LMS: 4 Tips for Getting The Most Out of Yours

(Image credit: Photo by Samantha Borges on Unsplash)

Since the pandemic began, most educators have learned just how important and helpful an LMS (learning management system) can be. But many educators don’t avail themselves of all the features with which most are equipped. And while it’s not necessary, or even advisable, to use every feature for every class, there are some LMS capabilities that are underutilized by many educators. 

Shawndra Shelton, district technology assistant at Barrington 220 School District in Illinois, shares how an educator can get the most out of an LMS. These tips can help save time and facilitate efficient student learning. 

Front-End Work Saves Time Overall  

The first thing to realize about an LMS is that the more time you put in at the beginning of the year building your LMS modules, the more time you’ll ultimately save later in the year. And once you put in that initial work building content it will serve you for years to come.  

“You can save your entire course in a resource area,” Shelton says, noting this feature is something many educators don’t fully utilize. “You don't have to recreate the wheel every time, right? You can just pull in all the things that you've done, and set them up for the next year.” 

The Course Module Is Just a Shell Until You Build It 

Many schools automatically generate an LMS module for each class but Shelton says some teachers don’t realize this is not a complete course module. 

“I think our teachers had a little bit of trouble wrapping their minds around the idea that the course that comes in from our student information system, that is created for them, it's just a shell,” she says. “It's more of a container for things that you want to add to as opposed to a creation in itself.”

An LMS Can Save Time With Grading 

If set up correctly, the right LMS can save a lot of time both in entering and tracking student grades and with the actual grading, for certain assignments. It can also integrate with MAP tests and can automatically grade multiple choice and short-answer tests, and create weighted averages for each student. While teachers still need to grade essays, some systems can help by searching essays for key words and can also offer feedback on which students read assignments or clicked on required links.  

“There are so many features that it gets overwhelming for educators -- they're busy trying to teach,” Shelton says. Her advice: “Choose a couple of features that you want to be really good at.” 

Get Help From Colleagues  

You can organize your LMS around a weekly schedule, by topic, or by learning units. Since there are so many options, it can help to look at how other teachers organize similar classes. 

As you learn new features, the Help function on most systems is a good resource, Shelton says, as are other teachers. “Finding forums and people you can speak with to get that peer counseling on ‘How are you using this?’” she says. “That's where, as educators, we get a lot of our ideas -- being able to share and share alike.”

Erik Ofgang

Erik Ofgang is a Tech & Learning contributor. A journalist, author and educator, his work has appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Smithsonian, The Atlantic, and Associated Press. He currently teaches at Western Connecticut State University’s MFA program. While a staff writer at Connecticut Magazine he won a Society of Professional Journalism Award for his education reporting. He is interested in how humans learn and how technology can make that more effective.