Getting More Out of It

A primer on fully leveraging LMS capabilities in the classroom.

GUEST COLUMN | by Steve Wilson

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Ninety-nine percent of schools have a learning management system (LMS), yet one in four schools report dissatisfaction with their LMS tool. LMSs have been on the market for just over a decade, but many schools aren’t fully leveraging the capabilities LMSs offer. Despite disconnects in usage and capabilities, the LMS market is projected to reach a value of $16 billion in four years.

But even with the rising adoption of LMSs, classrooms continue to rely on paper assignments and manual admin processes, like assignment submission and tracking. Today’s students are technology driven, and as more classrooms digitize, schools need to review and re-assess how current systems are used. Incoming devices and technology need a consistent and reliable system to mobilize classroom learning.

LMSs have been on the market for just over a decade, but many schools aren’t fully leveraging the capabilities LMSs offer.

An LMS needs to be more than just an online bulletin board, used seldom for one-off homework assignments. For teachers and students to reap the full benefits, tasks like assigning, grading, reading and collaborating should all be supported within the system. In some cases, many early-adopting schools have an LMS solution that doesn’t support these functions. For others, the schools and teachers lack guidance and training on LMSs, preventing them from using these systems to their full potential.

Two common mistakes made by school administration and teachers when it comes to LMSs are fragmented use of the platform and continued reliance on paper processes.

Inconsistency with LMSs

It’s common for an LMS to be treated as a directory or utilized for ad hoc student submissions. But because of their capabilities and flexible nature, LMSs should be used as a central hub for schools. From reading assignments to submitting permission slips and more, teachers and schools need to understand the possibilities before choosing a platform. Today, most schools only utilize an LMS for a handful of needs, making for confusing teacher-student processes. By embracing an LMS for certain needs and then paper for others, there are process gaps left for students and teachers to navigate. This puts more of the focus on administration than learning.

For example, a student trying to access homework through an LMS might run into issues with viewing documents, instead having to download and access the assignment through an external application like Microsoft Word – all capabilities and issues depend on the system’s technology and sophistication. LMSs that don’t have document viewing and other needed capabilities are no more effective than teachers’ sending assignments via email attachments.

Schools should prioritize integration and look to common functions when choosing an LMS vendor. Now that the BYOD trend is growing in schools, students need document viewing functions to read in external apps. From laptops to tablets, devices render differently, so it’s important for students to avoid downloaded files. Viewing features, like HTML5, allow LMSs to display textbooks without relying on a third-party application. With better consistency, teachers can ensure all students have access to coursework, no matter the device.

Paper Dependency

Even in today’s age of digital transformation, where businesses and consumers are moving everything online, schools continue to rely on paper. Part of the problem is the limitations of legacy LMSs. But on the other hand, many schools and educators are hesitant to adopt newer LMSs and lack the proper training on these platforms to transition away from paper-based assignments and projects.

School leadership must keep open communication with teachers and students to identify common challenges and top priorities with LMSs. While many challenges come from schools or teachers not fully utilizing their LMS, some problems come from LMS vendors that cannot provide the right tools for fulfilling critical classroom objectives. For the latter, it may be time to switch vendors. But for issues that stem from lack of training, it’s crucial for schools to ensure that parents, teachers and students are provided basic instruction on using the system.

Supporting BYOD Classrooms

Many classrooms are making steps toward implementing BYOD policies and embracing its benefits. BYOD classrooms will undoubtedly become a classroom staple, and schools need to have the right tools to support a wide range of devices. Fully leveraging and integrating LMSs helps support BYOD classrooms, including adding internet restrictions and allowing for more student collaboration. For example, using an LMS for online document and textbook viewing eliminates reliance on external services. This allows administrators to restrict internet access to the LMS portal and avoid security restrictions. An LMS with tools specific to collaboration can help shape students’ project management skills in a digital environment, making it easy for teachers to assign and guide group projects.

As schools strive to effectively teach a generation born in the digital era, it’s important that they invest in an LMS capable of driving a digital classroom and the training to support these systems’ capabilities.

Steve Wilson is VP of Product at Accusoft, a leading technology provider in the document imaging and content management industry. Steve has led development efforts for several different industries including GPS and parenting apps for iOS and Android, photo imaging, and mobile workforce management for utility companies. He coaches youth basketball for his two sons and can be found saltwater fishing in his spare time. Follow @accusoft

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