An LMS is a means to an end; it is not an end in itself.
Let’s assume you have the staffing, leadership and infrastructure required to successfully introduce an LMS (or some form of Online Learning Environment). Why are you going to bother?
Just to be clear, I think every school in 2020 needs a rich and engaging LMS (or OLE – Online Learning Environment). However, the reason why a school decides to have an LMS impacts the end result; the ‘richness’ of the final product and how engaging and effective it is for students, teachers and parents.
Let’s consider some possibilities, keeping in mind that there are likely to be several reasons.
The other schools in the area have one
Sometimes marketing and perception are drivers of change. This can be good if the root cause initiates the change and the change is then formulated to be a full and optimal solution. However, if the is just to say, ‘we have an LMS’, then this is a poor reason.
Nearby schools don’t have one, so we need one as a point of difference
This is like the point above. It is a marketing exercise to gain advantage over the competition. If this is the primary reason, the resulting solution is likely to be far from optimal.
Parents know that online support for their child is vital and enough of them have raised concerns about their child not being able to access materials independently at any time and from any location. This is an important point, and the school should ensure that the solution provides a wide range of support.
The Covid19 pandemic has made it necessary
Parental, school and societal awareness of what is needed to effectively offer online learning in a Covid19/post-Covid19 world has increased. Most now realise that simply providing a substitute for face to face lessons via some video conferencing product (take your pick there are many available) is insufficient. It is just a start.
We want somewhere for students to access PowerPoint presentations, documents and other teaching materials online
If the solution is this and nothing more, the LMS is simply a repository of files organised in some fashion. This may have been effective a decade or more ago but is far from adequate in 2020. After all, this could be done with an online shared drive or file hosting service.
We want students to be able to submit assignments online
Once again, this is an important function of an LMS, but it is a tiny subset of the functionality available. While this may have been sufficient a decade or more ago, it is far from sufficient now.
As mentioned, all the points referred to so far are valid, and it is likely that the decision to introduce an LMS was prompted by a combination of these reasons, and possibly others.
However, let us examine more compelling reasons.
We want to improve the teaching and learning paradigm
The LMS and all the associated learning and teaching materials and functionality are not an end in themselves. They should be a means to an end, and that end should be to change the educational paradigm. In my previous role, the introduction of a new, feature rich and simple to use LMS was a multi-year process.
- The installation, implementation of the LMS took relatively little time.
- Training staff on how to use the technical aspects of the LMS took relatively little time.
- Creating effective courses with rich and engaging learning materials that were student focussed for effective anywhere, any time learning’ took a lot of time.
- Training staff on effective, modern teaching methodologies that leverage rich online learning resources took a lot of time. In fact, it took years, and even then was not ‘finished’. After all, changing the teaching and learning paradigm involves modifying traditional teaching models; paradigms that have been in place for many, many decades.
However, improving the teaching and learning paradigm to leverage this new rich and engaging online world produces significant benefits for teachers, students and parents. It is worth the effort.
The benefits of blended/flipped learning and self-paced blended learning are immense for teachers, students and parents – when done well. Hence the need for extensive, long term professional development programs.
The article on self-paced blended learning available from this link is just one example of the benefits of well designed and implemented blended learning.
We want to increase transparency for students and parents
Another benefit of a well-designed and rich OLE is transparency for all. Not only do teachers have a better idea of how students are progressing (good quantitative support for teacher intuition), but students also have access to all learning materials, assessments, feedback and more at any time and from anywhere.
Ideally, parents can also access the same material. There is no more asking their child ‘what are you studying at the moment’ or ‘do you have any homework/assessment due in the near future?’. It is all available online.
No more lost assignment sheets. No more ‘I didn’t know that assessment was due’. Personal responsibility increases.
I introduced my first LMS into a school over sixteen years ago. In that time, I have seen and discussed ‘LMS solutions’ at many educational organisations.
Those organisations that chose to take the ‘rich’ path – changing the teaching and learning paradigm and increasing transparency – produced amazing benefits for all stakeholders.
Those that chose a quick, superficial path – one of those mentioned early in this article – produced little discernible change. They are the educational equivalent of the person who buys that new gadget on late night TV and after a week or two of excitement and use puts it in a cupboard – another object that was a good idea at the time but is now taking up space ready to be taken to the recycling centre in a few years.
The question is, which road do you want to take? The path to enhanced, modern teaching and learning or the path to little change?
Note: This is article 3 in a series. Previous articles are
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