B. Muirhead, L. Robertson, E. Vogel

University of Ontario, Institute of Technology (CANADA)
The University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) was founded in 2002. It was created to address approaching shortages in high demand Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) fields in Canada’s largest province, Ontario and across the country.
One of the founding characteristics of the university was that information and communication technology (ICT) could enhance both student learning and their future careers while providing a platform for teaching innovation in program design, and curriculum development. To that end, the university developed a comprehensive program of providing laptop computers and disciplinary software to all students and faculty. As well, the university developed a comprehensive online and hybrid teaching infrastructure through the provision of a centrally supported Learning Management System (LMS) a synchronous teaching platform and their integration with the Student Information System and Library facilities. More recently UOIT has expanded its support for learning to include Google Apps for Education, and a suite of online tools from Microsoft.

The technological landscape of computing has changed from a focus on hardware and proprietary software (licensed to individual machines) to a landscape populated with free and/or inexpensive online tools. These new tools allow for greater flexibility for licensing software and enable an increasing desire to choose individual computing hardware. The university has embarked on a comprehensive review of its technological infrastructure and adopting a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) ecosystem. With the advent of BYOD (students choosing to own and support their own devices), increasing use of free or inexpensive online tools, increasing use of mobile devices (Mobile phones and Tablets) and the move away from a centrally supported technological infrastructure, questions have emerged about the need for a centrally supported LMS. Some faculty have suggested that much of the essential functionality of the LMS can be provided by online tools such as Google Apps and other free or inexpensive independent online platforms. They argue that the current incarnation of the LMS’s in the marketplace have grown too cumbersome and that their “walled garden” design stifles innovation. The inability to easily integrate tools from Google; social tools such as Facebook and Instagram; and incorporation of synchronous tools such as Adobe Connect, WhatsApp, not only constrains online teaching practices but also impedes student success by restricting or reducing their use of new online tools.

In response to the calls for abandoning the LMS, three senior faculty members, each having over 2 decades of experience of using the LMS, embarked on a professional dialogue and critical reflection regarding their experiences teaching online. Using a reflection approach (Thompson & Pascal, 2012) we explore how the LMS changes our approaches to teaching, our practices with students and how the LMS alters our approaches to supporting learning. We reflect on the future of the LMS as the primary tool for teaching in a Masters of Education program, and an undergraduate Adult Education program. Through reflection based on time and experience, we review how our teaching has evolved over time and what possible effects a next generation learning management system could have on our future role as faculty members.