We started with what an LMS is, then we covered what it does, how it looks, and what elements the best LMSs out there on the market contain. It is time to wrap up the topic with this last article that is dedicated to the most important elements of a Learning Management System.
Day By Day
One might think that calendars are a thing of the past. When was the last time you purchased a paper one – probably not within the last couple of years? But do you use calendars? I bet you do – on your phone, laptop, or tablet, as well as part of your email, CRM, or as an app. If your day is full of activities and your schedule is really tight, try to function without a calendar for a week or two. Good luck!
That is why it is crucial for me as a teacher to have everything organized and presented in the best possible way in the LMS. I would say that when I log in, my calendar should be the first thing that I see and it should be large enough to display all of my upcoming lessons. Naturally, each box should be clickable and should take me to the respective lesson and course. I should be able to see it in a weekly or monthly view, depending on what I need to check at the moment. It must also be easy to navigate. If I have more than one ongoing course, there should be an option to use different colors for each course so that I can easily distinguish between them.
This doesn’t need to be too fancy, just a place to upload and store the files for my courses. Subfolders are a must, as are lesson templates. The platform should clearly indicate the types of files that are supported. There is no point in hiding information as I will eventually find out that, for example, .sxls files cannot be uploaded and used. If the software provider is charging a flat fee for storage, my free space should be visible and I should be able to check it at any time. If I can share my content (files and templates) with other teachers, using the same LMS, this will be a big advantage. It would also be a plus for me if the files have permissions that I can set in advance (for example, students can read the document, but cannot download it). I would love to have a folder that would contain all of the papers that have been submitted by my students throughout the course. Ideally, this would be created automatically during the initial course setup.
Tests, Tests, Tests
Tracking the progress of the students is still perceived as mostly one-sided. In fact, when testing them, I can also see if my teaching methods are good enough. If a student fails a class or a test, it’s not necessarily only their fault; it also means that I have failed to motivate them, to capture their attention, or to engage them in the learning process.
The tests and quizzes in the LMS should give the educators as many options as possible. These include closed- and open-ended questions, timed and scheduled tests, question reshuffling (students hate this part, I know), questions involving the usage of additional drawing tools, mathematical formulas, interactive activities, etc. The more options the platform provides, the more likely I am to use it for my courses. A massive plus would be for me to be able to upload test and quizzes from external sources, which leads us to the broader issue of software integration.
I should be able to use the tests offline, as well as during my live sessions in the virtual classroom. If it’s the latter, the students should be able to see their results immediately as a number of correct/incorrect answers, as a percentage, or simply as pass or fail. If the results are then automatically transferred to the grade book for the particular course under each student’s profile – perfect!
There Are People Behind the Numbers
I also do it every now and then, but I am aware of it and do my best to control it. What I am referring to is that we sometimes forget that there are people behind the numbers that we see in the grade book and behind the avatars in the LMS profiles. They are not just students and participants or attendees. They are people of all ages whom we are trying to arm with knowledge. Yes, it’s up to them to decide whether they will use the knowledge; all that we can do is offer it to them. It’s not about opening the Attendance tab in the LMS to check the percentage per course, lesson, or on an individual level. I believe it is my duty to see beyond the number of absences and make sure that what the students have missed is available for them to learn on their own. And yes, students always deserve the additional effort on my end.
As a parent I would love to be able to see if my kids are skipping lessons because, most importantly, this translates into gaps in their knowledge. Second, well, usually it’s the parents who pay for those courses and it only makes sense for them to know if their money is going where they intended. I would even like to have the option to receive notifications for my kids’ upcoming lessons so that if they forget about a class I can remind them. I wouldn’t go as far as providing a downloadable report on student attendance, but clear statistics should be there for all interested parties to see.
To Sum It All Up
In conclusion, I would say that the perfect LMS is the one that makes it easy for me to focus on the teaching process and for the students to focus on learning. When it comes to features, the LMS should allow me to create courses and lessons that are as interactive and engaging as possible. The most important element of an LMS should not be technical though. It needs to be directly related to my skills and motivation as a teacher. If I don’t have these, no LMS in the world can help me.
Technology is here and it’s here to stay and it will continue to play an increasingly larger role in our lives. We can’t ignore this, but there is one thing that we should not forget: it’s also here to serve a purpose that is greater than me and any LMS – to convey knowledge.