The latest illustration on how a national —in this case, state— hybrid education system would look like, is the bold announcement by the government of North Rhine-Westphalia, the most populous German state.
The Ministry of School and Education is launching LOGINEO NRW LMS, a Learning Management System aimed to serve all public and private schools. Over 600 have already sign on board, with a very appealing proposition. The registration is free and LMS access is straightforward. Based on the Moodle LMS —soon to be upgraded to just released 3.9— it provides a full-fledged learning platform with a mobile app which works as a companion to the main learning hub. It allows schools to leverage a flexible, open source LMS and the interactivity standard H5P, towards a variety of teaching approaches, including hybrid and fully online arrangements. In addition to the software, the LMS supports teachers as they develop digital content creation and classroom management skills, and develop feedback-gathering and process improvement workflows. Comprehensive documentation, video and a support team that could even take care of administration duties, ensures all schools and teachers to make the best of the offering in their learning activities. As a fully fledged LMS, a standard 5GB instance serves schools with hundreds of features for engagement, assessment, feedback, analytics, productivity, administration, comprehensive permissions management and more.
The solution is completely secure and GDPR compliant. In the next stages of the development, instant messaging and video conferencing will be developed and integrated to the LMS.
The deployment, as well as automations built on top, comes courtesy of eLeDia, Moodle Partner in the country with an impeccable records of creating learning experiences for large educational, corporate and government organizations. eLeDia was founded and currently owned by Ralf Hilgenstock, a veteran in the European open source learning community. He estimates over a 1,000 schools out of the state’s 5,500 will have joined by the Fall, enjoying a world-class elearning solution in a quick, highly automated procedure whose costs are completely covered by the state government. In addition to be an open EdTech advocate, Hilgenstock and eLeDia provide elearning consulting, and integrations including Adobe Connect, Articulate Storyline and iSpring.
According to School and Education Minister Yvonne Gebauer, the plans for universal digital education coverage was going forward before the school closures, but evidently the implementation process accelerated afterwards.
Technical and political will to make elearning success scalable
LOGINEO NRW LMS —not to be confused with the LOGINEO NRW initiative— is not only an accomplishment as a top-notch learning environment. It is also a savvy political move by the state, successfully led to fruition by the School and Education Minister, Yvonne Gebauer. Among the many pressures faced by the Düsseldorf administration, the reopening of schools was at the top, and a quick return to face-to-face instruction had been already ruled out, leaving the Ministry with the challenge of ensuring the start of the 2020-2021 school year for some 2.5 million students. As most schools are set to reopen after the summer break and no mandatory mask will be imposed, a virtual platform was quickly seen as a public health ally, reducing the troubles for teachers and contact tracing staff. Gebauer knew that collaboration and federal support was essential, and acknowledged the importance of state sovereignty balanced with national educational programs. The ability for states to lead their own initiatives seems to be paying off for Gebauer and Düsseldorf, who is already considered a precedent for others to follow.
Among the lessons championed by Gebauer’s office and eLeDia, and worth listening for all elearning pros we have:
- Focus on value and support first. For now, Gebauer’s desk is unconcerned about “improper” use of the LMS. Even if it provides a service to well off private schools for free, their experience with the platform could offer valuable lessons for everyone.
- Don’t impose needless requirements. Apart from a reasonable documentation submission process, schools have complete liberty in how they implement and use the LMS. It is, of course, completely optional.
- Free, yet efficient. The LOGINEO NRW LMS deploys quick and robust LMS solutions that would cater most needs and user cases of all schools, and it’s fully funded by the government. School, however, can still take advantage of the flexibility of the platform and add customizations and third-party integrations, at their own dime of course.
- Security first, then convenience beyond the pale. In order to offer access through their personal devices, users must make sure the school complies with the approval to process data on personal devices. The everyday use of the LMS, however, is meant to require personal devices as little as possible, given the State’s comprehensive device coverage.
The economies of scale allow the state to provide a cost-effective solution. It is clear that this costs are shouldered by taxpayers, as it is clear that the returns are socially worthwhile. While the full model may not be within the means of less wealthy school systems around the world, its focus on universal access and the use of Free and Open Source Software hint at efforts in affordability worth considering.