What is an LMS – Part 1

Learning Made… Smart, or LMS

Those of you who are familiar with the abbreviation LMS are probably aware that, in its essence, a Learning Management System (LMS) is a smarter way to transfer knowledge. Let us see what else it is though, as well as what it is not, what purpose it serves, what kind of people use it, and what problems it solves.

When I first read about LMSs, I only knew that they were a piece of software that served as a platform for education. I couldn’t answer all of the above questions though. So I set aside some time to explore and read some more about what LMSs are, and, most importantly, why such platforms were initially created and why contemporary education needs them. Most of the key features and functions in modern LMSs were created to address major educational issues such as:

  • a lack of (quality) education in remote/rural areas,
  • obsolete methodology and educational materials,
  • outdated results assessment metrics,
  • the necessity to keep up with the digitalization of information,
  • the demand for a more practical education posed by the corporate world (and the parents!),
  • violence at school,
  • and many more

The World Goes Digital

Yes, I am 41 and it is valid even for me:

If something is not available on the internet, I most likely won’t read it.

The world is going digital and there is no point in fighting this tendency. Everyone needs to adapt, including the educational system. You don’t need to read the latest reports on contemporary trends in education and information; all it takes is one look around and you will see it: people holding phones, tablets, laptops, and ebook readers instead of books, manuals, and newspapers. I don’t fancy the idea of my sons carrying massive backpacks full of (mostly) obsolete textbooks. When I go on vacation I’d rather have my Kindle with me loaded with 3,000 books to choose from. If I want to learn a new language or C#, I need it to happen in the most convenient way for me. Which brings us to:

Our 86,400 Seconds

For some it happens earlier, for some – later, but eventually we all come to two important realizations about life:

  1. that learning does not end with the school door shutting behind us and
  2. that our most precious resource is… time.

As all of those motivational videos and images on the internet state: we are all given 86,400 seconds every day and it is up to us to make the best use of them. The moment we realize that this is not a renewable resource, a lot of things fall into place. One of them is how we manage our time for everything, including learning. In that sense, LMS should also be perceived as TMSs – Time Management Systems. As a learner, I need to know that I can arrange and rearrange my blocks of time in the way that I want so that they fit into my daily routine. Life is too dynamic, so time optimization has become a major mantra.

The Learners in the Digital Era

As a learner I need to know that I have access to all of the educational resources for my chosen course or subject at any point in time, from any location on Earth. I cannot be confined to four walls for an X amount of hours in order to learn something new.

Nowadays, people are learning conversational Chinese in six months while traveling between their home and office, so it’s not a new concept. If the best chef in the world is organizing a theoretical cooking class, for example, I shouldn’t have to drive/fly to the country where the class is taking place. As a learner, I also expect:

  1. the content of the course to be appropriate for my level, to be a good mixture of text and videos/images, and all of this to be presented in a captivating manner,
  2. I need to be able to submit my assignment at any time and from any device that I have access to,
  3. at the same time, my personal account data, assessments, and progress have to be secure, and I should be able to access my profile and manage it – even delete it – if I want to.
  4. all of the above needs to happen in a user-friendly environment, preferably a very intuitive web-based platform, that I can access from anywhere using my login credentials.

The Educator in the Digital Era

If I am to use an LMS to conduct single lessons or organize complete courses, I will expect a few things from the platform:

  1. I need to know that the educational materials I upload will be accessible to the learners from any location.
  2. The expectations regarding the security of the software are even higher for me because the intellectual property rights matter comes into play.
  3. I need to be able to create various tests for my students, to quickly verify the results, give adequate and timely feedback to them, and monitor their progress throughout the entire course.
  4. The platform should allow me to create individual and group assignments, to upload as many file types as possible, and organize them into sessions and courses.
  5. I should be able to prepare everything in advance – the whole course and the lessons in it – so that when the session starts I don’t waste any time on file uploading, sharing, etc.
  6. A built-in messaging system allowing for communication with my students would also be a nice touch.

The Parent in the Digital Era

The role of the parent is surprisingly often neglected by the software companies developing Learning Management Systems (LMS). As a parent, I would expect to have:

  1. some access to the platform, which would allow me to track my kids’ progress,
  2. check the educators’ professional profiles, and potentially interact with them via the platform,
  3. if my sons need help with mathematics, I’d rather see them enrolled in an online course than have to drive them in a blizzard to the other end of the city,
  4. it would be nice if I could choose to be notified via email or sms/text for any upcoming classes or tests so that I could remind my kids of them should they happen to forget.

Adjust or Bite the Dust

It’s a simple fact. We are living in a digital era: the era of AI and the Internet of Things, the beautiful years when we are able to get more with less effort, when software companies and educational institutions are working together to deliver knowledge to anyone who is willing to learn. All of us – the learners, the educators, the parents, and the software developers – have to adjust and respond to the new challenges or be left behind, because change is not waiting for anyone. Welcome to the future.

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Andrey Basat is a corporate trainings enthusiast with over 8 years of SaaS sales and support. Graduated in Krakow, Poland at the Jagiellonian University, MA in Teacher's specialisation. Member of the wine and books discussion club "The Magnificent 8", crypto currencies enthusiast and passionate advocate for new corporate culture.
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