Well, in part 1 we covered the basics: what is LMS (Learning Management System), why it exists, and what problems it solves. It’s time to go a bit deeper into this topic and focus on what is important in an LMS.
I was hesitating between this term and intuitive, but ultimately the latter is only one of the aspects of a user-friendly platform, although it is one of the most important qualities. If I cannot figure out where to click to create an account on a website or to see the list with all of the system features, the platform needs to be revamped and restructured. There are literally hundreds of LMSs out there, and even if the one I am currently considering is the best in terms of quality, features, and price, I will move on to the next one if it is too difficult to use. Intuitive – that’s what any platform should be – as in: “This button will probably allow me to upload a file. Click. Yep, that’s it.”
Speaking of uploading files, it should not come as a surprise to anyone that I am frustrated if the LMS supports .jpeg, but not .png files, for example, or .doc files, but not .docx ones. I will give you another mantra for the day: all file types are supported. Additionally, when it comes to size, I don’t need to know that the image I am trying to upload is too large. The system should automatically resize it, while preserving its quality, and process it. It is not my fault that x-ray image files are huge.
It’s not a fancy request, it’s UI – the LMS’s user interface. It has to look at least a bit better than what my 4-year old son could create. Regardless of my role as an educator, learner, or parent, I need to feel comfortable when using the platform. I need to feel… home. It has to not merely allow me to focus on what I’m here for (to teach or to learn), it has to inspire me to do it, as well as to recommend the respective LMS to my friends, colleagues, and basically the whole world. And, NO, I couldn’t care less that the LMS provider’s corporate colors are black and pink; I am rather reluctant to lose my eyesight just so they can be consistent with their brand book.
Easy is pretty. But it has to be pretty as well. And pretty easy.
It’s not a joke. I have a lot of experience with various pieces of software and I know what immense effort lies behind most of them – to create, improve, and support, as well as to implement a new function/feature. I appreciate that type of effort. However, at the same time, I am unable to understand certain things. I hate being made to jump through hoops in order to duplicate content, a lesson, or a course. There just has to be a Template button somewhere so that I can upload my files for Lesson 13 of my course once and then be able to reuse them at any point in the future, and from any device, naturally. I am not one of those guys who would be calling the software company on a daily basis asking them to put a Referral button on their website. What I would do though, as an educator, is use the contact form and submit my humble request for a multiple files upload option.
Software providers have to listen to their users. If we ask them to find a way to allow us to share our screens with our students, they have to find a way to do it. We are not asking for it just to make their lives miserable. We are asking for it because we need it. Besides, it can be used as a workaround on so many occasions. So, the LMS providers should listen to what the market dictates, if they want to… stay on the market. And one more thing: everything has to be consistent. The UI cannot be subject to big changes every second week. We can’t have buttons and sections regularly misplaced and spend X amount of minutes looking for their new location inside the platform. We are not in a supermarket for crying out loud.
It’s not just about what is LMS as a software. It’s everything. One core service with multiple optional perks. I should be able to customize the platform (to a certain extent, naturally), so that it matches my needs. If my next lesson will be mostly visual, I should be able to predefine the active services in the virtual classroom (oh, yes, I almost forgot – the platform has to allow for both synchronous and asynchronous forms of learning). If my students will have a test next time, I don’t need the media player, so I should be able to switch it off. On the other hand, if I am a learner, I need to have the possibility to rearrange stuff – to put this window here and the other one there, as well as to change the language of the LMS. Not everyone speaks Chinese after all, at least not yet. I need to be able to determine what access my parents will have when they log in to check my progress. Simple things.
The content and the format are important. It’s a fact that learners are different in so many ways. As an educator I should be able to make both the content, as well as the entire learning process, as individualized as possible – to be able to adjust the level based on each of my students’ learning capabilities and study habits. Let’s leave mass education inside the traditional classroom. It’s the era of tailor-made curriculum and practical knowledge presented in a customized and highly individualized way. And people are ready to willingly spend tons of money if you know how to make them feel special. It’s a no-brainer.
In Part 3 I will go even deeper into what is important to have in the perfect LMS. So stay tuned.