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Many online educators are searching for platforms that are relevant and agile. In the end, agility is maintained via flexible management.  In other words, instructors should be allowed to choose from the tools they prefer in an e-learning ecosystem so that they can configure their own e-learning environment.  Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) may enable educators to have this flexible management in the e-learning environment.

LTI is designed to allow plug-and-play integration of instructional applications within educational platforms, such as LMS.  LTI is an open specification created by IMS Global Learning Consortium.  Before the introduction of LTI, connecting custom learning applications with a learning management system (LMS) was complicated and often expensive.  To accomplish this connection, an organization’s IT department had to assign or hire a developer to integrate each application with the LMS.  This process consumed a great deal of time and had to be revisited with each update of the application or LMS.  Conversely, it is easier to get the tools and platforms to work together (i.e., interoperability) if the LMSs and applications conform to the LTI specifications with their application programming interfaces (APIs).

Currently, most LMSs allow third-party applications to integrate with the platform, but the APIs used by each LMS are different (e.g., Blackboard versus Canvas).  For example, a vendor making an application for video editing would need to develop several APIs for their application so that it could connect with the various LMSs.  By contrast, LTI creates a common API that can be employed by any LMS or application developer.  This common API allows applications to be rapidly deployed within a LMS without hiring experts to make this connection.

More than 100 universities and colleges are actively engaged with LTI, and Western Governor’s University (WGU) is a prime example.  Initially, WGU tried to integrate a variety of learning tools with their LMS, and each tool required separate development.  After standardizing to LTI integration, WGU was able to write a single program to make all of the resources interoperable with their LMS.  The creators of LTI, IMS Global, offer a variety of applications that are certified as being compliant with LTI specifications, including hundreds of tools and 18 platforms.  The applications developed for integration include any tool created to connect to a LMS: library resources, subject-specific tools, authoring tools, etc….

The learning environment becomes more dynamic when learning tools are easily integrated into campus platforms, especially LMS.  Adopting a common approach to interoperability promotes faster integration and lowers the cost.  Ultimately, the LTI approach may allow instructors to build do-it-yourself learning environments that dramatically alter the role of and relationship with IT specialists.  LTI may be the first step toward allowing teachers to create a vibrant and rich ecosystem that is relevant and agile.

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2013, August). 7 things you should know about learning tools interoperability. Retrieved from https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7099.pdf

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The pedagogical model termed “flipped classrooms” refers to a scenario where homework and lectures are reversed. Typically, students come to class to hear lectures and then go home and complete the application of that lecture (e.g., homework).  In flipped classrooms, students watch a short video before coming to class, and when students come to class, they apply the lessons taught in the short video. This approach allows instructors to use time in class to build skills and for collaboration.

Educators are adopting this model anytime students watch or listen to lectures before coming to class and then do workshops in class. In one approach, teachers may actually set up a series of videos with intermittent quizzes to test knowledge acquisition. A series of videos may help to ensure that students have a certain level of knowledge before coming to class. While potentially helpful in all classes, this approach seems to have a great deal of potential for career and technical classes (CTE).

Career and technical instructors have struggled with e-learning because CTE classes demand that students spend time in workshops and laboratories to ensure they are applying theoretical knowledge. A hybrid approach seems to work well in CTE classes. Further, the flipped classroom is a technique that may help students be efficient and teachers be more effective.

In the traditional classroom, students often focus on transcribing lectures rather than understanding what is being said. A pre-class video format allows students to view the lecture material as many times as they need in order understand the material. Students that need extra time to understand material (i.e., accessibility issues) may find this approach very helpful. In addition, teachers may be able to detect errors more efficiently in this model because more class time is spent on the application of material. Collaboration and informal learning may also be facilitated in flipped classrooms.

The flipped model does require more preparatory work for both the teacher and student. Teachers must be very organized and sequential in this approach. Students must spend time viewing and reflecting on the videos before class. However, students may get frustrated if their technology equipment is slow or incapable of loading the videos (e.g., dial-up internet).

Moving the videos used in flipped classrooms to mobile devices makes this model even more attractive. Students could access lectures anytime, anywhere and just in time for training. Business and industry may actually begin to think about adopting this model for training incumbent workers. Ultimately, this model places more responsibility on students to learn material before class and affords them the opportunity to reflect on and apply this information on their own. Flipped classrooms allow students to master material rather than just being exposed to knowledge.

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2010a, January). 7 things you should know about flipped classrooms. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7081.pdf

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