When schools moved to a virtual learning environment in March 2020, most everyone had to quickly adapt to a completely different way of learning.
One of the problems that I discovered in my child’s move to the new environment was that turning in assignments had become more difficult. In the physical world, teachers called for homework assignments and kids turned them in at the end of the class. In the new virtual world, different teachers used different platforms for turning in assignments, parents shared common computer accessories (printers, scanners, copiers, etc.) that interfered with assignment completion, and there were no more physical returns of assignments.
As a new school year begins, my child’s superintendent acknowledged that assignments on multiple platforms was a major issue during the spring semester. The solution to this issue has been the purchase of a new Learning Management System (LMS) to consolidate all aspects of virtual learning under one umbrella: Canvas. I am grateful to all of the staff that gave up their summer to train and update their lesson plans for this major change due to the requirement of distance learning.
What is a Learning Management System (LMS)?
According to Lynda.com’s “Learning Management System (LMS) Quick Tips” course by Aaron Quigley, an LMS is a “digital learning environment to manage all aspects of the learning process.”
Aaron Quigley identifies six key elements to an LMS:
- Communicate objectives
- Organize learning timelines
- Deliver content
- Assess and track learning
- Communicate with learners
- Provide ongoing resources
An LMS is affected by two key players: the instructor and the student. In an educational virtual environment, there is often a third key player: the parent.
Until early March 2020, the LMS provided by my child’s school was great for the physical world: it provided parents with grades, upcoming events, and a way to email teachers. However, it lacked an assignment portal, which is necessary in a virtual environment. Thus, the new LMS, Canvas has been introduced.
Features of an LMS: Canvas
- Helpful tutorials for registration and features
- Courses are listed and can be categorized in different ways (for multiple children, for example) (not on previous LMS)
- Within each course, parents and students can look up assignments, announcements, discussions, and files (latter two items not on previous LMS)
- Recent activity
- Future events
- Calendars (not on previous LMS)
- Assignment details (not on previous LMS)
- Assignment completion (notifications not on previous LMS)
- Assignment submission (not on previous LMS)
- Multiple ways to submit assignments (file, text, code, Google Docs) (not on previous LMS)
- Teacher comments (not on previous LMS)
- Alerts (not on previous LMS)
Other LMS Platforms
“Quick Tips” instructor Aaron Quigley briefly covered a number of other LMS platforms that your child may be using this year:
- Blackboard: Great for schools because of ease of use.
- Edmodo: Created for schools. Looks and works a lot like Facebook.
- Schoology: Recently won an award for design and ease of use.
To learn more about Learning Management Systems, I highly recommend searching Academic Search Complete. There are many articles about the educational effects of COVID-19 and distance learning. Please let me know if you have any questions.
I agree with you wholeheartedly! In upper elementary, middle schools and high schools, another problem became the multiple platforms that kids had to use in order to turn in homework. With Canvas, there is only one platform to learn and one place to check for everything. Lower elementary kids are guided by parents, so one cohesive LMS should help those parents, too.
I would also like to acknowledge that work for teachers also increased exponentially. After such a stressful school year, teachers had to also give up their summers to learn the new LMS. I have an enormous amount of respect for them because they are so creative, flexible, and caring for kids.