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One LMS to rule them all? 

one LMS to find them, one LMS to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

Movie poster for The Lord of the Rings, with a large burning eye encircled by a gld ring, with text that says "One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them"

The draft policy for mandatory sole LMS usage is a massive incursion into academic freedom.  While the EVP has offered several reasons for this policy, none of them justify this curtailing of instructors’ academic freedom.  Isildur had good reasons and good intentions when he kept the one ring to himself, but it still ended badly for him.  

This policy is the functional equivalent of having every session of an in person class observed and/or recorded (a clear violation of our contract).  I have no doubt that being able to monitor what is happening inside of every online class is attractive to administrators, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.  The villain in Lord of the Rings, Sauron, used his all-seeing eye to dominate all of the peoples of Middle Earth.  The draft policy would give CUNY the same all-seeing eye into each of our online classes.   

But extensive surveillance of students and instructors is not the only harm.  This policy would prevent innovation in online learning (and of course, in in-person learning too, if the policy is extended to the rest of our classes).  In learning, as in magic rings, one size does not fit all. This draft policy would prevent instructors from exploring the benefits of open educational practices, which the state of New York has already given CUNY more than $20 million to support since 2018.  By enclosing all online learning solely in the LMS, we remove real, authentic learning experiences that are vital to preparing our students to succeed after graduating.  Working solely in the LMS teaches students how to use the LMS, which is a skill they are extremely unlikely to need after they graduate; it also sends the message that learning should be limited, contained, and left behind as soon as the semester is over (as students lose access to their classes in the LMS at the end of every term).  Learning and working on the CUNY Academic Commons, by contrast, gives students familiarity with WordPress, which is a significant technical skill students can then put on their resumes.  How can we prepare our students for the challenging careers of tomorrow if we are prohibited from having students use real online tools in our classes?   It is right that CUNY should invest in an excellent LMS so it is available for instructors who want it.  But it is incredibly short-sighted to hamstring the world-class educators creating meaningful and effective learning experiences for their students by mandating that they exclusively use the one LMS and forgo all other platforms and tools.  

And if you think this policy has nothing to do with you, because you don’t teach online, or because you don’t use anything outside of the LMS anyway, I would refer you to what happened to the Shire at the end of the Lord of the Rings (even though it didn’t make the cut into the films).  The hobbits of the Shire thought they could ignore the rest of Middle Earth and focus on their own little area, but this did not protect them from significant damage.  Just as representatives from all of the peoples of Middle Earth formed the fellowship to destroy the one ring, it is incumbent on all of us- whether you’re full-time or part-time,* whether you teach intro classes at a community college or graduate seminars, or anything in between- to oppose this badly written and hastily presented draft policy.  

*  Your efforts are especially necessary if you’re full-time, as our contingent colleagues are more vulnerable to pressure and repurcussions. 

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