While learning management systems are making it easy for the teachers to create, manage and monitor their online courses, it is also allowing learners to fully manage and track their own learning by opening up new doorways towards flexible and individualized learning. Its potential to completely replace face-to-face classroom teaching in coming times can’t be negated.
Understanding Learning Management System
A Learning Management System is basically a software system that enables easy delivery of online courses through a range of interactive and integrated online services. First introduced in late 1990s, it’s a modus of e-learning’s direct manifestation to learners. It also enables a teacher/tutor to monitor the students’ progress and track their performance by providing them a user interface. Three types of well specified roles can be identified within an LMS, viz. admin, teacher, and student.
The admin module defines roles and permissions, account creation, course management, make announcements and take back-up of database. Teacher or Instructor module decides the order of course elements, assigns learning content and tasks to learners, create calendar for events, monitor progress charts of students, create quizzes, evaluate assignments and communicate with students. The student/learner module can customize his/her learning plan, access teaching calendar, learning content, quizzes, submit assignment and interact with teacher as well as fellow learners.
Nowadays, LMSes are being used in educational institutions and for training of employees in various industries for their professional development. About 700 LMSes are available in the market today, some of which are installed type and others cloud based. Similarly, proprietary LMSes as well as open-source LMSes which are freely available can be used as per the requirements.
How Well You Can Choose Your LMS
Choosing an LMS that suits your need is vital for smooth functioning of your course the way you wish to run it. A good LMS should provide its user the opportunity to collaborate and share along with capabilities such as course authoring, analysis and generation of reports, and providing certification, and updating the content. The user must also be capable of integrating its LMS with other web resources with adequate customization freedom. The LMS chosen should also offer the scope of personalised learning space, mobile capacity, and most importantly requisite support services. It must offer a flexible online working and learning environment with integrated tools.
While choosing from open source LMS and a proprietary LMS, the decision should purely be made on basis of technical support required for executing the LMS. If the organisation or institution using LMS already has a large in-house workforce and technical team, open-source LMS is preferable as it would help in cutting the cost required for external support and maintenance and at the same time open up opportunities for exploration.
However, in absence of such team or in cases of individual instructors, proprietary LMS is very much advisable. Among proprietary LMS, there are large number of options to choose from as per one’s budget. Commercially renowned LMSes are that of Blackboard, desire2learn, docebo, edmodo, TalentLMS, litmos etc. While the most popular open source LMS includes MOODLE, Sakai, Segue and CourseWork.
15 Features to Look Out For in a Good LMS
- It must be a knowledge platform which supports a variety of user and methods for effective management and delivery of online or offline courses.
- It must be equipped with flexible tools for learning and collaboration online.
- One should be able to easily create teaching and learning material and also easily learn and use them.
- It must provide a personalized learning space while conforming to the e-learning standards.
- It should provide precise and flexible control to the admin/teacher over the activities of the student.
- Authoring tools must be integrated into the LMS thus avoiding the hassles of using other authoring tools for a learning management system.
- Wikis, glossaries, dashboard, real-time chat rooms, calendar, mails, contact list, search bars etc. must be provided for user support.
- Comments, notes, assignments may be easily uploaded and downloaded if it uses web 2.0 tools.
- Online exams can be made and the results reported accurately and timely.
- Must enable full tracking of learning resources and performance using a range of standard reports. Also provide detailed reporting to individuals.
- The LMS could be successfully used for blended learning at institutions with positive review and feedback.
- The system should be regularly updated to incorporate latest features and suggestions from schools, universities, enterprises and public administrative bodies etc.
- LMS should be able to incorporate multiple languages.
- It should be equipped to cater to the needs of physically disabled people.
- It must be modular in construction and can readily be extended by creating plugins for specific new functionality.
Technical Requirements for LMS Installation and Usage
- Basic requirement of Computer/laptop and Internet connectivity
- The technical aspect deals with source code availability and SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) compatibility.
- The source code of proprietary LMS is encoded and they act as vendors for those who purchase it while in the Open source LMS, access to the source code is available.
- The technical know-how is looked after by the vendor in case of Proprietary LMS. In case of open source LMS, one has to either equip oneself with the technical knick knacks or hire a technician/system manager for doing content management and updating it from time to time
Three vital components of support service for running a LMS
- tools which allow authentication of user
- specific user tools to assist in specific access as per the roles
- ability to add or remove students
- host and domain services etc
These tools enable the admin to effectively use the LMS.
Course Delivery Tools
- These tools allow automated testing management
- System services for importing and exporting tests followed by statistical analysis of test results
- Online marking tools, online grade book
- Monitoring the progress of user as per the course requirements, student tracking feature etc.
These tools help the teacher/instructor to efficiently deliver the course.
Content Delivery Tools
- Accessibility compliance for all types of learners
- Compliance to WAIWCAG 1.0 AAA guidelines
- Course templates, customised tools and feel, instructional design tools,
- Instructional standard compliance
- Content authoring and integration in text, audio, video, graphics, animation and multimedia
- Provision for blogs and wikis etc.
The selection of any LMS should be in conformity with all the above standards, requirements and components thereby fulfilling the requirement of providing ICT based learner support services to students. Teachers should be able to respond individually to their students. They may use it for either online or blended learning. It can be used to totally or partially replace face-to-face teaching.
Open knowledge platform content is made available to even non registered users. It allows institution to be able to use their campus administration to import student data. An efficient LMS help educators /instructors to create effective online learning communities and create online courses with opportunities for rich interaction.
LMS Providers in India: A Growing Number
E-learning industry is a booming industry in the Indian education market. About 65 percent of Indian population is under 35 years of age which indicates a larger need for learning either for supplementing academics or for succeeding in competitive exams and professional development. On the supplier side, a good number of private companies have emerged which provides easy LMS solutions. The prominent among them are Zeus solutions, eNyota, Upside Learning, Shezartech, eidesign, G-cube, Clear Point Solutions, vStacks Infotech etc. Recently, NextEducation, a leading company in e-learning in the K-12 segment has also launched its own LMS.