With a plethora of educational apps, websites, and digital learning tools flooding the educational technology market, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and disoriented. To combat this sensation of drowning, teachers can anchor their classes and create community using a learner management system (LMS)—an online resource to organize and deliver course content digitally.
Learner management systems provide a cyber home for teachers and students. Just like a real home, an LMS serves many functions, from being a place of structure with online learning units and assessments to providing a meeting place with discussion boards and wiki projects.
An LMS allows teachers to streamline online learning for students: one website address, one set of login credentials, and one location to access class content. On a larger scale, schools and even districts can adopt an LMS organization-wide to further consolidate online learning for teachers, students, and parents.
With entire organizations using the same online platform, teachers and students can access all their classes using one interface. Teachers can collaborate by creating integrated units and sharing digital content across courses. Organizations can create and deliver benchmark assessments, surveys, and deliver important communications.
Many fee-based LMS providers exist; however, there also are several free learner management systems available to educators. There certainly is an LMS that meets the needs and matches the style of most educators, from beginning, novice digital users to advanced technology consumers.
Here are some examples of learner management systems.
Engrade is a sleek LMS that provides many tools within a simple platform, making it perfect for novice technology users. Within Engrade, teachers can create units complete with assignments, attached content files, links to web content, flashcards, wiki projects, drop boxes and assessments. Teachers can take attendance, create seating charts, record discipline, and create course calendars.
Haiku Learning is an intuitive online learning platform. This user-friendly LMS provides teachers with a versatile platform to create and deliver digital learning for their students. Similar to other LMS platforms, Haiku allows teachers to create units complete with assignments, attached content files, links to web content, wiki projects, drop boxes, and assessments.
Haiku also allows teachers to embed more than 200 web-based widgets. These include Coggle (a mind mapping tool), GeoGebra (math software), and gooru (standards-based lessons). In addition, Haiku provides teachers with powerful analytic reports for both assessments and overall site usage.
Another advantage of Haiku is the ability for teachers to share units and co-teach classes. Teachers can create integrated units, build a professional learning community, and consider vertical and horizontal alignment within schools and districts.
Overall, Haiku is a one-stop shop for educators with lesson planning, assessment, and communication tools all in one convenient place.
Edmodo is a dynamic learning platform that will enhance online learning. This LMS closely mirrors social media platforms and typically appeals to students.
A sophisticated platform, Edmodo offers the basic LMS services that are provided by both Engrade and Haiku; however, Edmodo also offers a world of resources with free and paid apps and Snapshot (a free lesson plan and question bank). Similar to Haiku, Edmodo provides the opportunity for teachers to interact with other educators. Teachers can participate in community forums and gain insight from educators across the world or co-teach a class with teachers in the same system.
Edmodo is more complex than Engrade or Haiku, but it has distinct advantages.
The Digital Foundation
With the push for more one-to-one settings and computer-based testing and instruction, it is critical for teachers to be methodical and purposeful in the selection of media tools to best enhance instruction. An LMS provides the foundation on which digital learning can be built.
If you are an educator who is considering launching online learning communities, go for it! You should find the LMS that meets your needs. What's more, your students will learn how to confidently leverage technology in an academic setting.
Erica Preswood is an instructor at University School on the campus of East Tennessee State University, where she teaches seventh and eighth grade English Language Arts.
Published in AMLE Magazine
, March 2016.