing more work going into making these separate systems and environments work together. These ‘mash-ups’ as they are known are becoming the preferred way of establishing an online learning environment for our students that is ‘fit for purpose’ and meets the particular needs of the student group, school, or institution.

An example of this is where RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is being used to link information from a variety of sources into a single user interface such as NetVibes or PageFlakes.

In addition, many of the Web 2.0 applications that are now commonly used by learners make provision for the content stored within them to be exposed in other environments. For instance, videos in YouTube or slide shows in SlideShare can be embedded into blogs, wikis or websites.

Implications for learning institutions are that instead of looking for the ideal single application for their online learning environment (OLE), it may be better to consider using an application that can be used as an integrative hub (providing basic content storage and organization, login and authentication capabilities, RSS aggregation capability, notifications and basic discourse tools such as forums etc.)