Now We’re Getting Open Insidious Pedagogy

When I first used the term “Insidious Pedagogy” in regards to Learning Management Systems,  I mainly meant the big commercial systems, like Blackboard. Taking a look at Nixty, advertised to be the cool open LMS, I’m having to extend my appalled-ness.

I read the review by Jared Stein.

I read the argument Alan Levine had with Nixty’s founder.

The reasons they are unimpressed can be added to my own reasons, which should surprise no one given my views on the built-in pedagogies inherent in LMSs. In the discussion with Alan (who dared to use the word “pedagogy”, saying that there was none in the idea of viewing a video then taking a test), Glen of Nixty says:

In one year, to use your word, we will have a better idea of our pedagogy.”

I hate to break it to you, but Nixty does have a pedagogy, and a strong one. It isn’t possible to create an LMS without one. Here it is, in the course fomat itself:

Step one, step two, step three, or… mix up the steps! This is not an issue of Nixty needing, as Glen replies to Alan, to “be more social“. The complaint isn’t about the potential for interaction, though as Alan points out, discussion must be designed. [Nixty’s default discussion setup is “Questions? Thoughts?”. Hardly likely to make me jump in there.]

As near as I can tell, there is no way out of separating the “course” into Lessons, Discussion and Tests, though Jared Stein used the latter two to create activities. It’s like have the old Blackboard menu back, where you couldn’t change the buttons.  Right now Nixty’s navigation alone seems like an enormous step backward. I assume that eventually the course design itself will be more customizable, but defaults are important, and indicate the pedagogy.

At this point, however, Nixty looks to me like a shell for taking content created elsewhere (Yale, MIT), plugging it in, and putting a discussion and test area with it for the “instructor” (read: tutor, graduate student, underpaid adjunct, person off the street getting minimum wage) to “teach” it (read: assess the work of students who pay to take the class). This, as Jim Groom points out in the comments on Alan’s post, makes Nixty “another corporate LMS that decides to do away with the professor”.

Except the professor is right there: it’s a badly compressed Donald Kagan, lecturing on Ancient Greek history from Yale, who paid him to do that but who benefits not at all from the “open” course designed around his work (though apparently I can donate).

There’s something insidious about that too.

1 comment to Now We’re Getting Open Insidious Pedagogy

  • I commented to this affect in reply to your comment on my review, but want to repeat it somewhat here:

    To me, Nixty (and other platforms that seek to be open to self-learners [Instructure?]) can choose to be an open learning managements system, an open content publishing platform, or an open hub for informal, self-organizing learning communities.

    The first two are great for independent, self-directed learners (I’m one of them), but require resources /designed specifically/ for independent study. (Or, just top-notch authentic resources, and we have Google for that…)

    Such a system could, of course, be all three. However, it will demarcate itself from other systems and blaze a new–and much needed–trail if it focuses on the latter. Many of my critiques of Nixty were centered on its current inability to foster such informal communities. But maybe that will change, and maybe Nixty will provide a framework for a new pedagogy to emerge–one based on communities and/or learner independence.