Survey results confirm what we see all around us — most U.S. college students, and many high school students carry smartphones, and use them constantly. Connected mobility is a simple fact of life, and college students expect to be able to access course resources from anywhere at any time. For distance learning students, who engage with their coursework exclusively online, the need for connectivity is even more pressing.
Students and faculty need to be able to make the most of their time, maximizing efficiency and engagement by participating in course discussions, watching short videos, or checking grades or upcoming assignments while waiting in line, riding the bus, or waiting for the start of their next class. In-class use, such as posting results from a quick literature review, small group discussion, quiz, or opinion poll, should only by limited by the user’s imagination – not by the capabilities of the LMS.
Learning management systems that lack fully-realized mobile interfaces and tools are a recognized barrier to engaging students with their learning environment. As such, strong mobile-native connectivity is an expectation for our next generation learning management system.
One of the vital needs pushing us towards a new learning management system is the interest of faculty and students to have robust tools for multimedia integration. The ability to easily add video, audio, slideshow, and other graphic content to course modules; and to view and respond to that content from any device, anywhere has been shown to greatly enhance the learning experience. As noted in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “a new study has found that 68 percent of students watch videos in class, and 79 percent watch them on their own time, outside of class, to assist in their learning”.
Interactive multimedia learning makes difficult concepts easier to understand, promotes deeper inquiry, and is more engaging. Multimedia also allows for a logical organization of course topics, consistent presentation of real-life scenarios or abstract simulations, and facilitates distributed or asynchronous learning.
One of the main elements we are exploring is the ability to easily embed a variety of file types into courses, assignments — even the gradebook. Flexibility and reliable functionality is the key.
Take your lab or seminar of 12 bright-eyed students – now make it work for 600. These are the challenges that make committed educators lose sleep. But there are a lot of ways that a good learning management system can help make these kinds of leaps possible, while still supporting classroom engagement and solid pedagogy.
Innovative LMS packages can help teaching faculty to develop learning strategies designed to streamline the workload of larger classes without compromising the integrity of course objectives. Facilitated discussion groups, online forums, and effective options for testing are just some of the ways that a good LMS can support pedagogy in small and large class settings.
Beyond the toolbox, though, the non-negotiable element is robust functionality. During times of peak usage in courses with hundreds or even thousands of participants, system performance factors – security, speed, latency, and stability – are of primary importance.
Learning analytics helps educators to uncover trends and patterns from educational “big data,” with the goal of improving student learning. From initial efforts to identify students having trouble in a course, learning analytics has been refined to the point where it can actually suggest customized or personalized resources to meet learning gaps for specific students to improve and enhance their learning, and to guide institutional decisions on how to provide better support for student learning.
A nimble and ethical approach to this new version of data-driven learning and assessment requires sophisticated ways of collecting, protecting, and analyzing large amounts of data, while still giving the instructor control over what questions should be answered, and how the analysis should proceed. The next generation LMS should include a substantial learning analytics tool that is well integrated with course development, making it possible to collect and enable practical and profitable analysis of the data.