"In addition to encouraging inquiry and eliminating the compartmentalization of learning, an LMS provides each student with a safety net that helps ensure some of the day-to-day challenges of the school routine don’t harm their ability to learn."
A learning management system (LMS) is an online software interface that organizes, documents and supports learning for students. Almost every district in the country has agreed that such systems are useful for distance learners or students on highly structured learning plans, but there’s been some hesitancy to extend the use of LMSes to the entire student body. This is unfortunate because learning management leverages the power of the online space in a way that reinforces and strengthens the work that teachers already do in the classroom.
In 2018, most teachers and administrators know that the internet contains an unmatchable wealth of content-related facts and resources to help students learn. When we as educators encourage learners to use the internet as part of their inquiry process, we allow them to work more independently and access information in a way that feels more authentic to them. This is only one part of the internet’s potential impact in the classroom, though. What’s often undersold is the internet’s ability to extend the time and space for education.
For about a century, we’ve sent children to a specific building for a specific number of a hours a specific number of days out of the year. This system represents a huge improvement from what came before it (in which large numbers of school-aged children worked in factories or on the streets each day), but it’s still far from perfect. One of the pitfalls of our model is that it compartmentalizes learning as an activity that happens in a specific building during certain hours. All true lifelong learners know that opportunities to gain new knowledge and skills pop up at highly variable times and must be capitalized on before that unique moment or circumstance passes.
That’s where the LMS comes in. Once a class is set up in an LMS with established curriculum goals and skill targets, it becomes accessible and available to students 24/7. This makes it easier for learners to extend their thinking about each subject beyond the classroom and see how what they’re learning in school connects to the world around them. When the “classroom” is available to students at all times instead of just one hour per subject per day, it challenges them to reflect and process more actively, which extends thinking and deepens learning.
In addition to encouraging inquiry and eliminating the compartmentalization of learning, an LMS provides each student with a safety net that helps ensure some of the day-to-day challenges of the school routine don’t harm their ability to learn. For example, almost all LMSes contain a resource library, which teachers and students can use to upload important documents or share useful links. This eliminates the problem of the student who can’t keep track of papers or has trouble getting material from school to home and then back to school. By removing these small but impactful obstacles from students’ paths, an LMS helps every learner use their time in and out of the classroom more productively.
An LMS is the perfect tool to support classroom teachers, both new and experienced. With the organizational, online power of the LMS, teachers can keep lines of communication with students open and ongoing, check in on each learner’s progress at any time and provide key feedback and resources in a collaborative, positive space. LMSes also simplify integration for both personalized and competency-based learning initiatives. If you think online learning management is just for distance learners, think again!