We’ve asked education experts about learning management systems in their organisations, how they benefit their students and if they see any disadvantages or problems in using them. As the replies we received were numerous, we’ll be posting a four-part series of articles, where education experts give their opinion on learning management systems. This is the first part of that series.
The first opinion comes from Donna Lubrano at the Northeastern University in Boston:
Learning Management Systems are fantastic tools for the instructor as well as the students. For the professor it provides a repository for all the learning materials to be used for the course, a systematic approach to the course development, and learning tools to make multimedia presentations, such as podcasts, videos exams and quizzes.
The classroom is a new entity where the majority of learning comes from the students preparation for the physical classroom experience. The LMS provides the delivery of those tools that can be used outside of the classroom in preparation. It allows the professor to curate the material and provide his/her perspective on the subject/material. This is especially helpful for remote learning, hybrid and full online learning environments.
For the student it’s fantastic. They have a clear path to the material and a dynamic learning environment using many of the mediums which are part of their everyday experience. Listening to podcasts and viewing videos can be done on their smartphones while traveling or even in a coffee shop.
The multimedia nature of the tools and resources accommodates the many different types of learners and provides an opportunity to even have some fun with tools such as Quizlet to take quizzes, research tools and other materials.
Learning is no longer confined to the classroom; Harvard Professor, Eric Mazur and his concept of Peer Instruction and the flipped classroom support this idea for course management software. It has helped re-engineer the instructor’s role from “sage on stage” (not my words!) to “guide on the side”. The LMS helps the professor “curate” the material for the student to help guide them through the subject. In the curation the student gets to understand the professor’s perspective as well.
A notable disadvantage is that the student has to be technically savvy, have reliable internet access and a computer, iPad, or phone. Without those tools they cannot do the work. So in lower-income areas or schools, these tools may not be readily available to all students and will put them at a disadvantage in regards to other students.
For older students, especially those who are returning to school via online programs, learning the LMS toolset can be a barrier in and of itself. Especially if they are exclusively online and may need in-person help to learn the systems. Professors need to set clear office hours to help students over some of those barriers and to provide alternatives for students who don’t have reliable access to computers and the internet. This can be done with more flexible deadlines and options to hand in homework the old-fashioned way, via paper.
The benefit to the student is tremendous; it is 24 hours a day access to the classroom requirements; especially for those students who work to pay for their education – it allows them to work on their reading and assignments, before or after work. Because learning is a very collaborative environment, the LMS has incredible collaboration tools that don’t require students to be in the same room together. A classroom in Dubai can work on a project with a classroom in US using tools like video conferencing etc. These tools are game changers and continue to change the role of the professor and the way classrooms are designed.
Donna Lubrano is an adjunct faculty with a Master’s degree in International Business from Boston University. She has experience in a broad range of commercial endeavors including, health and fitness, international education, event and conference planning, healthcare, and corporate training. She has worked with students from around the globe, in Leadership and Entrepreneurship. She is a frequent contributor to on-line articles, is a business mentor to small businesses and start-ups. She is currently working on an international virtual student exchange program that would allow students who cannot travel abroad to work on business projects with students from international classrooms.