Development and Assessment of the Use of an ‘Authentic Learning Management System’ (ALMS) in Undergraduate Literature Education

City University of Hong Kong Teaching Start-up Grant (Project #6000440) HK$46,997

Principal Investigator (2013-2014) Learning Management Systems (LMS) such as Blackboard and Moodle have proven to be valuable tools for enhancing student learning, particularly in literature and language contexts (e.g. Gimmel, 2007; Levy, 2009; Lancashire, 2009). However, LMS are specific only to educational contexts, and students will ultimately leave them behind following graduation.  When leaving them behind, students will also render useless the training they had received in the affordances of these specific platforms.

Because digital technology has become a regular part of everyday life and thereby creating a necessary attention to the significance of digital literacy, it is my supposition that students can benefit at least equally, and perhaps more so, from the use of what I term an ‘Authentic Learning Management System’ (ALMS).  This is a digital learning environment that can be found naturally, or ‘authentically’, in the combination of a number of highly adaptable pieces of consumer software, including Dropbox, WordPress, Evernote, and Twitter.  These are valuable tools that students will be increasingly expected to use and understand as they move into the professional world.  Although these tools are largely intuitive, students can undoubtedly benefit from advanced training in their usage and affordances, which will in turn enable them to discover the ways in which such technology is reshaping the way people think and understand the world around them.

This proposed project will seek to integrate the use of ALMS into my teaching and to provide best-practice examples for its use both within CityU and other universities.  The first step will be the mapping and testing of the best ways in which these ‘authentic’ pieces of software can be connected and used to achieve the aims of blending learning in a literature classroom—that is, sustaining the positive potential of traditional LMS while working in a context that is recognizable and ‘future-proof’ beyond graduation.  This project will also include the development of clear workflow systems that will allow other educators to replicate the ALMS in their classrooms, and the development of an online interactive training module that can be deployed widely within both the Department of English and other related areas. It is my hope that this project will not only allow continued access to the affordances of traditional LMS, but help students in their own personal discovery of the tools that are already available to them and which will become increasingly important elements in their future professions.

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