Are you tired of making copies of handouts for students for each unit every year? Do you wish you had a way for absent students to watch videos and PowerPoint lectures on their own time? Do you want to organize the materials for your classes so students have access to all materials all the time? Do you want to create more interactivity within your classes? Do you want to “flip” your class? If you answered yes to these questions, then a learning management system is probably right for you.
A learning management system (LMS) is basically a platform (software application) for delivering course content to students, and the types of LMSs are quite varied. Some seem more suitable for elementary and middle school students, while some seem more appropriate for high school and college age students. In addition, some offer social media features while others don’t. You will have to assess your needs to determine which one is right for you. To get you started, here are four LMSs worth looking at.
Let’s start with Edmodo which seems best suited for elementary and middle school classrooms. With Edmodo, you can create/deliver an assignment, a poll, or a quiz. You can also embed a video and accept finished assignments from students. In addition, Edmodo has some sweet add-ons. One of them is called Snapshot which is a way to assign your students math or language arts, standards-based assessments. You just pick your standards and the class(es) you want to assign the assessment to. It is that simple. There is also a built in store where you can add as many free and paid apps as you’d like. Two I really liked were the free apps No Red Ink and Blendspace. No Red Ink is a site for improving student grammar and writing skills based on topics students choose. Blendspace is a fantastic tool which allows you to create classes, add standards for language arts or math, and easily find and upload videos, articles and images. You can also quickly and easily add a quiz. Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention that in Edmodo you can join any number of professional learning communities where you can connect with others teaching the same subject and grade level from around the world. All of this has been from the teacher’s perspective, but students love Edmodo because it has a Facebook feel to it and they can interact with other students as well as you. If you teach high school, don’t be dissuaded from using this program based on my earlier statement. I taught high school and this was one of the first LMSs I successfully used with my students.
Another wonderful LMS is called Schoology which has a more adult feel to it, making it perfectly appropriate for high school. Schoology allows you to create courses, invite students by supplying them with an access code, and create unit folders for each course. Within each unit folder, you can add an assignment, a quiz/test, links, videos, Powerpoint lectures, and discussions. Moreover, this LMS allows you to take attendance and includes a gradebook to keep track of grades. In addition, Schoology comes with badges you can give students as rewards and you can even make your own. And, if that weren’t enough, this learning management system comes with an app center where you can install apps like Google Drive, Khan Academy, Evernote, Pixton Comic Maker, myHistro, and WriterKEY. I have personally used this LMS with students and found it to be a wonderful way to keep myself and students organized.
Yet another very good LMS to use with high school students is NEO. With NEO, you can create classes, and add assignments, videos, PowerPoint lectures, images, quizzes, and surveys. It has a very clean interface in which you can provide an image for each lesson which tends to engender student curiosity about the unit before they’ve even seen what the lesson entails. This LMS also has a gradebook component, a drop box for student work, a calendar to keep everyone updated, blogs for each student, and wikis. This is also a learning management system I’ve used with high school students with a lot of success.
Finally, let’s talk about Google Classroom, the latest in LMSs and the latest Google has to offer educators. So, let’s be frank, Google Classroom has some cool features, but it’s basically a stripped down LMS. There is no calendar. There are no apps to add-on. And, you cannot create a quiz with Google Classroom. However, there are some features that many teachers will like. For example, with Google Classroom, you can easily create a class, change the theme image, invite your students with a class code you supply them, easily create an assignment, write a post, or create an announcement or question. In addition, once you create your assignment, you can add files, images, PowerPoint lectures, YouTube videos, and links to other web sites. Then, each student who is in your class can click on the assignment and all items will show in their Google Drive. When students are done with their assignment, they simply click on the “turn in” button in the top right corner. For teachers, this is fabulous, because all assignments for each period are organized into assignment folders in their Google Drive. Google Classroom is a great LMS to begin with if you are unfamiliar with learning management systems. It does not require a lot of front loading or set up. In fact, you can just add assignments for each class on the fly. This is another LMS I’ve used as a supplement to NEO because I like to have students write their papers using a Google Doc. Google Classroom is a viable LMS that any novice to this type of platform should consider.
To sum up, there are many learning management systems available for teachers to organize themselves, their students, and their classrooms. All of the systems mentioned above allow you to copy your course for the following year, thereby eliminating the need to continually copy documents for classes each year. And, all LMSs enable students to be masters of their own learning because they have access to all classroom documents, links, videos, and lectures 24-7. LMSs are here to stay and every teacher should consider getting on board. After all, what’s not to like?