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Can we talk? Course management software and the construction of knowledge

Carla R. Payne (Community College of Vermont, Vermont, USA.)
Cornel J. Reinhart (President and Consultant at the Center for eLearning and eLiteracy, Mooers, New York, USA and Bloemfontein, South Africa)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 1 February 2008




This paper aims to explore the question: how well do course management systems (CMS) support constructivist pedagogy; how well do they support conversation?


This article reviews the basic pedagogical orientation of CMS as recently represented by analysts and proponents, while offering an analysis of the implications of these theoretical positions for learner activity within CMS. It compares CMS structural design for its capacity to support collaborative learning against inherent tendencies to fragmentation, individualization and learner isolation. Sampling a widely adopted CMS in use, the article analyzes how well CMSs fulfill the specifications for a progressive, collaborative, learner‐centered environment.


Despite protestations to the contrary, this paper finds that the imperatives to manage discussions and count participation supersede pedagogy in most online courses. Curiously, despite the reemergence of the ideas of John Dewey and Lev Vygotsky, the CMS is more behaviorist than constructivist.


As a comprehensive and systematic consideration of the application of constructivist principles to course management systems at the tertiary level, this paper offers guidance to university administrators, faculty members and others involved in the educational process. The author's conclude that if the underlying, non‐neutral, behaviorist principles of the emerging CMS model are subjected to educators' analysis and thoughtful debate, perhaps it's not too late to build learning architecture that encourages student interaction and conversations; that cedes greater control to learners for integrated participation and constructed learning.



Payne, C.R. and Reinhart, C.J. (2008), "Can we talk? Course management software and the construction of knowledge", On the Horizon, Vol. 16 No. 1, pp. 34-43.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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