With the spread of CoronaVirus, many schools & districts around the world are taking bold decisions to close schools at least for some time, some for 1 week, others for 2 weeks and some indefinitely!
In Northshore California for example, all schools in the district are closed for 2 weeks. All schools have been mandated to go ahead with remote learning. This means while the buildings will be closed, learning will continue ultimately. The good part is that the teachers were trained to support remote learning in those 2 weeks.
Then it got me thinking. While we pray that the virus or any other thing won’t keep us all indoors for days & weeks, how many schools are prepared to run a remote learning experience? How many teachers are equipped to teach in a remote environment? What are we doing to improve the situation and learning experience for our students?
We need to start thinking about the opportunities this kind of learning can afford us. There are many tools and educational systems that support remote learning.
LMS Vs SMS
It all begins with a good Learning Management System (LMS). Now, what is more popular is the School Management System (SMS). The SMS manages school operations – admission, results, payment, bio-data, employment, transport, food, hostel etc; it helps simplify and make school processes efficient.
Basic Features of a Great LMS
On the other hand, a Learning Management System manages not school processes but actual learning. An LMS handles things like classes, activities & tasks, submissions, and school learning subgroups. A good LMS should be able to put students into groups or classes and facilitate learning. They allow the teacher to upload content in all formats – text, audio, video, and even links- and students can access those resources anytime, anywhere. Teachers can give quizzes, polls, assignments etc. and students can take them and submit them all right inside the LMS.
A good LMS integrates with popular Edu products like Google-for-edu, Microsoft-for-edu and the likes. So you can be given an activity with Google Docs for example and right from inside the LMS, you take the activity and turn it in for the teacher to see and evaluate.
Groups and Subgroups
Another great feature of any good LMS is the ability for students to work in groups. Apart from the larger classes which can be created, you can create subgroups for specific tasks. It encourages collaboration which is a major 21st-century skill. Students can learn to work in groups as they perform tasks.
Another feature is what I call Social interactivity. Whereas learning must be personalized, it must also encourage conversations. This is one thing a good LMS has, learning is usually in the great conversions that take place around content. What makes people always go back over & over to Facebook, is because of the social features like comments, likes & shares. Even our students love to talk about the content. They love to hold conversations and share with the world what they’re learning. So embedded in a good LMS are features such as comment, share & like. Students can provide helpful feedback to peer work and others can learn from it.
An additional feature that can make an LMS stand out from the group – Gamification principles. Without trying to be too detailed, gamification is making use of game principles for the purpose of learning. It is not necessarily about playing games but about adopting the principles of games, what makes games fun & engaging, in education. These principles include things like levels, leaderboards, points & extra points, Easter eggs, working against time etc. In actual fact, these are what make us addictive to playing games. This is why we always want to go back to them and we can also benefit from that in learning as well.
A great LMS is also mobile-friendly. With this, students don’t have to sit in front of their computers before they interact with the learning. They can quickly take a quiz while waiting in line for something. While in commute, students can pull out their phones and listen to a podcast (content) and post a comment almost immediately. The learning can happen whether at home, on the bus or even at the beach.
This isn’t exhaustive as great LMS have features like the capacity to take and attend live classes and hold synchronous conversations.
So while we battle and protect ourselves from the COVID-19 virus, we must begin to think differently about how we teach and maximize Technology for an improved learning experience.
Do you agree with these features of a Learning Management System? Do you use one in your school? What features do you like about it?