Learning Ecosystems has become a bit of a buzzword in the Ed Tech corporate eLearning and Higher Ed spheres, with whole conferences now being dedicated to the topic. Marc J. Rosenberg and Steve Foreman, in
Learning and Performance Ecosystems: Strategy, Technology, Impact, and Challenges (2014), suggest that “we must move away from individual, siloed, ‘one-off’ solutions to an ecosystem comprised of multi-faceted learning and performance options that enhance the environments in which we work and learn.”
Often the one-off, siloed solution is the Learning Management System (LMS) such as Blackboard Learn, Canvas, Desire2Learn or Moodle, among others. These systems try to offer everything in a one-stop shop but fail to do everything well and are often a victim of “feature-creep”, continually adding new features that don’t necessarily integrate very well into the whole and often slow down the system.
What’s nice about an ecosystem approach is that the entire online learning environment of the student is considered: everything from discussion forums to blogging sites, social media to mobile apps — basically everything that the instructor expects the students to digitally ‘touch’ in addition to the sites, apps and tools students themselves use and promote amongst themselves.
The key with good Learning Ecosystems management is to be able to link all these desperate platforms (especially the ones supported by the service unit) in an integrated fashion. Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) is one way to do this, allowing a tool provider (such as a 3rd party survey tool) to interact with a tool consumer (such as an LMS). Here we use BasicLTI tool integration with a variety of platforms linking into our core LMS, Blackboard Learn: Piazza, WebWork, WordPress blogs, various Publisher applications, etc. Here is a diagram to illustrate those integrations: