Alert message

All library buildings remain closed. Visit an outdoor Express Pickup location when your holds are ready - appointments are available but not required.

Learning in a Virtual World: Learning Management Systems

Submitted by Ila Langner on Wed, 08/19/2020 - 10:00 PM
Three pictures of people in shadow over the word “learning.”

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’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
  • Grades
  • Email
  • 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.

Blog Category
Adult Nonfiction


Submitted by Jo-Ann Wang on Thu, 08/20/2020 - 2:37 PM


Your Comment
Yes. My child is now using Canvas. Thanks for giving me more of a perspective on the different products out there and what it is. Last year, my child was taking pictures of his homework, page by page, and uploading it, and sending it to his teacher by email. I found that ludicrous. I am so glad that there is this software that will now expedite this. I can not imagine what it is like to be a teacher and receiving so many homework assignments by email!

Submitted by Ila on Fri, 08/21/2020 - 9:46 AM

In reply to by Jo-Ann Wang


Your Comment
Hi Jo-Ann,
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.

Add new comment

Comments are expected to follow the basic rules of civility and be relevant to the topic being commented upon. Comments will be reviewed prior to posting. Blog comments represent the views of the person commenting, not necessarily those of San José Public Library. For more information see SJPL's Comment Guidelines.