Learning Management Systems

© Annette Devilee
Masters of Learning Science and Technology, University of Sydney

2006

What are the different variations of this innovation?

  • Virtual Learning Environments (VLE),
  • Course Management System (CMS),
  • Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC),
  • Managed Learning Environment (MLE),
  • Learning Support System (LSS),
  • Learning Platform (LP),
  • Portal

 

What is a Learning Management System?

  • Single piece of software that provides a platform for online learning content and communication tools.
  • It is used to deliver a blend of traditional classroom instruction and Online delivery.
  • It allows easy management of the learning materials and tracking of student learning.
  • Used by students, teachers and administrators.
  • It supports a collaborative learning community and Multiple modes of learning

 

What are the benefits and who can benefit from a LP?

Enables leaders to:

  • Save time on administrative tasks
  • Simplify organisation
  • Easily and quickly communicate with parents

Enables Parents to:

  • Help children with homework
  • To know what is going on in the school
  • To get involved with the school

Enables administrators to:

  • Assist learners
  • Communicate on a one-to-one or one-to-many basis
  • Contribute to learning resources

Enables the teacher to:

  • Access resources and tools to support planning, information sharing within the school and outside the school.
  • Share the burden of creating resources with colleagues.
  • Import material from other sources.
  • Tailor the curriculum to individual learners' needs by supporting personalised learning.
  • Extend learning beyond the classroom and traditional timetables.
  • Submit and track activities, including evidence for assessment

Enables learners to:

  • Personalise home pages with learning tools such as tasks, diaries and files.
  • Gives every learner access to a personal online web-space where they can store course work and their achievements.
  • Store all their work.
  • Display their work to peers and teachers.

 

What features do LMS usually include?

Features that all Users have:

  • Differential access for students, teachers and administrators. This includes Login Names and Passwords
  • Personalised working spaces. Individualised folders for participants home pages and work.
  • Easy navigation, help pages, quick links, Pervasive references (links for everyone)
  • Searching facility within the LP and outside the LP
  • Easy-to-use content creation tools. Easy authoring tools for text, hyperlinks and graphics. Web page editing with templates for content pages.
  • Information distribution including administrative information, Calendar, News & Course announcements.
  • Communication and collaboration functions such as Email, Asynchronous collaborative learning (discussion forums for group learning, threaded discussions) Synchronous collaborative learning (chats for live instruction in classroom settings).

Features that Tutor Interfaces have:

  • Access control
  • Daily management tools
  • Flexible course design and delivery.
  • Support of reusable learning objects.
  • Syllabuses Teaching material.
  • Ability to track student progress.
  • Assessment tools.
  • Student Assignment Management,
  • Administrative applications.

Features that Student interfaces provide:

  • Access to learning resources with a personalised study units, course materials, syllabuses, basic teaching material for self-paced coursework.
  • Learning management tools. Study toolkit.
  • Collaborative tools- Discussion forums, Chat rooms
  • Online support
  • Other learning materials- Glossary, FAQs?, usefullinks
  • Self assessment such as online quizzes and exercises such as multiple-choice, true/false and one-word-answer (formative assessment)
  • Assignment Boxes or areas for submission of student work (summative assessment)

Examples of LMS and what they look like?

Examples: Moodle, WebCT?, Blackboard,EduTools?,LrnLab?, ATutor?, Dokeos, dotLRN, ILIAS, LON-CAPA, OpenUSS?, Sakai, Spaghettilearning

 

What do they look like?

Example 1 Eduweb

Eduweb was commissioned by NSW DET and created as a free product for public schools. It is gaining popularity as web services are being implemented across the state.

 

Example 2 Moodle

  • Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment
  • Moodle is a Course Management system (CMS)
  • Software package for producing internet-based courses and web sites.
  • Opensource (free)
  • The most adaptable learning platform
  • Moodle over 100,000 registered users on this site alone, speaking over 70 languages in over 150 countries.

