Do Learning Management Systems Limit Creativity?

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Learning Management Systems

Do Learning Management Systems (LMS) limit creativity? That’s a tough and opinion-based question to answer. However, to fully answer this question, and to understand what is at stake, we must first understand creativity itself. Creativity is the ability to solve problems, envision, or create ideas or alternatives, or to create something original or unusual (Morr, 2019). Often associated with Invention or Innovation, creativity is almost a requirement for either innovation or invention.

Essentially, creativity is our ability to think outside of the box. The right hemisphere of our brains is the creative hub of our existence (BMS, 2019). With that in mind, it is important to note that we are entering our 4th Industrial Revolution and that innovation and invention are happening all around us (Ndung’u & Signé, 2020). Therefore, it could be argued that our immediate future will be reliant on our right brain. The issue here, considering technological advances, among other things, is that online learning is undoubtedly going to be a big part of this future (Kumar, 2020).  

Since LMS systems are currently the primary driver for online learning, it would be wise to consider whether such systems encourage or limit creativity. Unfortunately, the answer is not a simple one. The truth is that it depends on about four things. 

Let’s look at what we know. Creativity, in a learning setting, is often blocked or restricted by an overly sterile environment, rigid rules and expectations, busy work, and limited resources (Wilson, 2020). Furthermore, it could be argued that creativity is further hindered by a lack of choices, too much information to sift through, limited time to reflect, delayed or limited feedback, and a lack of meaningful participation (Kelly, 2014). Moreover, and arguably the most alarming, is the idea that many teachers are reliant on subjective assessment tools when abstract cognitive processes are necessary (Bercovitz et al., 2017).

Many online learning situations are guilty of all of these. I have personally been in classes where weeks went by without any decent feedback or even a grade. I have taken tests that did not allow for various nuances discussed in the class and differed from the text. I have been in classes where the workload barely allowed me time to breathe, let alone reflect upon what I had learned. Moreover, I have been a part of classes where the course was so structured and so rigid that I became bored out of my mind. In these situations, my creativity regarding the material and my motivation to excel or explore was next to nothing.

However, while these are not good, we should understand that online classes through an Learning Management Systems can provide an opportunity for creativity. In fact, in some cases, it can foster it to a very high degree. I believe that such an environment can be created by appealing to Self-Determination Theory. In that, teachers must appeal to both the student’s (and their own) Competence, Relatedness, and Autonomy (Naxer, 2019). I have been in such classes and loved it, so I offer the following based on such experiences.

To foster such creativity, and in my experience, a teacher might provide options on how an assignment gets done, provide the information in what is known as a selective release, encourage critical reflection and have collaborative discussions regarding what was learned or explored, provide prompt (and meaningful) feedback to students on the assignments, and encourage creative ways to explore the information, such videos or movies (Kelly, 2014). Another way might be to encourage leisure reading of fiction loosely related to the course material (Borodina et al., 2019). However, my best recommendation would be to reduce or eliminate the busy work. Instead, and if the topic allows, focus on the necessary material, but then spend some time exploring possibilities regarding its potential applications.

Indeed, while it can be said that an Learning Management Systems can limit creativity, we must also know that they can foster creativity if utilized correctly. I do not believe that the LMS is what dictates that outcome. Much like in a physical classroom, whether creativity is fostered or hindered, and whether learning actually takes place or not, really depends on several factors, including the curriculum, the instruction design, the teacher, and the student.

Keep going! You might also enjoy my article titled “A Leadership Lesson About Change in Higher Education.

Resources

Bercovitz, K., Pagnini, F., Phillips, D., & Langer, E. (2017). Utilizing a Creative Task to Assess Langerian Mindfulness. Creativity Research Journal, 29(2), 194–199. https://doi.org/10.1080/10400419.2017.1304080

BMS. (2019, September 26). Hemispheres: Left & Right Hemispheres Roles, Facts & Information. Retrieved September 16, 2020, from https://brainmadesimple.com/left-and-right-hemispheres/

Borodina, T., Sibgatullina, A., & Gizatullina, A. (2019). Developing Creative Thinking in Future Teachers as a Topical Issue of Higher Education. Journal of Social Studies Education Research, 10(4), 226–245.

Kelly, R. (2014, May 13). Using Self-Determination Theory to Improve Online Learner Motivation. Retrieved September 16, 2020, from https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/using-self-determination-theory-improve-online-learner-motivation/

Kumar, P. (2020, July 17). The 7 Most Promising Features Of Online Learning. Retrieved September 16, 2020, from https://elearningindustry.com/why-online-learning-is-future-of-education

Morr, K. (2019, February 11). What is creativity? The ultimate guide to understanding today’s most important ability. Retrieved September 16, 2020, from https://99designs.com/blog/creative-thinking/what-is-creativity/

Naxer, M. (2019, June 10). Self-Determination Theory and Online Education: A Primer. Retrieved September 16, 2020, from http://blogs.oregonstate.edu/inspire/2019/06/10/self-determination-theory-and-online-education-a-primer/

Ndung’u, N., & Signé, L. (2020, February 07). The Fourth Industrial Revolution and digitization will transform Africa into a global powerhouse. Retrieved September 16, 2020, from https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-and-digitization-will-transform-africa-into-a-global-powerhouse/

Wilson, L. O. (2020, September 11). Blockages and Barriers to Creativity. Retrieved September 16, 2020, from https://thesecondprinciple.com/creativity/creativity-essentials-tools-for-understanding-creativity/blockages-barriers-creativity/

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