When I was in college (which only three years ago) using an LMS wasn't really a "thing." The first iPad was released in 2010, and by then most of us hadn't experienced on-the-go or online learning, and we were dead set on keeping it "retro" — AKA using paper and face-to-face communications.
But a recent interview between Ted Parker, Director of Literacy and Innovation at King Low Heywood Thomas in Stamford CT and a student, made it clear that an LMS is an extremely beneficial educational tool (and many of us really missed out).
Ted's interview with the KLHT student made four things about an LMS clear.
1. It knocks down barriers for students.
This includes technological barriers, communication barriers, and geographical barriers. Today, students want immediate gratification. They want to be able to check grades from their phone, upload a homework assignment from their tablet, or check to see if a teacher has answered their message. And on top of that, they want their learning tools to work well with the tools they're used to — like Google Apps for Education, and their smartphones and tablets.
When you you get rid of barriers, you get of little things that are a pain," said the student.
"And all of a sudden it's, 'hey, I can get do this thing I couldn't before,' and 'oh, I can collaborate with my peers.' Group projects. Group essays."
"Moving forward, we're going to be looking for a lot of ways to remove barriers and making things feel a lot more interconnected, so that we can continue to take advantage of unique possibilities that Internet-based services present to us," said Ted Parker.
One of these possibilities students at KLHT are able to take advantage of is distance learning. So, if a student is sick for an extended period of time, has an injury, or has numerous athletics-based dismissals, they won't feel as though they are behind and can continue to collaborate with classmates and submit assignments on time.
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2. It creates transparency — and that's good for everyone.
For every student who feels upset that the dog ate my homework is no longer a valid excuse, there's a dozen more who love the accountability and transparency on both ends of the spectrum.
"Finalsite has been really great for the school," said the student. I think that it's really amazing that what your teachers expect of you, assignment wise, is so transparent on Finalsite's LMS," said the student. "I can see, 'here's what I need to do this week.' And while it doesn't take the pressure off, it does take away some of the uncertainties over what exactly am I up to right now."
Similarly, teachers are held accountable to respond to students in the private messenger, post updates, and graded assignments in a timely fashion so everyone is held accountable and knows exactly what is going on in the classroom.
3. Online classrooms offer flexibility.
An LMS doesn't just knock down barriers, but it creates new possibilities that weren't even an option before. So when schools are hit with a series of bad weather (like the Northeast was this year), lessons can be continued online to avoid cancelling class altogether.
"There's also a lot within the Finalsite LMS," said Ted. "The blog feature and the discussions feature provide some neat little opportunities for having conversations outside of the classroom."
"For instance: we had a snow day and I put up a discussion board in my class," said Ted. "And so, rather than being behind in the curriculum — I'm not going to say that the online discussion board achieves exactly what the in-class discussion does — but it gets a lot of the same thinking going. It also sort of takes the pressure off. In class, its sort of like, 'Hey, what are you thinking now?'"
4. Online classrooms are great for the students too shy to shine.
Every year, time and time again, the number one fear of Americans is public speaking. (Yes, it really comes before bugs, drowning, ghosts — you name it). An LMS addresses that extremely common fear at a time when it is at its peak by allowing students to contribute to conversations online, where there is less pressure.
"Online prompts allow anyone — no matter how shy— if it's a written discussion prompt you, as a student, have time to reflect and be your best self, pull together you most coherent thought. So the level of dialogue in those kinds of online discussions can be a lot better," said Ted.
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