A study called “An Evaluation of Open Source E-Learning Platforms Stressing Adaptation Issues” found that Moodle outperforms all other platforms and also obtained the best rating in the adaptation category. The other LPs?

 thy compared it to were ATutor?, Dokeos, dotLRN, ILIAS, LON-CAPA, OpenUSS?, Sakai and Spaghetti learning. Adaptability concerns the ability to customize the platform, ability for individual personalization and adaptivity (automatic adaptation to the individual user’s needs).

 

Example 3 LrnLab?

This is an example of a third generation of LPs?.

 

What are 3G Learning Content Management Systems?

Shelley R. Robbins (2002) suggests the following stages in the evolution of Learning Content Management Systems:

Stage 1: Generic content libraries

Stage 2: Learning management systems.

Stage 3: Outsourced e-learning platforms.

Stage 4: Learning content management systems.

I suggest there is a fifth stage which includes these third generation LPs?. Laister and Koubek (2001) looked the requirements for a 3rd Generation Learning Platforms and the Motivation for Collaborative Learning. They viewed what I am calling stage 5 as a transition from a content / resource based LPs? that focus on the interaction between human and computer to a human-centred LPs? that is oriented towards communication processes between people. These include virtual teams, knowledge- and learning communities and a networked economy. 3G LPs? support collaborative processes through ICT. They provide the environment and tools for an “open, participative and reflective learning in community” (Laister and Koubek, 2001).

 

What is the potential for LMS?

LMS have the potential to free us from constraints that currently prevent the full integration of technology in the classroom. The provision of a simpler, user friendly, group friendly system may help us to overcome the barriers that we now face.

The change from command based computers to the GUI interface meant many more people (such as myself) were more comfortable using computers. The simplicity and ease of using a LMSs? has the potential to “free us from poorly designed software and inhospitable organisational structures that currently constrain teacher use” (Cuban Oversold and Underused, p 139).

Could this be what teachers need to get greater use of computers in schools.? The learning management system used by LrnLab? has vastly simplified the process of accessing information, creating documents, organising our work, handing in assignments, communicating with the other students or lecturers. Teachers do not want to have to learn complicated software programs. As the ease of use improves so too will the frequency of use.

 

What do I need to setup a LMS and what should I look for when I choose a LMS?

You need a:

  • web server which supports the language that the LMS is written in (PHP is common),
  • database backend (such as MySQL?.)

You should look for the following features:

  • An open interface with other software such as Oasis which is the software the NSW public schools use for administration. The LP must function as a stand-alone application and it also needs to be able to interface effectively with other systems such as Oasis for student data. The interfaces needs to support simple integration formats such as XML .
  • Security The LP must contain security and encryption mechanisms to protect the learning content and user data. The LP needs to have secure user privileges, which set permission to levels that users need but do not allow security to be compromised. It should also contain an automatic backup system .
  • Automated implementation processes Deployment and implementation should not be too difficult or take too long. It should have an installation wizard that gives you options for customisation.
  • Easy-to-use content creation tools Teachers need to be able to create course content with authoring applications they are familiar with or a simple WYSIWIG editor embedded in the system. Content creators (teachers, administrators and students) must be able to use standard authoring tools that they're familiar with rather than being forced to use tools embedded in the LCMS.
  • Flexible course design and delivery The LMs? must offer flexibility within the system so it can be adapted to the needs of the school or organisation.
  • Support of reusable learning objects Although the initial creation of learning objects takes some time, the benefit comes when it can be used again. Often the first use of the object will suggest changes/editing but over time this is a time saving way teachers can work.
  • Administrative applications The LP sould be able to manage enrollment and progress of learners, as well as course content, timing, and tracking.
  • Assessment tools The best LPs? assess the learner's prior knowledge to determine entry point and assesses what he or she learns. It is important to have a system that allows for a variety of assessment strategies: multiple choice tests, assignment boxes, analyitic tools for participation etc.
  • Communication and collaboration functions As well as being able to study alone the LP should provide opportunity to interact with the technology, teacher, or peers. The learning environment is more effective if the student can interact with the learning materials; become active learners. Asynchronous and synchronous communication allows for collaborative work.
  • Facilities for content migration The LP must offer easy-to-use conversion tools. I.e. converting from a word document to a web page in the LMS.

