What Is a Learning Management System (LMS)?

Posted by: Pano Savvidis
Category: eLearning
What Is a Learning Management System (LMS)?

If you’re new to e-learning, and the term learning management system, this blog post explains why you might want to implement an LMS in your educational establishment or business. If you’re still unsure, you can get touch here and we’d be more than happy to give a more detailed overview of the features and benefits of a learning management system.

You can get a history of the learning management system here.

A learning management system is…

The shorthand description of a learning management system is an online location that helps you manage administration, tracking, reporting and delivering of courses, lessons and tests.

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How does a learning management system work?

The best way to imagine a learning management system is to think of it as a vast website, that only those people with a log-in will be able to access. Within this ‘gated’ website you can provide interaction with your students in two modes: online or blended. Online learning is similar to distance education provided by organisations like the Open University where students are based off campus and interact with tutors and other learners asynchronously. Blended learning is where teachers and students meet physically, but the LMS is used to support learning by providing a space where materials can be stored and organised, assessments can be given, and students and teachers can interact using blogs, forums, and so on.

A learning management system makes learning flexible, and you can deliver learning via computer, tablet and smartphone – the latter two channels are becoming increasingly popular as many organisations encourage mobile learning or ‘learning on the move.’

As the primary role of a learning management system is to deliver learning to students, typically, there will be three different types of log-in (there could be more, depending on your solution). These would usually be an admin log-in, a teacher log-in, and a student log-in.

The admin log-in will be for administrators; when logged in, it will present the user with the tools to be able to add content and users, remove content and users, and allow users access to certain areas of the learning management system so that they can change settings.

The teacher log-in will allow teachers to assign work, receive completed work and results from students, and also create courses (see below).

The student log-in will present the user with information regarding courses, outstanding work and links to resources. It will usually provide a way of contacting the teacher or course leader if they have any questions. Work can be submitted from the student log-in – which will then be picked up by the teacher or course leader from the admin log-in.

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What are the typical features of a learning management system?

Most learning management systems are built bespoke to the organization’s needs, however they do generally share the same basic features.

An internal messaging system, as mentioned above, is usually a standard feature on all learning management systems. Before the age of the learning management system, many schools, colleges and universities had internal email; the LMS can help make that a thing of the past. Having a learning management system means messaging – and everything relating to learning – is all in one place, so it’s safer, with no interaction with those outside of the educational establishment.

Other typical features of an LMS include course creation and management, self marking quizzes and tests, student data and the ability to mark work (or self mark: some learning management systems can mark work that’s been submitted for you).

Course creation is the most fundamental part of your learning management system. Creating courses is how you set work for your students, and depending on the functionality of your learning management system, will allow you to make learning much more fun.

The content of what you want to teach is added to a course. Many solutions will give you the ability to allow students to give answers directly within the course – and, depending on the nature of the questions, self-marking tests are easily embedded within the course.

Student data is another core part of learning management systems. Having all student data within your solution means students can be easily contacted and set work for- particularly if they are arranged into their respective classes. Many educational establishments integrate their learning management system with their MIS system, for example Capita SIMS, so that any student data that is changed on their system is automatically updated within their LMS, and vice versa.

Find out some of the typical features of Totara, and the many other functions it can perform here.

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Why are the benefits of a learning management system?

The benefits of a learning management system are many.

Firstly, it streamlines the education process. Marking work is easier and quicker, especially with self-marking quizzes and tests. Plus, as we’ve mentioned above, messages, work setting and submission, and results are now all in one place.

Technology has the potential to engage and motivate learners more than ever before – and with an intuitive learning management system, you could see interaction and subsequently results improve. In particular, features that motivate learners, incentivize achievement and can make learning fun.

You can also track activity on your learning management system, from how many times a particular student has logged in, to who has completed the work you have set. This ability to track and record data also means things like test results are automatically collated and stored in one location – so they’re easier for you to access and review.

Learning management systems can be accessed from anywhere, which, coupled with their ability to engage and motivate learners more, means students aren’t restricted by lack of tools to do their work, or being able to complete work without any help from tutors. Being able to message their tutor for help or with questions means less dependency on having to see them face to face. Queries can be answered in real-time.

It means learning management systems actually encourage interaction between learners and educators – something that can only benefit both parties and lead to more engaged pupils, a better quality of education, and higher results.

Choosing a suitable learning management system

Finding the right learning management system depends on your establishment’s requirements; what function you require the solution to perform and how you hope it will improve the learning experience for students. Educase.edu list some of the things that educational organizations must do when implementing a learning management system:

  • become familiar with the advantages and disadvantages of available software;
  • establish an LMS selection committee, a decision-making process, and selection criteria; and
  • apply these criteria to determine the most appropriate LMS, given the characteristics of each institution

Need more info? Get in touch with Webanywhere here.

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