The Role of LMS:
The role of an LMS varies depending on the organization’s objectives, online learning strategy, and desired outcomes. However, the most common use for LMS software is to deploy and track online training initiatives, which is also functional for remote learners. In some cases, the LMS may even have built-in eLearning authoring tools that allow you to develop online training materials without additional third-party software.
LMS users fall into two categories:
1) Online learners who use the LMS to participate in online training courses.
2) An eLearning team that relies on the LMS platform to disburse information and update the online training content.
It’s vital to identify our organizational and training objectives before we start the LMS selection process.
Why do you need an LMS?
Which LMS features are essential for our training needs?
Here are a few standard features that most learning management systems have:
1) Tracking and reporting: How did the students do? How long did the lessons take? Did they revisit topics, or do they need more info? Reporting will tell us.
2) Assessment and testing tools: These are vital for knowing how our students performed and how much information they retained.
3) Course catalogue: How many lessons will we offer in the system? Will that list differ from user to user?
4) Is worker engagement with our training program low: If our reporting reveals that completion rates are low, that might indicate a lack of interest, so we need to find a way to engage our students. One great way to do this is by gamifying our learning material. Gamification is a method of presenting training material that borrows elements from video games, such as scoreboards, achievements, and point systems. This can add a fun, competitive edge to learning and make a sometimes-tedious task more fun.
5) Do we rely on third-party software (such as Gmail, Office 360, or Google Docs)?: If we know that our lessons are going to rely on a third-party software—such as writing worksheets using the Microsoft Office Suite or sending emailed lessons using Google’s business offerings—we can look for an LMS that integrates with the programs we already use.
6) Is our learning budget extremely restrictive? What “restrictive” means could differ from person to person, but if we find ourselves struggling to find the budget for the learning module, we should know that a paid option isn’t our only choice. Free or open source LMSs are not difficult to find, and many of them are as popular, or more popular, than their paid counterparts. But, do not fully write off paid choices. We might be able to find all the robust features and options we need at a surprisingly low cost.
7) Do we have a lot of remote learners or learners who travel heavily: Mobile eLearning might be our solution. Mobile apps are a feature of growing popularity in the LMS world. They are convenient, and learners appreciate the flexibility they offer.
8) Do we need to ensure compliance with industry or legal benchmarks: If this affects our industry/ organization, we probably already know how important it is. One of the best ways to check if our material is compliant is by using an LMS with an Application Programming Interface (API), usually SCORM and xAPI.
9) Is communication between our learners and instructors a necessity? If we want learners to communicate with instructors when they have a question or encounter an issue—even when they are in different offices or the instructor is not in our intramail system—we will need in-app messaging in some form.
10) Do we want our learners to communicate and collaborate in lessons? Similar to the above point—but not exactly the same—we need to decide if we want to encourage collaboration between learners during lessons or projects. Social learning has been shown to help with retention and enjoyment of lessons, and it can help strengthen relationships between learners.
11) Do our learners use multiple operating systems on different devices (Mac, Windows, Linux, mobile, etc.):If we have standard computers, and our learners only use those to work, that is one thing. But if we operate in a bring your own device (BYOD) environment, we might struggle to find an LMS that plays nice with everyone’s operating system. Look for a web-based deployment. Web deployment (sometimes called “cloud-based”) simply means that users can access the LMS via any internet-enabled device.
12) Promoting our brand internally is important to us: White-labelling is a design choice where the LMS’s logo and design does not appear in or around our lessons. Instead, any logos are replaced with our organization’s own theme and name. There’s another, “grey-labelling,” which features our organization’s logo, as well as the LMS vendor’s logo, typically just smaller or in a less obvious way.
Who is our Audience?
Different audiences call for different software features.
1) Is the learning group large, small, or somewhere in between? If we are teaching a high volume of learners, we may need mass user registration features.
2) Is the learning group central to one place, or franchised? If we plan to teach learners in different locations, we need software that can be installed or accessed via multiple computers.
3) Are our students at varied skill levels? We need an LMS that will not force students through redundant material because of a default structure.
4) How tech savvy are our students? Our software may need to be super simplified and user friendly, or on the other end of the spectrum, it might not be taken seriously if it does not have a modern interface.
