Learning Management Systems (LMS) are online platforms which house learning materials typically as courses. A good analogy is that of a library with materials stored in categories on virtual shelves by topic, course, and lesson. This enables students to easily search for and access the resources that they need. Some materials may be freely accessible for anyone to use (guest accessible) whilst some are restricted to specific users (only viewable when enrolled).  LMS allow learners to access learning materials at a time, place, and pace that suits them.

There are many ways that learning materials housed in an LMS may be used:

  • in blended or flipped classrooms courses, integrating online work with traditional class based activity.
  • fully online. This can include a mix of real-time (synchronous) or pre-recorded (asynchronous) lectures, activities, and assessments.
  • as publicly available Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS).

Within these categories, there is considerable variation in the amount of interactivity and synchronous/asynchronous content provided.

The most well know open access LMS is Moodle which is entirely free of any charge and comes with a mobile application. Moodle has a large community of Moodle users and the support website features detailed guides on how to set up your own Learning Management System, tips on how to create online training courses and troubleshooting. Moodle is constantly evolving with innovative and engaging tools and add-on modules to inspire students to learn. View the website here https://moodle.org  Other commonly used platforms are Blackboard https://www.blackboard.com/index.html Canvas https://www.canvaslms.com or Google Classroom https://classroom.google.com

Benefits of using an LMS:

  • Online classrooms allow the simultaneous training of people studying from different geographical locations.
  • Once created courses and/or course materials can be used again and again with new groups of learners.
  • Students can upload and share content and work or projects with their teachers and fellow learners, which in turn is stored in a database.
  • All learners have access to learning content and materials at any time and from any place where they have internet access.
  • There is no limit to the number of courses a student can sign up to, and no physical limit to the numbers of students taking classes.
  • Teachers have instant access to update the content of courses, or to add materials and resources for students for immediate access. Most academic Learning Management Systems feature robust reports and analytics from completion rates and learner engagement to assessment results. You can track every element to ensure that students are getting the information they need to achieve their learning goals.
  • Teachers can design quantitative and qualitative assessments directly within LMS courses.  For example, multiple choice questions can measure acquisition of facts, whilst interactive simulations can determine understanding and application of knowledge in real-world scenarios.

Challenges of using an LMS:

  • Teachers may find it difficult to determine whether students understand materials or are maintaining interest in an online lesson in the way they might assess visual clues in a classroom. Using chat platforms, online forums and formative assessment (learning check-points) creates a more collaborative and interactive learning environment. Academic-focused eLearning management systems need to fully exploit social and peer-to-peer capabilities, to encourage learners to collaborate and discuss subjects relevant to their studies.
  • As with all online platforms there are occasions when there are issues with the technology which cause problems for students and/or trainers. Having access to good accessible tech support is essential to the smooth running of online courses. Tech support is likely to be much less accessible out of traditional teaching hours.

The type of LMS you used will more then likely be determined by your employer. As online learning has gone mainstream, it has never been more important to choose an educational Learning Management System (LMS) tailored to your institution’s mission and goals.