Sunday, September 24, 2017

An LMS for Everyone?


Recently our school has been in the process of not only trying to decide if an LMS (learning management system) is important to implement school wide but also what LMS meets the needs of the community as a whole. Through this process over the last 5 years we have implemented in both large and small ways 4 different LMS solutions- Moodle, Edify, Google Classroom, and Canvas.

As a technology coordinator there are some moving parts that I think about that don't really impact the individual teachers:

  1. Cost. Is it cost effective for us to choose certain LMS options. Is it going to cost additional funding to be able to integrate our SIS (student information system) into it for ease of use. 
  2. Longevity. Edtech options are exponentially growing. Are we choosing an option that is forward thinking and that has potential to grow into the platform we will need for the future?
  3. User friendly interface for teachers and students. Is the LMS set up in a way that it feels intuitive to the user with a bit of use? Is support good? Are answers to questions quick? Is there a community of users I can tap into to ask specific questions and learn from their usage as well? Are there resources available for teachers to access and pull into their curriculum?
  4. Cross-curricular usefulness. Truthfully, it's fairly easy for a teacher that wants to do true/false and multiple choice questions to feel confident with almost any LMS but does the LMS lend itself to grading papers, short/long answer questions, graphs, math equations, scientific notation? It's imperative to choose a LMS that best meets a wide average of users or else there is a biased expectation of usage that just won't happen because it just isn't deemed useful.
  5. Data accessibility. As research is showing, the data that quick formative assessments via technology is bringing to today's classroom can be a game changer for the teacher willing to utilize this mode of instructional practice. To be able to both quickly give and receive data from a formative assessment helps teachers plan forward and even personalize for differentiation. The easier it is to create assessments and the more people that can access that data, the better. 
  6. Multiple Platform Interfaces for single sign-on access. Apps and software that interface with the LMS seamlessly create an easier classroom for the teacher and makes me feel better about student privacy with single sign-on options. 
While all these things play heavily on my mind I do strongly believe that the future of education will be LMS driven. Data will play a big role in helping educators meet the needs of individual students as education moves toward competency based assessment linked to essential questions or standards. An LMS will bring that all together for curriculum leaders and educators. 

There are many districts that already require their teachers, every year, to pull 3 years of summative assessment data and create plans to meet the needs for each student in their classroom. As we all know summative assessments are a blip in a student's year...many things can impact how a student does on those tests- sickness, cold air, warm air, attitude, nerves, distractions, etc. By also adding the value of summative assessments into the mix we get a better representation of who these students are. When all those on the educational staff that work with our students have access to this information we can all better meet the needs of our students. 

The future is changing, it will look differently for different subject areas but some things will be consistent- the need to leverage the tools for best practice to meet student needs.