5) What is the skill level of our admins? Do we have a designated LMS team to help implement and maintain the new system? It is always best to have at least one dedicated, knowledgeable person that knows the system inside and out. Most learning management systems provide some form of tech support as well, but we cannot assume that one phone call will answer every tech question we have in five minutes.
Learning Management Systems for Schools
Much like many industries, the education sector has gone through advancements due to technological innovations. While the traditional classroom learning set-up still works, the needs of our students and faculty members are changing.
As the traditional 4-walled classroom got replaced by computer screens and tabs, it became challenging for teachers to fuel ‘interesting’ aspects in the student’s curriculum. With remote learning and social distancing, the means to make education interesting and engaging got limited.
One of the initial flaws of online learning that emerged was that there was no attention given to the structure of the curriculum or how teachers impart knowledge. It just remained as a medium to connect learners with educators with no learning guarantee in the beginning.
This led to schools' experiment with various modes of education. In the middle of this chaos, learning management systems for schools helped the stakeholders get some respite. It helped students get out of the trap of ‘boredom’ and helped teachers make effective teaching plans for excellent results. Teachers, students, and parents worked in sync towards the common goal of achieving excellent grades. The entire structure was made seamless with the help of LMS for schools.
Important Factors in Choosing an LMS in Schools
Some learning management systems offer a bare-bones interface and will need an experienced developer to set-up. Meanwhile, others are fully-featured and can be used right out of the box. However, at its core are learning-related features. Some of the most important core functionalities that may be considered when choosing an LMS are as follows.
A) Student and Teacher Collaboration:
Using a new model of teaching through LMS entails different styles of collaboration that are not usually seen in a typical classroom setting. It includes features that facilitate easy and seamless collaboration between teachers and students, some of them may be:
I. A real-time communication platform could be included, such as chat or integration to a VoIP service. This allows teachers to talk to the students while conducting live video or audio classes.
II. Everyone could also have access to asynchronous communication, such as forums or conversation threads. This way, class members can post messages and replies, even outside class hours.
III. A one-to-one communication channel could be available as well for teacher-student consultations.
IV. These features could be contextual. That means class facilitators should be able to post topics for discussion, course materials, or assignments where students can also ask questions and other concerns. This makes it easy to track, moderate, and monitor conversations.
B) Quizzes and Tests
Any robust LMS should have a built-in quiz or test engine. Because educators are not physically present, they cannot ensure that students are religiously fulfilling their coursework. The only way they can properly evaluate the students is through assessment. Unfortunately, while uploading a word file with questions can do the task, it is not efficient.
I. Facilitators should be able to create questions that can be saved into a “bank.”
II. They should be able to create questions of different types, from multiple choice to essays. Each type should have a layout that can be easily understood by students.
III. Teachers should be able to mark items as correct or wrong easily, or the test engine could be able to check the students’ work and compute the score with its associated grading rubric.
IV. For essay-type tests, teachers should have a way to provide reviews or feedback.
V. Some LMS also have the ability to limit the attempts to take the test, randomize questions, or set a timer for specific questions.
Having these smart solutions in creating and providing evaluations will allow educators to develop creative questions that will test the students’ critical thinking and other skills. Objective quizzes where participants just memorize facts are not ideal for such settings as answers can be searched on the Internet and other resources.
C) Data and Reports
Having classes and courses conducted using an LMS provides an opportunity to collect data that are otherwise difficult to gather in a classroom. Reports can be generated from this information to provide you with insights. The following reporting features could be natively available in an LMS:
I. Test scoring and assessment throughout the course
II. Student progress reporting through materials and course
III. Course time tracking (for self-paced classes)
IV. Course feedback from the students
V. Facilitator and teacher assessment by students
VI. Student engagement and participation
These reports should be generated in just a few steps, or better yet, automatically.
D) Mobile Access
The rapid growth of the mobile learning market means a majority of online class participants use smartphones or tablets to complete their coursework. As such, an LMS platform should be accessible using these devices. It could adapt a responsive design, so the web portal is much more flexible. Or, a mobile version of the LMS should be available for a more optimized experience. The mobility also allows students to access course material using cellular data. The flexibility allows schools and universities to offer courses even to those outside the reach of wired Internet connections. Participants with hectic schedules can also access online classes at their convenience.