Learning management systems (LMS) have come a long way since their debut in the late 1990s. The old, clunky, interfaces that provided limited scope for assignments, classroom management, and interaction with students have been replaced by sleek, cloud-based programs that make online learning delivery a breeze.
But which one to choose? There are dozens of LMS on the market, each promising to transform online learning and boost student achievement. With a range of price points from free to many tens of thousands of dollars, there’s a bewildering array of products on the market.
As a teacher, you need something simple to use that enhances learning, not detracts from it. Administrators want a cost-effective system that deploys easily. It’s not too much of a stretch to find this and more in the modern learning management systems available today. The following three offer a small sample of what’s available on the market today that can satisfy a wide range of school and district needs.
Choosing an LMS
When choosing a learning management system, begin with the end goal in mind; determine the learning and development objectives for your students. What do they need to learn and do in order to master the knowledge and skills required?
Next, take into account the technological fluency and skills of your instructors. Not everyone has the time or patience to learn a complicated LMS. Some educators may need a simpler interface or one that enables them to interact more with students. Invite your teachers to be part of the evaluation process when choosing an LMS.
Lastly, talk to the IT team at your institution to ensure that technology infrastructure supports the LMS. Most systems now run on the cloud, which requires a reliable, high-speed internet connection.
Three Learning Management Systems to Consider
The following three learning management systems offer excellent opportunities for teachers to create and integrate course materials, align content and assessments, assign materials, track progress, and create custom quizzes and tests for students.
- 1) Moodle: Moodle bills itself as the world’s most popular e-learning platform with millions of users worldwide. It’s perhaps one of the best known as it was an early entry into the learning management software category. The program features a robust online learning platform with open-source code. Open-source code enables developers to build software that works easily with the original software. Features include options for K-12, higher education, and workplace learning, multiple methods for teachers to communicate with students, the ability to tailor assessments to students, and much more. Free downloads, plenty of how-to information, and a teacher forum for fellow Moodle users make it a good transitional option for teachers new to virtual learning. However, many add-ons, including mobile apps, are an added cost, so know what you need before comparing prices; the “free” service can quickly become expensive to meet your institution’s needs if you add on features to the free base model.
- 2) Canvas: Canvas offers a cloud-based learning management system for K-5, middle and high school, and higher education institutions. The program offers a flexible learning ecosystem made up of individual software products that connect together like building blocks to create the exact virtual school an institution needs. Many features that are added costs in other LMS systems are included in the base price of Canvas, including mobile apps and integrated learning outcomes. According to the company website, 30% of higher education institutions choose Canvas.
- 3) Blackboard: Blackboard focuses on a learning management system designed for maximum student engagement. The company prides itself on building out a streamlined, intuitive learning interface that not only helps students learn but makes them love learning. Additional products in the Blackboard suite include the Blackboard Unit, which provides asynchronous courses for K-12 learning. Additional solutions for business and government adds professional development opportunities for adult learners.
Use a Mix of Software Tools for Maximum Engagement
In addition to the following suggested learning management systems, most teachers add a mix of tools to their teaching toolbox for maximum student engagement.
Regina Hiney, a middle school English language arts and reading teacher from Stafford, Virginia, adds simple, free tools to her virtual learning environment to transform literature lessons into interactive teaching opportunities. She taught Hamlet using Zoom, YouTube videos, and Google docs. Students read portions of the play aloud via Zoom and added questions to a Google doc that informed her reading comprehension quiz at the end of the lesson. She added YouTube videos featuring clips from movie versions of Hamlet to help students understand the context of the scenes under discussion.
For More Information
For more information on the learning systems mentioned here and others that offer comparable features, the following resources may be helpful: