I teach a couple of university courses in communications, and I don’t like to use Learning Management Systems (LMS). They are handy, but I think, especially for communications courses, students need to be learning the possibilities of the web and how to use them for their own purposes.
Now, when I want to give students feedback and marks privately, I want to demonstrate how we can do that outside of using LMSs. So I listen to their assignments (MP3s of brief podcasts posted on blogs on the open web) and I make notes about their strengths and weaknesses. Then I open the free web application, Audacity, which allows me to record my voice, and I record my feedback for each student. Then I go to my university email, which I have pulled into my gmail account and set up a template message, saying that their feedback is in the attached MP3, and make it a “canned response”.
Then I address each email, paste in the saved subject, click on the canned response and attach the MP3 of their individual feedback. They get private feedback, and I don’t spend too many hours getting it to them.
I also insist that they set up Dropbox accounts for backup, and bookmarks accounts chosen from Diigo, Evernote, or other equivalents for their researching. And just last week, as we are in the last three weeks of the winter term, a student told me that her laptop battery had gone wrong, and she was panicing over a laptop that no longer worked. Then she remembered that I’d “forced” them to set up Dropbox accounts and keep their files in it. She was okay; she hadn’t lost all her assignments. She could access them all on any computer with an internet connection in her Dropbox account.
As I said, especially for communications students, I believe they should be using web applications and not be inside the LMS silos, where they can do their work, but they aren’t learning how to make use of the possibilities offered on the web. I use a wiki and other applications and it works well for my classes. I understand that the LMS can be a suitable tool for teachers in some subjects, but, as I wrote before, students studying communications need to learn how to study and work in the world of the web.