LMS software and the integration of technology in the classroom
**The Edvocate is pleased to publish guest posts as way to fuel important conversations surrounding P-20 education in America. The opinions contained within guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of The Edvocate or Dr. Matthew Lynch.**
A guest column by Anne Sampson
Gone are the days of strict division between school time and non-school time as well as the days when one used to quit preparing and growing after finishing college or leaving the high school classroom.
We live in a fast-paced world constantly shaped and reshaped by new discoveries and market forces. One has to be ready for the ever changing approaches, lifelong learning, along with permanent adjustments and technology updates. Technology is inextricably interwoven with our history, since the dawn of mankind – it is, actually, one of the core things that makes us humans.
Technological progress is an overarching and omnipresent process and classrooms are not and must not be exempt. Now, if we want to learn something new and enhance ourselves, we are not just restricted to conventional “black and mortar instruction” nor we’re confined to possibly mundane and for contemporary circumstances asynchronous and out-of-date manners of “one speaks while everybody else listens” method.
We should open our classrooms and work surroundings for tech devices that are beneficial up and train the teachers and educators how to create the best out of these. The use of these gadgets can revolutionize both pedagogy and work ethics, and in the long-term the very world we live in.
Generation of our grandparents was confined to the old methods of both teaching and learning and even for our parents it is sometimes hard to keep pace with new stuff coming up our way every day. But this tendency is not likely to turn. You see kids nowadays who are what is called “Digital Natives”. They are born and raised in a world were modern technology and new devices are vital parts of the environment and they find it easy to navigate through hi-techrealm. This is precisely why we have to think through, implement and integrate technology in contemporary classrooms. We have to learn how to connect students’ everyday life and educational system.
Learning Management Systems (LMS) are a great start, especially when you consider how much time an average student is spending daily in front of the screen of his or hers laptop, tablet or a mobile phone. But what are LMSs? As the name says, they are software application or web-based technology used to plan, implement and asses a specific learning process. They are made to help teachers and all kind of educators to create and deliver content, monitor student participation and assess student performance. They may have interactive features like discussion forums/threaded discussions or video conferencing. Many colleges, universities and schools from all around the world are using LMSs. Not only them, but many business companies use them for online training of their employees. Greatest asset for educational institution is that they can use LMS to offer courses to larger population of learners, besides enhancing and supporting old-school classroom teaching. Apart from delivering pure contest per se, LMSs also handle student registration, administration, analysis, they track and report.
Alright, so, LMSs are collaborative, (mostly) web based, user-oriented software products, but what difference do they make in practice, in and outside the classroom. They are definitely not (yet) complete substitution for traditional classroom setting but a supplement. They are great for universities in a world of ever-increasing demands, where facing declining or fixed budget and stuff is an everyday reality. Teachers benefit immensely from them, since they don’t have to pile documentation any more – there is no need for paper grade books, planners, attendance systems, student progress reports, different schedules (sports/arts/subject timetables/deadlines…) or print newsletters. By analyzing data generated from each connection to an LMS, teachers are able to bridge specific gaps in students learning. It also makes the process of evaluation more transparent.
Parents have instant access to their children’s grades and progress (most LMSs are fairly simple, with an interface that is easy to navigate and pleasant to look at, so they won’t be reluctant to approach it).
What is possibly most important is, what difference does it make to students? Today eLearning is a big industry that has revolutionized and changed the way we look at knowledge and skill acquisition. Learning is more flexible, more tailored and personalized and in the end – more fun. It’s not some compulsory activity that we are forced to do. We self-willingly look for step-by-step presentations, watch tutorial videos and listen to interesting lectures from universities half way around the globe.
In a 21st century you need to use technology to interest and educate a 21st century student. This means keeping students motivated and since digital world is their natural environment, good teacher should find a way to make LMS use a part of their daily routine. With LMSs there will be no more lost handouts, forgotten homework assignments, catching up after missing classes or lost classes due to a bad weather.
Today there are over 600 different LMSs and you are probably familiar with some of the most famous ones, namely Moodle, Edmodo or Blackboard, but there are others to be considered. Adobe released its Captivate Prime with unified playback experience. You have very affordable Learn Dash or Upside LMS, which is well suited for small enterprises. Canvas is cheap, easy to install and fits great for small and medium size organizations. It all depends on budget and size of the organization that uses LMS. No matter which one you opt for, you and your students will be learning more and will be more engaged in a learning process, especially due to the fact that they can track their own progress. There is something in the visualization of data that helps people sort things out and act upon the realization!
Anne Sampson is a teaching associate, freelance business consultant, tech and e-learning enthusiast, driven by innovations and positive changes in e-learning industry. When not too busy with designing learning content, she enjoys hiking and taking photos.