How Software Can Transform Online Learning

Technology has drastically changed the world of work over the last two decades, but the educational world has, for the most part, been relatively slow to adapt. 

That’s all beginning to shift thanks to the introduction of learning management systems (LMSs). These tools have made moving toward online learning much simpler, creating a more connected and accessible experience for students in any location. 

Most educational institutions use learning management systems that are specifically formulated for academia with features that aid in a classroom setting for both in-person and virtual learning. Students can access learning material, assignments, and grades within the LMS, while instructors can add any important information or send communication.

Types of learning management systems

Every LMS looks different, even if they have many of the same features. They’re typically broken down into one of four types based on audience or how they’re hosted.

  • Corporate. Corporations also use LMSs to train employees during onboarding for company policies and ongoing human resources (HR) updates like diversity and inclusion or harassment training.
  • Academics. Educational LMSs provide training for students at schools, colleges, or universities. They’re typically organized within the platform by quarter or semester to make it easier for students to see which classes they’re taking and the associated learning materials.
  • Cloud-based. In a cloud-based LMS, training materials are hosted by a third party provider rather than the corporation or institution using the training data. This helps with scalability and ongoing maintenance needs, which the third party handles.
  • Hosted. Self-hosted LMSs are installed on institution-owned servers, making the school or college responsible for ongoing updates. There’s some risk here if the software is temporarily offline, as students and educators won’t be able to access their materials.

$370 billion

is the forecasted value of the global eLearning market by 2026.

Source: Statista

Core components of an educational LMS

The main features of an LMS are accessible for almost all users, but there are some specific options only available to admins or instructors, while others are accessible to students. Below are some examples of how these features are segmented by user role.

The user interface

Most accessible m features relate to course content and the ability to interact with students and instructors. Users log in to the LMS to visit their dashboards where they can see all of their classes for that semester or quarter.

From there, students can navigate the user interface to individual classes and see features like:

  • Virtual classrooms
  • Contact directory of enrolled classmates and instructors
  • Digital whiteboards
  • Forums and discussion boards
  • Assignment instruction and submission folders
  • Course documentation
  • Grades
  • Surveys and polls 
  • Gamification features like points and leaderboards

The dashboard may also have features like a calendar that integrates data from multiple courses, an inbox for private messaging with instructors, and account information where the student can update their contact details. 

The admin interface

On the administrative side of the LMS, instructors should have access to the same features that students have, in addition to admin-specific functionality for assistance with course management.

Some of the extra features that instructors and institutional administrators can see in the LMS may include:

  • Course reporting for attendance and assignment submission
  • Editable assessment and grading systems
  • Scheduling tools for meetings and one-on-one check-ins
  • File uploads that can only be edited by an admin

Benefits of LMS training

For many educators, LMS training is an integral part of the modern learning experience. that These platforms bring plenty of benefits to students and instructors.

Organized eLearning environment

Having all course documentation in one place makes it much easier to find files and assignments. There’s no more excuses from students that they couldn’t find a link in an email, or they weren’t able to submit an assignment because their printer stopped working.

Instead, everyone has access to the same information in one centralized location. Students have unlimited access to training materials and courses can be taken

 over and over again, creating less work for instructors when rolling out programs each semester. Many tasks can also be automated once documentation is added to the system, which frees up even more time for teaching staff.

Progress tracking for improved student outcomes

Keeping track of how each student in the class is doing can now happen in real time with an LMS. If assignments are late or missing, the LMS provides a digital footprint for this information. The same is true for attendance in live classes – a manual register no longer needs to be taken if instructors can see who’s logged in via their LMS account.

Admins and students can now automatically generate performance reports to keep tabs on grades and progress throughout the semester. This makes it easier for instructors to address concerns about struggling students as soon as they notice a problem. This can greatly improve students’ chances to make corrections for a successful outcome at the end of the course.

Reduced learning costs

Travel, parking, printed materials and textbooks, even heating and air conditioning costs can all be eliminated, or at least significantly reduced, in online learning environments. Both instructors and students can access their classes at any time so additional funding is freed up for other initiatives like campus improvements or hiring new staff.

Assured industry compliance

Educational compliance rules change often, especially as they relate to digital data and technology. Using an LMS means admins can update training materials to remain within compliance quickly and easily. This helps educational institutions avoid costly penalties if they’re ever noncompliant.

Scalability options with asynchronous learning

Professors obviously can’t be in two places at once to teach two completely different groups of students at the same time. Or can they?

