How to Decide on a Learning Management System

The purpose of this project was to create a rubric for other educators to use in order to assist with deciding on a Learning Management System (LMS) with which to use in their organization or classroom context. It is our hope that if you are a teacher or organization deciding on a LMS to use, that this rubric, along with its SECTIONS framework foundation, can assist you with deciding on a LMS that best fits your organization.


Brogan Pratt, Ariana Debreuil, Mike McDowall, Greg Regehr, Sarah Hain & Brian Ham

University of British Columbia


Our Mission  

We want our students to be engaged in a learning platform that showcases their learning journey in authentic, purposeful, and creative ways. Students should also be able to collaborate with others to help deepen their understanding. We believe that if students have a choice in how they share their learning, then they will have increased engagement and therefore deepen their understanding. We also want to allow teachers to give descriptive feedback to their students so that students have a clear understanding of their strengths and next steps as learners. Ultimately, our hope is that we connect our school community to our families so that we are all sharing in the successes, challenges and next steps together.

Criteria

The criteria for a platform that will best meet the needs and goals of our organization are as follows:

·      Student-friendly and teacher-friendly (simple and intuitive for students and teachers to navigate)

·      Communication tool (students, teachers, and parents can communicate)

·      Design and organization is simple and appealing (for K-5)

·      Choice (on how to showcase student learning)

·      Assessment component (ability to provide descriptive feedback for formative assessment, next steps)

·      Compatibility (can use a variety of devices)

·      Sustainable (the platform is regularly updated and serviced)

·      Security (privacy concerns)

 

Our Organization

The organization of focus is a public, inner-city elementary school in British Columbia.  The school has 18 divisions, with 450 students attending. Students come from varied socio-economic circumstances and ethnic backgrounds, including Indigenous, Asian, South-Asian, African, and Caucasian.  There are also a variety of specialized needs within the student population, including English Second Language (ESL) services and students who are on Individual Education Plans (IEP).

Given the mosaic of different experiences within our school, integrating a Learning Management System (LMS) can be hugely beneficial.  We looked at two LMSs that will meet most needs of our organization. The use of Schoology or Google Classroom would highly improve the efficiency of our organization as they would both allow complete control over administration, automisation, and communication with students, educators, and course content management.  All information is centrally located, structured in an organized manner and accessible to all users which will improve overall communication between students, educators, parents, and administration.

 



LMS EXAMPLE REVIEWS


Schoology

Looking at the needs of our organization, we have created an original rubric with input from the SECTIONS model of educational technology decision making. This rubric has been created to evaluate Learning Management Systems within our organizational context.

SCH 1.png
SCH 2.png

Schoology Rationale 

Schoology meets the needs of our organization in a variety of ways. Implementation of Schoology will allow for the creation and use of digital tools such as chat platforms or online forums.  Schoology will also allow the design, personalisation and transfer of assessment reports charting the development of the learners either as a group or individually. With the implementation of Schoology, our school will save time and money doing all of the above when compared to traditional methods. (Blog CAE, Learning Management System, 2019). It is possible to imbed links and content from other sites such as YouTube or Khan Academy, providing opportunities for blended learning. Educators are able to create and publish assignments, use different grading systems (rubrics, numeric, etc.) and create online tests and quizzes. Students can complete lessons at their own pace, use the calendar function to stay organized, and message their teacher for assistance with an assignment. They can also make portfolios to display their learning in a unique way. Biswas (2013) indicates that the “different innovative applications and tools in the Schoology website can facilitate both teachers and students to build a collaborative community of learners and also fulfill the need of current educational goals”   (p. 193). Parents can receive a weekly progress report for their child and can check their child’s account to see what is going on in their classes. Schoology has a familiar and easy to use interface, similar to that of Facebook. As Biswas (2013) summarizes, Schoology “holds a strong potentiality for connecting and collaborating school stakeholders at the same platform” (p. 195).

