What is the right LMS for your school?
Schools have been struggling in selecting a proper Learning Management System (LMS). The different LMS providers focus on the benefits and features. Most of the time the information is too generic or vague. If you watch a video it will only show you how happy people are with the product. Today I want to share my experience on how to choose a proper LMS for your school.
The team responsible for selecting the proper LMS must be made of; teachers, coordinators, IT, and the school’s top management. There are different models to select the proper technology for your school. I will list two main models.
A simple and easy way to look at things from four angles (Anderson, 2008):
Learner-Centered: The capability of covering the needs of the students, teachers, coordinators, and every person involved in the educational process
Knowledge-Centered: The available learning resources and media found within the LMS to support the educational process
Assessment-Centered: The possibility of measuring learning experience and to provide proper evaluation to students
Community-Centered: The ability to include the social aspect of learning by creating learning communities
The SECTIONS model/Framework lists eight points to take into consideration (Bates, Poole, 2003)
S – Students: What is known about the students – or potential students – and the appropriateness of the technology for this particular group or range of students?
E – Ease of use and reliability: how easy is it for both teachers and students to use? How reliable and well tested is the technology?
C – Costs: what is the cost structure of each technology? What is the unit cost per learner?
T – Teaching and learning: what kinds of learning are needed? What instructional approaches will best meet these needs? What are the best technologies for supporting this teaching and learning?
I – Interactivity: what kind of interaction does this technology enable?
O – Organizational issues: What are the organizational requirements and the barriers to be removed before this technology can be used successfully? What changes in organization need to be made?
N – Novelty: how new is this technology?
S – Speed: how quickly can courses be mounted with this technology? How quickly can materials be changed?
We can expand on the models above and build our criteria of a successful LMS. The questions/filters we must apply are:
- What user groups does the LMS cover?
- What access privilege and approvals does the LMS offer to manage the learning process within our school?
- How can we manage ebooks and digital content distribution within the LMS?
- Can we tag ebooks and digital content to different topics or sub-topics for future retrieval?
- What formats or standards are supported by the LMS?
- What assessment tools does the LMS offer?
- Does the LMS support xAPI standard to measure learning experience?
- Can we create discussion groups, wikis, and other community focused activities on the LMS?
- Does the LMS support mobile learning?
- Does the LMS support new trends such as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)?
- How connected is the classroom activity with the LMS?
- Do we require concurrent Internet access to operate the LMS and access the educational resources or can it work without Internet?
- What is the hardware minimum requirement to function the LMS properly at the school?
- How can our school obtain proper training and support on the LMS?
When making a decision on your next LMS you must make sure it is an up-to-date technology that will serve you for the coming years. Most modern LMSs are built on cloud computing technology. This means you do not require any hardware inside the school except for network infrastructure and students/teachers devices. This also means you can request a demo for a number of days to test the LMS and make sure you made the right decision.
It is important to note that in some schools implementing LMS they are faced with two important and frustrating findings. First, LMS users (specially teachers) are requesting features that already existing in the LMS. This can be due to lack of training and continuous awareness. The second is that students want from their instructors to use the LMS in a consistent manner. Some instructors will decide to only use a few features and move other features to free learning software available online. This is a headache for students. Instructors must remember that one student may have as many as ten to twelve instructors.
Remember implementing an LMS at your school is a cultural change. This means it requires time and effort. Most importantly a strong support from the school management. It is highly recommended to spend at least a semester getting users of the LMS ready for technology in preparation to deploy the LMS. Parents and Teachers may require training on basic technology skills, or even may not have internet access at home. School Management will need to test and upgrade the network infrastructure. The integration team will need time to evaluate different solutions in the market. It is always important to include all users and keep them informed.
Anderson, T. (2008). “Towards and Theory of Online Learning.” In Anderson, T. & Elloumi, F. Theory and Practice of Online Learning. Athabasca University.
Bates and Poole. (2003) “A Framework for Selecting and Using Technology.” In Effective Teaching with Technology. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Pages 75-105.