Is your school ready for an LMS? – And what about teacher job security?

Learing Management

Peter West

This article is the fourth in a series by Peter West on implementing a learning management system in your school.

The question

Will an LMS eventually lead to a reduced number of teachers? Will someone lose their job?

The answer

No, not if it is done correctly and the leadership understands eLearning.

What leaders should do

This concern of teachers is an important one. Leaders of educational organisations need to address this concern before the introduction of an LMS. If they don’t, teachers will guess the answer, and it is likely to be a negative answer. Leaders then need to continue to reassure teachers and should demonstrate by their actions that a reduction of teacher numbers is not the goal when introducing an LMS.

Leadership needs to emphasise that this is an ‘enhancement’ process rather than a ‘replacement’ process. Otherwise, teachers will not commit to the change. This produces a sub-optimal result and hesitancy in the classroom and online. Comments from teachers to parents and students will also contain elements of doubt and hesitancy.

My experience – more, not less, staff

I have heard the staffing concern raised many, many times by teachers in the 16+ years since I first introduced an LMS into a school.

Yet, I have not seen any jobs lost. In fact, I have seen the opposite; more people employed to support the modern teaching methodologies.

However, no matter how much training, support, explanation, and evidence were provided, the question would continue to arise from a few, even when the majority of teachers understand the reality and are no longer concerned about job security. Doubts can persist in a small group and I have experienced this first-hand.

Leaders need to remove this doubt.

Why are teachers not at risk? What the Internet and online learning lacks

Teaching is more than transferring knowledge. Teaching is about relationships, understanding the individual student and his/her learning needs and providing inspiration.

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” – William Arthur Ward

If schooling was only about acquiring information and knowledge, schools would have closed and teaching would have disappeared when the Internet was invented and there was access to almost unlimited information online. After all, search engines make information relatively easy to find. Explanations of almost anything abound.

Yet, schools and teachers still exist.

Teaching is about understanding, not just facts.

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” – Albert Einstein

Good teachers get to know the student, identify where problems exist, provide individualised explanation when appropriate and provide support during times of difficult learning until understanding results. A good LMS with rich and engaging resources helps teachers do this. It frees the teacher to get closer to the essence of teaching – helping the individual at their point of confusion. It does this by helping to identify uncertainty while also eliminating the boring – the ‘Groundhog Day’ where a teacher teaches the same content time after time while students sit through material as if they are a homogenous group. The student who is already familiar with the content and concepts is bored; the student who has not reached the level of understanding where they are receptive to the new material is frustrated. Online video (or other) tutorials allow a student to cover this fundamental material independently or with peers and then ask the teacher specific questions if necessary.

The teacher benefits as he/she can replace some ‘chalk and talk’ topics with a richer, more personalised teaching and learning experience.

One example (from many possibilities)

I had an IT student many years ago. He was not academically gifted; in fact, he struggled. But he had a great attitude and worked hard. He asked many questions.

At the end of the unit of study he achieved a very high ‘B’. His academic history indicated a ‘C’ was more likely. How did this happen?

I had created a rich online course in the LMS. All topics had full explanation that could be understood independently of the teacher. Rich and effective formative tasks were spread throughout the learning to provide students with the opportunity to test their understanding (and allow the teacher to ensure student understanding before progression).

All tutorials were provided as text liberally populated with diagrams and useful images. The LMS also had the ability to read the text out loud in a natural voice with an Australian accent. All tutorials were also provided in a video format. Students could choose a learning style appropriate to their needs.

However, students were not left to learn by themselves; the computer didn’t ‘teach’ them. Face to face classes were a busy place, with the teacher engaged, supporting students at their point of need, facilitating peer teaching, and providing small group explanations when a few students needed clarification of the same point. The rest of the class didn’t have to stop their learning to listen during these small group explanations, even if they were conducted using the ‘board’ in the classroom. Those who already understood the point kept learning independently. Those who weren’t ready for that concept also kept learning at their pace.

This student utilised all these resources. He watched the video tutorials over and over at home and in class until he understood the concepts. He undertook the formative tasks and asked when he had difficulties that the tutorials didn’t clarify enough for him. When he hit a point where he struggled, he asked questions. He engaged in all the opportunities available – many more and richer opportunities than were available in even the best face to face classes.

He benefited from the richer educational approach and the teacher wasn’t removed from the learning process.

Is anyone at risk?

Teachers who are committed to change should feel no threat. They should take part in the professional development programs offered by the school. They should support the process. In my experience, they will discover a rich, rewarding and more personal teaching experience. Some will become revitalised and excited by the chance to evolve teaching and learning.

Teachers who do not wish to change, and who wish to stay with the traditional methods are probably better suited finding another school – one that fits their philosophy. There are still many of them.

Conclusion

When done well, the introduction of an LMS and the associated online teaching and learning materials, formative assessment, communication tools and all that is associated with a good, modern online learning environment should threaten nobody and should benefit all stakeholders.

Leaders of educational organisations need to ‘step up’, gain the knowledge and approach needed to ensure this is the case, and – lead. In the process, they will reduce anxiety amongst staff.

 

Note: This is article 4 in a series. Previous articles are:

  1. Is your school ready for an LMS? – Staffing
  2. Is your school ready for an LMS? – Planning, leadership and expertise
  3. Is your school ready for an LMS? – Why bother? Is your reason sufficient?

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Peter West
Peter West currently leads a Learning Technologies Team that explores new learning technologies for a leading VET organisation. Previously he was Director of eLearning at Saint Stephen’s College on the Gold Coast, Australia. He has been leading learning organisations in all aspects of technology-enhanced learning for over twenty years. He can be contacted at peterwest_@outlook.com and www.linkedin.com/in/peter-west-elearning

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