Schoology has an active support team that consistently updates its platform. There are several limitations however; most notably the lack of offered languages, excluding Mandarin and Korean. The servers are based in New York which makes getting support difficult and may impede the data and privacy regulations of local organizations. As well, currently Schoology does not integrate with MyEdBC, the provincial student information management system. Schoology, like any new software, takes time to learn, but can become a powerful learning tool once all users are acclimatized.


 

Google Classroom

Looking at the needs of our organization, we have created an original rubric with input from the SECTIONS model of educational technology decision making. This rubric has been created to evaluate Learning Management Systems within our organizational context.

CLASSROOM `.png
CLASSROOM 2.png

Google Classroom Rationale

Google Classroom is an intuitive, well integrated system that meets our organizational needs in a variety of ways. After a brief exploration of the interface, learners can easily navigate through the program and its resources. Google Classroom has a clean, modern look that makes newcomers immediately comfortable with the layout. More advanced learners (Grades 3-5) are provided options for more detailed content upload and/or assignment criteria, which benefit both the teacher and student as there are multiple ways to make learning visible. For teachers, there are numerous options to assess student learning through the platform, including automatic grading. The application is also platform-agnostic, being available on every major mobile and computing device. Both the mobile and desktop layouts are visually similar, making transition between devices painless. One of the biggest benefits of Google Classroom is its cloud-based storage system, where students have access to their material anytime and on any device. The affordances of using the Google Suite for Education in regards to collaboration are the best that are currently available. Students can collaborate on assignments in real-time and teachers can watch it happen from any device. For our purposes, Google Classroom meets many of the criteria which are required for our organization. However, there are some areas to keep in mind going forward. First of all, in regards to data storage, we must ensure that Google Classroom meets the standards of the organization's data regulations (Zhang & O’Reilly, 2016). As well, since the layout of Google Classroom can take some getting used to, we need to ensure that students feel confident with their knowledge of the platform before it becomes essential.

 

 

References

Bates, T., 1939. (2015). Teaching in a digital age. BC campus.

Biswas, S. (2013). Schoology-supported classroom management: A curriculum review. Northwest Journal of Teacher Education, 11(2), 12.

Google Classroom. (2019). Retrieved from https://classroom.google.com

Schoology. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.schoology.com/

Zhang, M., & O'Reilly for Higher Education. (2016). Teaching with google classroom: Put google classroom to work while teaching your students and make your life easier (1st ed.) Packt Publishing. 


Reflection

The purpose of this project was to create a rubric for other educators to use in order to assist with deciding on a Learning Management System (LMS) with which to use in their organization or classroom context. It is our hope that if you are a teacher or organization deciding on a LMS to use, that this rubric, along with its SECTIONS framework foundation, can assist you with deciding on a LMS that best fits your organization.

For the purposes of this rubric, we decided to examine Schoology and Google Classroom in the context of an inner-city elementary school located in British Columbia, Canada.

This was a group project involving 5 peers and myself working in collaboration. To collaborate, we used G-Suite’s “google hangouts” as a chat platform. This worked well for the vast majority of our group, however, one group member was left out of our conversation until the final day before our assignment was due. Initially, I had sent out an invitation to each group member 3 weeks prior to our project beginning and all members (sans 1) were able to be a part of the chat and initial project phase. The one project member did not reach out again until one day before the project was due. I still strongly believe in the success of using G-hangouts as a collaborative tool as it assists both with chat functions and with video hangouts. The document creation was done on G-Docs, allowing for real time collaborative work.

Overall, I am pleased with the outcome of our rubric. It allows teachers and organizations to effectively and efficiently decide on an LMS to use. As it follows the SECTIONS model for the decision making process, this rubric allows for the ability for decision makers to consider all interested parties involved in use of a LMS. Often times certain questions get pushed under the rug, disregarded, or were not brought up in the first place. This rubric allows organizations to deeply look into many aspects of the decision making process that they may have not considered in the first place.