Next Generation Digital Learning Environments

How will learning management systems change in the coming years to adapt to new strategies for teaching and learning?

Curated Resources on Next Generation Digital Learning Environments

Over the last several decades, the way we think about learning and development in all contexts has been roiled by ever-expanding options for facilitating learning. In the academic context, our approaches to online learning have advanced considerably, and we have begun to value online techniques even in classes that meet face-to-face. The learning management systems that support online learning need to advance as well, and expand in their capacity to integrate a variety of tools and techniques.

image of digital worldIn the academic world, the newest thinking related to online systems is captured in the phrase “next generation digital learning environments” (NGDLE). Thought leaders have come to believe that the next generation of systems cannot possibly hope to contain all needed functionality in one system (especially since technology is constantly evolving); instead they are recommending ways that learning systems can be built from an array of tools that align with common standards for interoperability.

It might seem that this discussion would be of most use to campus information technology leaders, but those who are interested in pedagogy need to tune in as well. Learning environments should be driven by how people learn and by the techniques that teachers and learning leaders want to employ, not just on what is available technologically. Technology can enrich pedagogy, but it can also restrict and stifle it, so strategies should be driven by the best pedagogical principles and not cool tools and vendors with vested interests.

In the corporate space, the NGDLE acronym has not caught on (yet?). But the idea of integrating a variety of tools to support learning has not escaped L&D leaders’ notice. Corporate learning leaders talk about learning ecosystems and integrated learning environments, and are having conversations similar to those in the academic world. In truth, it might be beneficial for thought leaders in both areas to pool their ideas.

The links below will give you a place to start in becoming more versed on next generation digital learning environments and their potential implications.

Curated Recommendations

// Background >

These articles will give you a sense of the context for the development of NGDLEs.

“What is clear is the LMS has been highly successful in enabling the administration of learning but less so in enabling learning itself.” – From The Next Generation Digital Learning Environment: A report on research

// The EDUCAUSE Initiative >

In 2015, EDUCAUSE teamed up with the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and thought leaders in higher education to conceptualize what will be necessary to build systems that can be sustained into the future. For the last several years, thought leaders, faculty members, and technology experts have been working to hone the idea and provide recommendations to campus leaders. They conversation remains very dynamic.

// Discussion >

As you might imagine, this work is promting a variety of cautionary reactions; some of these are linked here for you to get a flavor for the conversation. Recent conversations center on data privacy concerns as well as the technological challenges of the vision.

// Integrated Digital Learning Environments >

EDUCAUSE is not the only higher education think tank that is considering these issues. A parallel analysis was conducted by SURFnet, the higher education network in the Netherlands, and they reached similar conclusions. This work also contains a list of recommended components.

// Additional Perspectives of Note >

// Impact on Teaching Practices >

Some education thought leaders openly worry that faculty are allowing the capabilities of the LMS (or NGDLE) to influence the strategies we use to teach and facilitate learning. Others are concerned about the ramifications of tracking student activities. Amy Collier and Sean Michael Morris are leading voices in this critique.

// Steps Toward a NGDLE >

As you might imagine, LMS providers are actively working on ensuring their products adopt the characteristics of an NGDLE. These links will give you a sense for these projects. (Other vendors may be making moves as well; these are the ones for which I found information.)

// The Corporate L&D Perspective >

A similar conversation is happening in corporate learning and development. Corporate learning management systems and enterprise social networks also need to continuously adjust to the strategies people use to support learning in a digital age. Thought leaders in the corporate world are discussing how to bring processes and technology in line to support learning and performance in a more coherent way. These materials will give you the flavor of that conversation.

Last updated: December 12, 2017 by Catherine Lombardozzi
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