why LMS arent great

Created Wednesday 11 March 2020

Broadly, they have a habit of breaking badly precisely when you need them the most. There are reasons for this beyond your usual "IT stuff breaks a lot," The *primary* reason for this is that, like many things in IT — they are aggressively marketed packages of sellable products, and not well thought out academically or community tested systems. This causes a great deal of interrelated problems.

One of these that is especially germane to teaching systems is: They exist at the wrong level of abstraction, by tying too many things together under one walled garden, you are forced to use the variety of tool that they allow you, which frequently isn't the best one possible. Consider, e.g. back when you could buy an all in one printer/phone/fax machine/copy machine: They did lots of things, none particularly well, and when one part broke you couldn't use the rest of it.

Moreover, I have strong, mostly unheeded, concerns about what these might do for academic freedom — if we were all forced to use the same textbook publishing house or similar, there would correctly be hell to pay. LMS are a similar situation.

Consider an "offiline analogue" — where one company became the exclusive provider of a "teaching system" that included required-and-branded pens, paper, blackboards, desks, staplers, textbooks, "blue books for essays" and so on. Naturally, the maker of the system would assure you that they would "do their best" to allow (again, allow, not insure or guarantee) the pen you brought from home to work with the paper they provide — but would not actually always be able to deliver. And even if they did — come on, this situation is *stupid.*

Hopefully now you begin to see the scope of the problem.