Today we’re going back to the beginning to discuss one of the basic tools in e-learning which is the learning management system, LMS, learning platform or whatever you like to call it. Most schools deploy learning platforms to do the heavy lifting of their e-learning. And while there are students and teachers who already know how LMSs works, there are still a handful of people new to the digital world that need some time getting used to using such a platform.

What is an LMS?

A learning management system is totally different from the usual school-based learning. LMSs revolve around the concept of flipped classroom, where the traditional educational arrangement is reversed by delivering lessons to the LMS, and having activities considered as homework done in the classroom. Most learning management systems today require users to log in (teachers, administrators and students) to gain access to full LMS features, such as lessons and assessments.

The LMS is the bread and butter of e-learning. Sure do, e-learning and all that 21st century learning could exist, but the LMS is there as a singular repository for all the learning collaterals. Without an LMS, learning would be discombobulated. There would be no consistent way to deliver class content and assessments.

What features can you usually find in an LMS?

A typical LMS is accessible on a web browser, and usually has online classes, managed and taught by a teacher, and students can enroll in the classes. The online class has a lesson plan manager where all the lessons are created, uploaded and saved by the teacher; an assessments/quiz manager where teachers will administer online exams such as quizzes, essays and other assessment types; an attendance monitoring system for teachers to monitor students who access the class and who don’t; and of course a grading system for teachers where they can tabulate all the grades. Some LMSs also have as a feature the ability to upload, save and share course syllabus so students can view and save them on their devices; a class calendar to mark all the class agenda and deadlines; and in newer platforms, an analytics feature to monitor students’ progress through the class.

Modern learning platforms also have social media-like features, such as a news feeds where school administrators and teachers can make announcements; a simple instant messaging system; and most importantly, a private messaging feature so users can send private messages to each other like they would through email.

And because the mobile market keeps growing, developers now create mobile apps for LMSs, which can be download from app stores. This way users can have access to the same feature set as they would in a normal web browser, but the entire experience is more suited for mobile learning and maximizes the platform’s features.

What are the benefits of using an LMS?

Schools with an LMS teach students to become more self-paced and responsible. It also bridges the student-teacher gap because in a non-LMS classroom, students are usually afraid to approach teachers because the former sees the latter as an authority figure. In LMSs, the gap is bridged because students feel more comfortable talking to others through the internet. Students have more flexibility answering online assessments because in the event of a class suspension, they can still take quizzes at home, online.

LMSs also improve the learning experience for students. They can easily find their learning materials in a single centralized location, they can collaborate with each other, check their progress on classes in real time, they can socialize and basically become more self-directed and engaged with their learning.

Teachers and school admins can also benefit greatly from LMSs by being able to easily create classes without needing any design skills, all their class information is safe on the cloud (if they choose a cloud-hosted LMS which I strongly recommend), they can reach thousands of students with just one click, they have all the class and student progress analytics they couldn’t never even dream of getting in a traditional classroom, and these is just the tip of the iceberg.

Some skeptics however, question learning platforms. Traditionalists, in particular, question e-learning because they believe nothing replaces the “hands-on feel” of classroom-based teaching. They do not realize the potential of learning platforms and how they can give flexibility both to teachers and students. Because LMSs are predominantly online, they can tap into learning resources such as Khan Academy, and projects such as the Windows In The Classroom initiative.

In the not-too-distant future, learning management systems will soon become the only platform to deliver class content. All schools will (hopefully) migrate to the cloud and have the bulk of the teaching and learning process done online, and the sole purpose of the classroom will be to discuss live whatever concerns the teacher and his/her students might want to address.

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