Think of a learning management system as technology that can improve learning, make it faster, productive, cost-effective, and what is more important – trackable. It often enables administrators to upload learning content, deliver lessons to students, serving notifications, and share data with authorized users.
Learning management systems are the heart and the backbone of education. Especially for online education and blended learning programmes. It is an efficient and attractive way to offer learning materials and exercises to students and to communicate with them about the subject matter and the tasks they must perform.
There are many learning management systems, most of them commercial, like Its Learning, Blackboard, Fronter and many others. They all offer a toolbox ready to use for teachers and students.
Most learning management systems offer the possibility to place documents (word, PowerPoint, excel, pdf) and videos that can be studied by the students. In addition, these systems offer the possibility to offer assignments. The students can submit these assignments and the teacher can review and assess them. Another frequently used functionality is the test functionality. There are also learning management systems with built-in video conferencing and a discussion forum.
Moodle offers also a learning management system, it is an open source solution.
How you make your learning environment available, how you design and use it is entirely up to you. Moodle is so flexible that you can go in all directions. Does the standard not meet your needs? You are free to use custom plugins to adapt the learning environment to your wishes.
Microsoft offers a learning management system in Teams. You need a Microsoft license. Google offers Google classroom entirely free. For schools with students there are some conditions.
Do you use Classroom at a school with students?
If so, the school must sign up for a free G Suite for Education account before you can use Classroom.
G Suite for Education lets schools decide for themselves what Googleservices their students can use and provides additional privacy and security measures that are important for schools. Students cannot use Google Classroom with a personal account at a school.For more information click here
Setting up an electronic learning environment
You basically need the possibility to create courses and the possibility to add teachers and students to the courses. Furthermore, you need the possibility to offer learning material, tasks and tests to the students.
Content of the platform
Learning materials can be simple word documents and pdfs, PowerPoint presentations and videos, but as podcasts and audio files.
It is very important to understand that the future in learning is mobile learning. So, both your learning management system as the learning materials should be accessible on a mobile phone. Many existing platforms have a good app to give students access to the platform online. Students love being able to learn in situations like traveling on the bus to or from school. Time they otherwise spend in a less productive way. The mobile phone is the centre of their world, so use it.
For learning materials this means you have to offer a great part of it in video format. Reading pdfs on a mobile phone is not fun. Besides that, students generally are visually oriented. So, it’s better to offer a wide range of learning videos instead of paper-based material.
Indispensable is the possibility of communication within the platform. A teacher can give announcements of notifications to the students. For instance, what is the task for next week, when to hand in the task, when the test will take place. A nice possibility is a chat functionality in order to offer the possibility for students to chat amongst them self about learning materials and tasks. A chat can also be used to communicate with the teacher.
Learning management system and blended learning courses
Before you start offering blended learning courses it is wise to reflect on what activities and materials will be offered online and what will be done in the classroom.
We call this the design choices for a blended learning course. The most important choices to be made are:
– which learning activities must be carried out face to face (at school) and which learning activities are offered online and carried out by the student.
– which learning activities take place synchronously (instructor and students are working together at the same time, this can be both online and at school) and which learning activities take place a-synchronously.
– which learning activities are carried out in groups and which by individual students.
In addition, and depending on the curriculum, you can still make choices which learning activities belong to formal learning and which to informal learning. Often learning activities are also divided into learning activities that are steered by the instructor and learning activities that are freely chosen by the student.
Blended learning online learning materials
Learning materials in an online learning environment have different requirements than learning materials offered in the classroom. In the classroom, a teacher can directly answer a student’s question about the content or intention of learning materials. This is not possible in the same way in an online environment.
Furthermore, online learning material needs a high level of learning experience (pdfs are boring). For this reason, video material is much more suitable as learning material than text. The explanation of terms in a text must be accompanied by an explanation, for example by means of a hoover option in which the explanation becomes visible when you hover your mouse over the text.
Another thing you need is the possibility of feedback for the student from the learning material. For example, a short test that not only gives the obtained score, but also the right and wrong answers and the explanation why those answers are right or wrong. Many test programs have this possibility to give feedback. So, integrate them in your online learning courses. So, the most important lesson is to fill the online learning environment with media rich content. You will find many examples of this in the previous chapters.
Even better is to offer interactive learning.
A fine example is offered by a lecturer from Health Care and Welfare at Noorderpoort. She gives her lessons synchronously at a distance. The teacher is at school and gives the lessons to the students who are at home via Skype. She gives her presentation with the help of Nearpod. With Nearpod it is possible to alternate the presentation with interactive assignments. The students in turn present their solution to the rest of the class and to the teacher. Another possibility is to offer a small quiz every now and then, so that the student can check for himself or herself whether the material from the past few minutes has been properly understood.
Other tools you can use in online learning are:
- Quizzes, either as a functionality of the learning management system or by using Google Forms or Microsoft forms.
- Drillster, to practice ready knowledge. Drillster also offers an app for the mobile phone to be able to practice the ready knowledge outside the learning environment.