•Know the difference between Learning Management Systems and Content Management Systems.
•Know software options for LMSs and CMSs.
•Know 6 steps to assist in choosing a system and system software.
Greetings – Linda Bruning, here. Today’s lesson will work through the concept of Learning Management Systems AND how to narrow down the daunting task of selecting which program provides the best E learning experience for your institution, teaching teams and students. At the end of this lesson you will know the difference between Learning Management Systems and Content Management Systems, several software options for LMSs and CMSs, and 6 steps to help you choose the best system and software for your needs.
Content Management Systems and Learning Management Systems, are both names that refer to software systems to deliver Elearning. This can become confusing, as they are often used interchangeably, but there are differences – some of them subtle. The thing to remember is any of these will put your course and content on the web. The differences come in the scope of the system – how much it can do and how many bells and whistles come with it.
Content Management Systems (CMS.) With the objective to simplify the creation and administration of online content, CMS is the collection and management of policies and technologies that help organizations contribute, manage, and share their information online. Little, interconnected units of information are stored online and then, when accessed, are distributed to just the right learner at just the right time.
Designed simply for just basic information transfer, the focus of CMS is for small chunks of stored information to be retrieved by the learner, revised by the content creator, and easily distributed by the learner. The CMS does not analyze, organize, or transform the stored content into knowledge. Some examples of CMS’s are wikis and webquests – such as Zunal, Weebly and PBWorks. I have effectively used all three of these programs to deliver online learning content. Zunal and Weebly are easy to use by instructors and learners – and make great tools for individual class projects….a plus - they are free to educators. PBWorks offers the most bang for the buck, which is still relatively cheap, – and if you forego the privacy feature – it is free.
Learning Management System (LMS)
More than simply storing and retrieving chunks of information like the CMS, the Learning Management System (LMS) manages the learners and simplifies the administration of eLearning within your organization. The LMS makes the whole process of scheduling classes, creating catalogues, and registering learners very efficient and easy; although the particular features may differ, from LMS to LMS, the core capabilities of the LMS should be the same. These include: an online course to browse and select the appropriate required or elected courses, an online registration system, an assessment of competency, an ability to launch and keep track of the learning journey, an assessment of learning going on, management of learning materials, customized reporting, collaborative learning tools, and an ability to be integrated into other applications. A Learning Management System is a necessity for an institution delivering an online learning program – ie: colleges, universities, or programs with course work delivered by online access only. Some LMS programs include Moodle, D2L, Blackboard, Edomoto, Pearson Learning Solutions, DigitalChalk, Edtek, Spole – and many, many more. I have used D2L, Blackboard and Moodle. I completed two Masters Degrees from universities using the D2L program. It was easy for students to use and I was very comfortable with it. I used Blackboard only briefly when I taught a course for an online high school. Since the class was already set up by the teacher on sabbatical and all I had to do was go in and use it, I found it easy to use. I did administrate and set up a Moodle account and classes for an educational theater program. Since I started from scratch, it took some time and reading – but nothing that can’t be accomplished with some patience, the Moodle Administration manual and time. The big plus with Moodle is that it is free.
So which should your organization use? Once an LMS is in place, it can be difficult and expensive to switch to a different system. That's why making sure it's a good fit, initially. is crucial. You may think you need the bells and whistles of an expensive LMS when a good CMS – Web portal or content repository would work just fine and would be available to your school at a much lower price or in some cases for free. It is easier to upgrade from something free and simple than it is to downgrade from an expensive mismatch, but how to decide where to begin.
I suggest following these simple steps:
1. Form an investigative committee of ALL stakeholders – remember administrators, teachers, staff, and students will have to use this system.
2. Access the size and needs of your district. A small, three or four building district has different needs from a large urban district with multiple classes of the same grade level in many different school buildings.
3. What is the level of technology literacy of administrators, staff, teachers and students. How easy or difficult will it be to train users – the best system in the world is worthless if users can’t or won’t use it.
4. Does the district have the necessary hardware ? Software is worthless without hardware.
5. How much can your district/school/institution afford to spend on software, hardware, training and administration?
6. Finally, think in terms of where you are, where you have been and where you want to be. Have you tried other systems and found them lacking, is this your first attempt with e learning, do you want to expand the program in the future.
After careful planning and consideration you will be ready to test run some options to find what LMS works for you.
Thank you so much for joining me.