 

What sort of barriers will I have to hurdle to make it work?

Barrier
Solution
People resisting the change from the status quo. Solution: Develop a shared vision, show strong leadership. Educate all stakeholders about the benefits. Demonstrate how easy it is to create courses and use the LP.
Resistance from "the belief - or fear - that the ultimate aim of instructional technology is to reduce or even remove the human element of instruction." Explain that education using the computer will always require human teachers and facilitators. "IT’s role is to augment (not to replace) the teacher" (Van Dam et al, 2005)
Finance: The cost of preparing materials is high. The cost of maintaining, revising and updating courses is high. Gain administrative and government support if possible. Emphasise the long tern cost effectiveness. Emphasise that embracing technology can be a solution to increased "demands and reduced resources" (Bates 2000. P 216).
Expertise: The unique pedagogy of e-learning requires special skills in learning design and interaction design. Create an Instructional designer position to maintain the quality of the learning materials and work with subject experts. Provide templates and best practice examples for all staff to see.
Time and workload to implement, develop and maintain the LP. Emphasise the time saving over the long term. Provide relief from the classroom for teachers to develop materials and become familiar with the LP. Provide technical support. Provide incentives and rewards for effective implementation.
Students who are not well-motivated or organised will reject this learning environment. Educate students on effective ways of organizing their work; naming files and creating folders.
Students working alone will miss having contact and interaction with their peers and the teacher. Provide a mix between face to face and on line learning according to the needs of the students. The tutor really needs to be flexible about the way they provide support.
Teachers have a diminished role and a sense of loss of control. Ensure that staff appraisals do not disadvantage teachers who use the LP extensively. Run professional development programs that educate teachers about the advantages and merit of learner centered teaching methods and how the LP can facilitate this process. "The appropriate use of IT will empower teachers to enhance their mentoring roles"(Van Dam et al, 2005).
Course requirements emphasise individual teaching criteria and objectives so it is difficult to make assessments within this collaborative learning environment. Remind teachers that there are usually group work objectives included in syllabi and show them ways of assessing individual achievements within a collaborative environment.
Introvert students who find it difficult to communicate with groups will feel a sense of pressure. Train teachers to identify and support these students. Encourage teachers to talk about these issues with students emphasising that it is natural for some students to feel this way. Teachers need to be flexible in how they give feedback to students depending on the students' needs.

 

References

  • Wikipedia Learning Management System
  • Assessing Learning Management Systems by John L. Hall: senior vice president of Oracle University Jan 2003
  • Moodle
  • An introduction to learning platforms: British Educational Communications and Technology Agency 2003-2004
  • Learning Platforms By Terry Freedman 2006
  • "Teachernet UK Learning Platforms Department for Education and Skills 1995–2006":Learningplatforms
  • An Evaluation of Open Source E-Learning Platforms Stressing Adaptation Issues* Sabine Graf and Beate List Women’s Postgraduate College of Internet Technologies Vienna University of Technology {graf, list}@wit.tuwien.ac.at 2005
  • The Evolution of the Learning Content Management System By Shelley R. Robbins 2002
  • Towards a Pattern Language for Learning Management Systems: Paris Avgeriou , Andreas Papasalouros Symeon Retalis , Manolis Skordalakis 1999
  • 3rd Generation Learning Platforms Requirements and Motivation for Collaborative Learning Johann Laister, Anni Koubek Technikum Joanneum © EURODL 2001
  • The Evolution of the Learning Content Management System By Shelley R. Robbins April 2002

© Annette Culley 2006