Every online platform has some sort of “feature benchmark” where such a platform is expected to have features to upload this kind of file, save that to a cloud location, or share whatever resource users want. And the usual standard is that the consumers/users are the ones setting the tone for these benchmarks by providing feedback, and platform developers are expected to act on user feedback.
But features are not just build on user feedback. Developers may also come up with features based purely from the ground up. Experimental features are an example. Developers might handpick a select number of users and judging from how they the features, they can collect data, squash bugs and make the experimental feature available for general use.
And of course, features are also based on market trends. A good example would be how Facebook and Twitter have incorporated common like/favorite and share/retweet buttons.
Now let’s put all these feature benchmarks in the uber-exciting world of LMSs and what do you get? Learning platforms features are standardized because users expect each platform to have the same basic features, such as integrating a school’s grading system in the LMS. So what are these features that any LMS should have?
1. Mobile apps and/or responsive design
It’s standard nowadays for any platform to have an app that’s downloadable from the major app stores. Not only do they provide greater flexibility in terms of accessibility, but nowadays almost everyone owns a mobile device. If LMSs don’t have mobile apps, they should at least offer a responsive version of their platform that looks good in any browser and screen size. Ideally learning platforms should offer both.
2. Social media look and feel
Now, the heading may be misleading, vague even, but let’s just say that every learning platform must have social media features like a news feed system where school admins can make school-wide announcements, teachers can post class announcements, and users can like, unlike comments on these posts. Users can also search and look for other users, as well as put a short bio on their LMS profiles, the same way Twitter and Instagram users can. This way, learning becomes more fun and engaging because both students and teachers are greeted with a socialized and friendly LMS.
3. Content authoring
Content authoring tools allow teachers to easily create their own classes that can have any kind of text, video, audio, images, office documents, google docs and other multimedia content with just a few clicks. For example teachers can add screencasts in their content. These are especially useful to teachers because they can create video tutorials to provide students with an even more hands-on learning experience.
Or more precisely, an extensive analytics tool. Teachers can use analytics to study their students’ key performance indicators and see who is excelling in class and who is failing, find out what subject area a certain student is more proficient at, and other student metrics that help teachers tailor-fit their learning design.
So ubiquitous and redundant, but every LMS should have some sort of gamification. How? By including gamified elements such as badges, points, and leaderboards to make a class more engaging, fun, and encourage a competitive spirit between students. Throw in a peer appraisal feature where students can showcase their results and you have the perfect recipe for student motivation.
6. Microsoft Office and Google Docs integration
Ahh, two of the top productivity apps. So you might ask – why both? Why not Office only? Why not Docs only? Surely, you’re thinking that Microsoft and Google are rivals. In the enterprise yes, but in learning, no. And the current norm is that users usually create their class submissions on Office, and upload and store them on Docs. However, some also create their files on Microsoft Office and save them to OneDrive (Microsoft’s answer to Google Drive). Hence, integrate Microsoft and Google with learning management systems. With a little under-the-hood tweaks, all users have to do is authorize the LMS to access their Microsoft or Google accounts.
7. A resources and portfolio area
Similar to a normal cloud storage service, but within the LMS. These resources areas/repositories allow LMS users to store their files and access them across any device. Students can also save their class projects/submissions, so they can retrieve these files later if needed.
There are tons of other features every LMS should have, but these are some of the must-haves. Any other feature you might want to add? Post them in the feedback section below!
Enzo is a marketing consultant by profession and a passionate e-learning blogger. He’s also a Microsoft Education Ambassador and an advocate for education, so his articles discuss e-learning not just from the insights of a student but also a from a teacher’s perspective, by leveraging his experience to deliver helpful posts.