Course management systems (CMSs), used throughout colleges and
universities for presenting online or technology-enhanced classes, are
not pedagogically neutral shells for course content. They influence
pedagogy by presenting default formats designed to guide the instructor
toward creating a course in a certain way. This is particularly true of
integrated systems (such as Blackboard/WebCT), but is also a factor in
some of the newer, more constructivist systems (Moodle). Studies about
CMSs tend to focus on their ease of use or how they are used by
faculty: their application, for good or ill. Few discuss the ways in
which they influence and guide pedagogy, and those that do only note
their predisposition for supporting more instructivist methods. Current
research also ignores the fact that many of the new wave of online
teachers are Web novices entering the field without a deep
understanding of online technology. A closer look at how course
management systems work, combined with an understanding of how novices
use technology, provides a clearer view of the manner in which a CMS
may not only influence, but control, instructional approaches. —Lisa Lane, First Monday
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