1. Central to our investigation of eLearning Technologies and Methods is gaining an understanding of Learning Management Systems (LMS) sometimes also called Course Management System (CMS) software. Chapter 1 of our text discusses the functionality of typical LMS/CMS, identifying four major categories. What are those categories?
Those categories include how information about the course is disseminated, establishing a method of communication between students and between the student and the instructor, ensuring the student is able to interact with course resources, and there must be a mechanism for grading student work and a method for testing.
2. Use the Internet to find three different course management systems. Provide the name, a URL and a brief discussion of what you can find out about the similarities and differences between the three that you find.
Comparison of three learning management systems (LMS)
Moodle – ( http://docs.moodle.org/en/Features) Moodle is a commonly used, free online LMS. It is used by educators and has been popular among my colleagues for a number of years. Moodle allows for bulk course creation, is customizable, provides tools for collaboration and planning for both students and teachers. Moodle also has the ability to be multilingual and allows for easy import of open access courses available online. Moodle offers cloud storage to make file management bigger and easier. It also offers some security options. The interface is relatively clean and the dashboard can be personalized. There are tools for tracking grades, use, and generating statistical reports.
Edmodo – (https://www.edmodo.com/) Edmodo takes an individualistic approach to student learning. It uses social interaction tools to encourage student learning. Edmodo has password restrictions that ensure student and teacher privacy when collaborating in the classroom environment offered by Edmodo. There was less information available on this tool than on Moodle or Blackboard. The company appears to see itself as contributing to or augmenting student learning by using social networking tools and educational applications to enhance the classroom experience.
Blackboard – (www.blackboard.com) A fee-based system Blackboard is used in many universities. It has a number of tools to support synchronous and asynchronous instruction. Blackboard has a good user support system. It provides a great deal of storage for the instructor. It has tools for grading, developing reports, class discussion, and, with collaborate, even a mechanism for face- to-face instruction in the classroom. It is a complicated system that many instructors dislike, but with instructor training it is functional.
3. If you were going to create an online class right now, what LMS/CMS software would you use? Explain what you know about your system’s functionality in each of the four areas identified by the book. (If you don’t have access to LMS/CMS software just use Blackboard for your discussion in this area.)
In designing an online class, I would most likely use Blackboard because that is the LMS provided by my institution and because there is significant support offered by university staff. Blackboard does allow information to be presented to the student within the LMS. It is also possible to link to personal website’s within Blackboard. I have always found the first page of Blackboard to be unattractive and annoying. It is important for the instructor to clearly organize the table of contents side so that the student does not get lost and confused. Blackboard is perfectly capable of making information available to students, but it is important that the instructor find good ways to organize the information, to use the Blackboard tools that are applicable to the class, and to hide the tools that will prove distracting to students.
In Blackboard there are tools for collaboration. Discussion boards, private chat sessions with the instructor and virtual classroom tools like Collaborate allow for interaction between students and between teacher and student. There should be a better method for students to talk privately with each other within Blackboard. Currently, to the best of my knowledge, all student communication can be seen by instructors which could keep students from asking questions for fear their instructor will be unhappy with them for not already knowing the answer.
Students are able to interact with resources. Problems can arise when the class is not well organized. If an important resource is located in a unlikely place, students may have difficulty. This problem could be solved by allowing keyword searching through the Blackboard course.
Blackboard does offer tools for online testing and grading. I have found them less helpful than I would like as the tests are necessarily limited to what the LMS can handle in terms of grading. Short essay answers don’t work well in the grading function. The teacher has to accommodate the system. This has improved and will likely continue to improve.
3. Chapter 1 of our text identifies six steps for getting started with eLearning. Discuss each step and use each step as a springboard for discussing what you want to do with eLearning either now or in the future.
The first question is why use e-learning. I work with commuter students who have very little time to attend class. I want to make it as easy as possible for them to become educated about research methods and information literacy.
In terms of making a commitment , I have attended a number of classes and trainings on how to teach online classes. I have learned a great deal, but I know, especially in light of ever-changing technology, that I still have a lot to learn.
My vision of online teaching changes with each online class I take. I learn what I like, and what I don’t like as a student.
I am fortunate to have technical staff to help me with developing my courses. I also like to survey students as to what they like and don’t like about the classes that I teach.
I continue to work on developing my technological skills.
Planning is the biggest issue as it is a big factor in student success.
4. Chapter 4 of our text discusses the functionality of specific LMS/CMS tools in terms of being for one-way communication, two-way communication or for organization. Explain the key differences between one-way and two-way communication.
One way communication is when the students or the instructor are sent information with no expectation of a reply. It does not require interaction. Two- way communication is more collaborative because it allows a dialogue to take place between two or more people.
5. Identify the primary tools your LMS/CMS provides for one-way communication. Briefly describe a method that would make use of the most important tool from your list.
The syllabus or schedule tabs are forms of one way communication. They are intended to inform the students. Questions may be asked, but it should not be a requirement.
6. Identify the primary tools your LMS/CMS provides for two-way communication. Briefly describe a method that would make use of the most important tool from your list.
The easiest tool is the ability to provide assignments through Blackboard that are then completed by students with the opportunity for questions. Instructors may also encourage discussion on the discussion board or through email.
7. Consider how a CMS/LMS supports the three types of interaction (Student-Content, Student-Instructor, Student-Student) that were discussed in the first session 1 presentation. Using the list of tools you created in items 5 and 6, identify the best or most important tool for each type of interaction, explain what you know about the strengths and weaknesses of each tool to support the type of interaction you identify for it.
The most important tool for student-text interaction in BB is the ability to provide video and text-based resources for students to use in studying and in completing assignments. I like Collaborate a lot for student-teacher interaction. Being able to see the teacher’s voice and listen to a lecture really does help quite a bit. I really prefer blogs outside of BB for student-student interaction. I think the content tends to be more fully developed than posts on the discussion board. The discussion board can also be a good resource though to encourage student interaction.