Learning Management System, or LMS, is software that automates the administration of educational delivery . All LMSs manage the log-in and registration of users, course catalogs, and student performance and assessment data..
As usage of the internet expanded in the early 1990s, so too did its use as a medium for managing most aspect of educational delivery, including needs assessment, program design, program delivery, student data management, and course and instructor evaluation. Prior to the advent of LMSs, discrete tools were used for each aspect delivered online. A range of concerns, including security of data, reliability of web hosting, and integration of multiple tools for a single course, all made the development of LMSs a logical next step.
From a course-design perspective, there are many important issues that you need to consider when developing material in an LMS platform. Most vendor and open source platforms now support a reasonably similar set of features and functionalities, although there are differences in the interface and level of integration with other systems that comprise an organization's e-learning infrastructure (i.e. student information systems, authentication, library system etc.).
It is also important to make good decisions about what tools you use within these environments. A feature-rich space can seem cluttered and serve to diffuse student attention if these features are not integrated to support learning activities within a course.
When you design materials for delivery via such a platform, you need to be aware of the following kinds of questions:
- How are students and instructors expected to log into the system?
- How are they going to use the various communication and assessment tools that you have enabled within the platform?
- How are your instructors going to use these tools, as well as additional student management tools?
- How are you going to ensure that students can get down to work within the platform quickly, rather than struggle with its interface?
- Are the tools that you are using integrated with the student learning activities?
- Are students being assessed on the activities they complete?
Selecting an LMS
In addition to the questions listed above, there are several other factors that influence course designer's decision on which platform to choose, or what general approach to take. There are generally three options:
- Purchase (or licence) a commercial solution
- Adopt an Open Source solution
- Develop your own solution, using a range of stand-alone tools
Find the web site for each of the following LMSs: Blackboard Learn, Moodle, Canvas LMS, and D2L. Compare each's functionality with respect to:
- student record management
- communication tolls
- assessment tools
- cost for your institution or organization
- minimum system requirements at the hosting (server) level and for end users (students and instructors)
Once ETEC565A students have been set up with access to the MET Moodle server (beginning in Module 2 Unit 4) you can begin to explore Moodle, including getting some hands-on experience.
- EduTools Course Management Systems Evaluation Site (No longer active - see http://wcet.wiche.edu/initiatives/past-projects/edutools for details and a copy of the 2006 version of the matrix.)
- eLearning Industry has a more recent checklist of LMS features for comparing platforms, and links to further resources.