Reflections on LMS and non-LMS
How can Learning Management Systems (LMS and/or Non-LMS) help me develop courses where students learn in the best way for them (teacher-structured/personalized), while providing me with the tools I require for efficient and efficacious presentation, moderation, support, and assessment (for, as, and of learning)?
The evidence that I have chosen to show my learning in OLTD 504 is composed of two different assignments. My first piece is the unit teaching “Introduction to Photography” that I created in Moodle. My second one is my list of non-LMS tools that I assemble together. These two assignments demonstrate how Learning Management Systems (LMS and/or Non-LMS) help me develop courses where students learn in the best way for them (teacher-structured/personalized) while providing me with the tools I require for efficient and efficacious presentation, moderation, support, and assessment (for, as, and of learning).
As an online teacher, I have used two different LMS, such as Blackboard and D2L. I find that the purpose of an LMS is for presenting and organizing course content, delivering the material to enrolled students, managing submitted assignments, providing easy access to marking and holding the students’ grades. It almost seems more like an organizational tool than a tool to enhance learning. However, I believe that the way the course material is delivered in the LMS and the creation of a sense of belonging to a community within the course are what make learning engaging and meaningful. Some might think that an LMS does not provide much flexibility to offer choices for students to demonstrate their learning but with some creativity like having a few different sections of the same course with different options of assignments, it is possible to challenge the students through what interests them. A LMS is a tool and I believe that it is how the tool is used that determines if it beneficial for the student’s learning or not. When I began creating a French Immersion (FI) program online, I was told that it would not possible to engage students orally in an online setting. However, I have proven that it is possible. Over the years, I have created different types of oral assignments including a forum to promote a sense of classroom community in the LMS and I have noticed that as students move along in their courses, they begin to take ownership of the oral French and are more motivated to speak it.
Another reason why I prefer using an LMS is that it helps with organization. As a teacher who has many online classes and with several students in each of them, using a LMS keeps me sane. Everything is held in one place. I cannot imagine having to go to different sites to assess my students’ learning. Ideally, there would be an LMS that would allow embedding of different non-LMS tools which would make learning even more engaging. One drawback that I have against using an LMS is that the course content is contained within the LMS and every time, the LMS is changed, an enormous amount of valuable teaching time is lost to move the course content and to adjust the delivery of the material to still make it engaging and motivating for the students.
After going from Blackboard to D2L two years ago, my school is now contemplating a move to Moodle so I thought that I would experiment with this LMS to see if it was worth the time and energy. In Moodle, I created a unit on a “Introduction to Photography” with the course material provided by the instructor, Avi Luxemburg. Compared to the previous LMS’s that I have used, Moodle offers a variety of activities that I was not accustomed to such as the lesson, the survey, and a workshop for peer-assessment. As a teacher, I found that the settings offered more flexibility on where the students could go depending on if they had mastered the content of an activity or not. This option provides a way to individualize the progress of the student within the course. This experience of using Moodle allowed me to see how I could make my own courses even more engaging as long as my school would also get the extension for the oral recording to be embedded in the LMS.
As I have noted, I like using LMS so when I was faced to create a list of non-LMS tools that would fulfill the same tasks, I was skeptical. However, I decided to give myself a challenge. Besides working in an online school in a district that uses GAFE, I am also involved in another school district that has a policy of using educational online tools that are compliant with FIPPA. So, I decided to create two different lists that would provide tools to fulfill the functions of file and content sharing, building community, providing opportunities for collaboration and communication, assessing and reporting as well as a place for an e-Portfolio and gradebook.
Now, that I have search a variety of tools either FIPPA compliant or not, it has given me ideas on how I could use some of them to enhance the learning of my students. I am looking forward to the time when an LMS will allow other tools to be embedded within them which will eliminate the limitations that some teachers experience. This should heighten the students’ engagement and motivation in their online course by providing them different experiences while acquiring skills and knowledge.