When instructors create course materials that students can use at any time, there’s more opportunity to create additional classes. Pre-recorded class videos and accompanying assignments can be uploaded into the LMS. Removing the need for in-person or live classes means that instructors can now teach an endless number of students at any time.

Top LMS platforms

A good LMS platform should provide instructors with a single piece of software that makes online learning accessible to any student, while optimizing the educational experience.

To be included in the learning management systems category, platforms must:

  • Provide a way for educators to deliver online course content to students 
  • Distribute assignments to students and allow instructors to grade student work 
  • Administer digital assessments to students 
  • Facilitate individualized feedback on student work, as with written comments or grading rubrics 
  • Generate performance dashboards for tracking student progress 
  • Contain gradebook functionality or integrate with third-party gradebooks

* Below are the top 5 leading learning management system platforms from G2’s Winter 2024 Grid® Report. Some reviews may be edited for clarity. 

1. Google Classroom

Google Classroom is a Google Apps for Education tool that allows teachers to create virtual classrooms. Features include assignment scheduling, quizzes and tests, feedback, and direct communication within the platform.

What users like best:

“I’ve been using Google Classroom since the pandemic. What I like about Google Classroom is the interface. When I enroll in a subject, it automatically appears in the application. It is really a student-friendly platform.”

Google Classroom Review, Pangilinan E.

What users dislike:

“I dislike that if I create an assignment and post it to one classroom I can’t go back and repost it easily to another class.”

Google Classroom Review, Mary Beth B.

2. Canvas LMS

Canvas is a cloud-based learning management system that you can tailor to any size and type of education institution, from K-12 to universities and colleges.

What users like best:

“Canvas is a robust LMS that our students in Grades 6 through 12 use on a daily basis. The ability for Canvas to pass grades back to our Student Information System and use Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) plugin to connect to other products, such as EdPuzzle and our curriculum online textbooks, makes it an invaluable tool for our educators.”

Canvas Review, Mandy L.

What users dislike:

“There is a learning curve. I had to watch some videos to learn about a lot of the different features since I didn’t have anyone to specifically teach me, so it can be overwhelming at times. You definitely have to put the work in to learn the basic functions, which some people are not willing to do.”

Canvas Review, Jessica D.

3. D2L Brightspace

D2L Brightspace provides a flexible learning platform that can be personalized based on the institution or company’s needs. From schools and universities to corporations and nonprofits, the platform comes with training capabilities that simplify educational management.

What users like best:

“It makes online teaching convenient and fun. I liked that it offers useful functions and shows documentation on how to use it and it is all very well organized. It’s also great to be able to evaluate notes with ease of access.”

D2L Brightspace Review, Lola R.

What users dislike:

“Many of the tools that D2L Brightspace offers, such as the accessibility checker, can be difficult to find, especially for faculty who are learning how to use it. Incorporating different grading systems (points-based vs weight-based) is not as easy as it should be.”

D2L Brightspace Review, Ryan K.

4. Docebo

An enterprise-level learning management system, Docebo helps both businesses and educational institutions provide a simple and refined approach to training. Features include course management, enrollee reporting, communication systems, and learning progress tracking.

What users like best:

“I use Docebo Learn on a daily basis and I find it to be an intuitive LMS, easy to learn and manage while still being very customizable.There are various plugins and additions that complement the wide variety of options already included in the tool to implement with your organization’s suite.The support structure is excellent with an easy-to-reach help desk. Our direct customer contact is always easily available.”

Docebo Review, Graeme E.

What users dislike:

“While they are working hard to introduce new features and functionalities, there are some that the platform lacks that I know clients have been requesting for a while, such as users being able to download their own training records.”

Docebo Review, Annarose P.

5. 360Learning

360Learning is an LMS platform that assists collaborative learning for both corporations and educational facilities.

What users like best:

“The ease of creating training content with varied pedagogical methods, the ability to engage learners effectively, the ergonomics and aesthetics of the tool, coupled with efficient statistical tracking.”

360Learning Review, Anthony M.

What users dislike:

“At times finding answers in the knowledge base is challenging if you don’t phrase searches the way 360 does.”

360Learning Review, Cathy B.

Time to put your thinking caps on!

By investing in LMS training, your instructors gain time to dedicate to their students and their unique experiences within the courses they teach. Thanks to the simple approach these platforms bring, it’s no wonder that instructors and students love the freedom and flexibility of an LMS.

Learn more about how the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we think about online learning and how LMS software made it all possible.

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