Having an official, common Learning Management System for your school community can be a daunting scenario. I’ve worked with a lot of schools who have one, and it feels very natural. I know others for whom it could not feel more strange. I think it’s completely normal to have both sets of feelings exist within one building or even across a district. In the end, an LMS decision is necessary and says a lot about digital management priorities which sets the stage for a very pre-determined educational experience. Before making a decision, which should not be a “one and done” task, we need to recognize that there are three primary prongs that will be impacted and call for consideration. The LMS decision should be re-visited every year asking the following questions:
1. What will this do to our students?
To LMS: Having an LMS will give students a more uniform experience and a one stop shopping feel. It will eliminate potential confusion from differentiated digital experiences and procedures from one teacher to another.
Not To LMS: With no official system adopted by your institution, the digital management process will feel different for each student. Depending on grade level and number of different teachers a student sees in the day, kids may have up to 6-7 different styles and procedures to follow for managing digital classroom content.
Ultimately: If you feel that having a streamlined process with low variation is more important than giving kids an authentic experience chosen by each teacher, then an LMS is the way to go. However, if it’s important to you to prepare students for future scenarios where they’ll have to adapt their digital management to work with a slew of different settings, then you may want to leave the LMS out of it and let things fall as they fall.
2. What will this do to our teachers?
To LMS: Having a uniform/common LMS will give teachers another mandated tool (I would not advocate for having one and NOT requiring teachers to use it) on which they’ll need to be trained. However, it will simplify the digital management process for teachers by removing a decision from their plate that they may not want to spend the time on making.
Not To LMS: With no official system adopted by your institution, teachers may be overwhelmed by ways through which they can manage the digital world with their students. However, it will give them freedom to find and decide on what they like and ease into a product at whatever pace is comfortable for them and their students.
Ultimately: If you feel like the “top” rather than individual teachers will make a stronger decision for the whole about this process, then an LMS is for sure for you. If you are looking to build digital management processes from the ground up and are willing to provide coaching that can adapt to a myriad of different approaches, then leaving this one up to your teachers may be the way to go.
3. What will this do to our parents?
To LMS: Having an LMS will give parents a “one stop shopping” type of feel with digital engagement in their child’s learning environment. This will allow them to dive in pretty easily without much need to communicate with their child or school about “how.”
Not To LMS: With no official system adopted by your institution, parents will likely have a new learning curve each year their child progresses through the system. Parents will be challenged to work with their children (is this such a bad thing?) and probably the school/teacher in navigating a potentially new process.
Ultimately: If you feel that training the parents is something that the school and teacher is responsible for, and you want to minimize this process, then an LMS will work well here. If you are looking to increase ownership on the parent end and create a true need for parents and their children to work together in the digital learning space, then having a more open approach will give you and your parents great opportunities.
So what? So, I’m gonna wave the Switzerland flag on this one and say that I truly think the “right” decision just depends. I believe that the age of students plays a HUGE factor in this. With younger students, making this process smoother and more straightforward is probably going to be more desireable. With older, more capable (which could be arguable though) students, allowing them to navigate through less streamlined waters could benefit them in the long term. I also think that the experience level of the parents and teachers, and their comfort with digital learning will also contribute to one side or the other when deciding “To LMS or Not To LMS?”
Sean Crevier is a Technology Integration Coach and Business Teacher at Vernon Hills High School in Illinois. He is a TEDx Organizer, Chrome Classroom Certified, FlipClass Certified, and Google Certified Teacher. Read more at busedcrev.blogspot.com.