By Alex Urrea, CEO, Eduscape.
“If nothing else, the rapid migration to remote teaching and the challenges therein, is proving that teachers enhance technology, not the other way around.” Erica Hartman, director of technology.
At the time of this article’s release there are 36 states that have closed their schools, impacting approximately 32 million K-12 students. The majority of these schools are shifting to online teaching using Learning Management Systems.
What is a Learning Management System (LMS)?
A learning management system is an online platform that enables blended (face-to-face and online) or fully virtual learning. A LMS is designed to streamline course management, such as distribution of content, assessment, grading and feedback loops, so teachers can spend more time enhancing learning experiences and differentiating to their students’ needs. LMSs can play a critical role in teacher-to-parent and teacher-to-teacher communication. They can also be used to deliver professional development to teachers, connect faculty into collaborative groups, and to offer ongoing instructional support for students.
Studies show that approximately 75% of K-12 schools subscribe to a LMS on some level, with costs ranging from $5 to $10 per student. Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams provide LMS-like platforms at no cost, but with less imbedded features. LMSs were originally designed for the higher education market and are the backbone of colleges and universities, especially institutions such as the University of Phoenix with an enrollment exceeding 95,000 students.
The majority of the dozens of LMS companies began solely as higher education service providers and started offering their platforms to K-12 only around 10-12 years ago. The challenge has been that despite the emerging features in LMSs today, most educators have used them as glorified bulletin boards; posting paper-based assignments in PDFs, applying simple assessments such as multiple-choice and true/false quizzes, and to upload YouTube videos for students to view. This is primarily due to a lack of effective and ongoing professional development that supports the shift to, at a minimum, a blended learning model.
Last week, a district superintendent reached out to me seeking advice on how to quickly migrate his students to a remote learning model since he expected the imminent closure of the schools for weeks. Despite having subscribed to a LMS 3.5 years ago at a cost of over $100,000 to date, he was shocked to discover that over 370 of his 1,200+ teachers had never even used their initial login codes and temporary passwords. Hence, migrating to a remote learning model became a more daunting task, especially with an urgent turnaround time.
Don’t Compromise Quality
Successful use cases of LMS integration in schools exist and they show that when implemented properly, student engagement increases, access to ancillary learning is facilitated and communication between teacher and student is greatly enhanced. One of the most important benefits for a teacher is that differentiated learning practices can be readily applied by assigning remedial resources to struggling students, while providing more challenging assignments for higher performing ones.
The key is not to compromise fundamental teaching strategies because we are shifting to an online delivery model. “Just because of we’re going virtual, we can’t throw away what we know of sound instructional design. We must keep the good things in mind; receive feedback, apply formative assessment strategies and establish feedback loops. I advised my teachers to stick with what they know and we’ll help you with the delivery methods.” said Dr. Matthew Murphy, superintendent of Ramsey Public Schools.