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Instructional Design

Should Every College Use a Learning Management System?

Learning management systems are invading higher education. Should colleges continue to jump on the bandwagon?

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By Scott Winstead

colleges use lms

A lot of my peers like to debate the necessity of Learning Management Systems (LMS) in modern colleges. Here’s what we know — recent data shows that 85% of faculty members use an LMS, with 56% utilizing it daily, and 74% acknowledging its role in enhancing teaching. Among students, 83% engage with an LMS, and more than half report using it in most or all of their courses.

As someone with nearly two decades in instructional design, these stats paint a vivid picture of how deeply integrated LMS has become in the fabric of contemporary education.

Below, I’m going to explore this topic from a balanced and experienced perspective. I’ll talk all about the pros and cons, examining how colleges functioned before the digital era and whether LMS adoption is now a critical component in education.

Objectives are key

A key part of any eLearning implementation plan is having a clear objective.

What are your goals for using an LMS? Managing syllabus and homework? Blended learning? Pure online learning? Answer these questions honestly and you’ll probably know if an  LMS is a good fit for your needs.

Some might argue expense is a critical factor to consider. Well, it’s not. It’s all about creating an ecosystem accepted by teachers, students, administration, technical staff and other stakeholders. Everyone is supposed to use the LMS as a lifestyle or at least as a feasible convention.

Apparently, higher education faculty will be more inclined to try online courses or blended learning when they do have an LMS in place. Is it a cure-all? Probably not. The question is, how much are the teachers willing to delegate to technology? Needless to say, every college has its opinion-makers, so there is hardly a comprehensive solution for the entire field.

Good for simple assessments, good for big institutions

eLearning is a fantastic tool, but like anything, it has its limitations. Take assessments, for example. In my years of designing eLearning courses, I’ve noticed they often rely heavily on multiple-choice questions, missing out on the diverse testing techniques we use in traditional classrooms. You’re often left with a choice: settle for this standard format or invest in costly customizations to tailor the experience.

Combining LMS-based courses with in-person sessions, however, strikes a balance that’s both efficient and cost-effective. It’s a blend I’ve seen work wonders in terms of enhancing learning outcomes.

Speaking of cost-effectiveness, it’s crucial for an LMS to onboard a sufficient number of users to make the investment worthwhile. This is especially true in larger institutions, where the administrative workload can increase significantly. It’s not just about setting up the system, it involves integrating it with existing databases, updating student IDs, and keeping track of new enrollments and dropouts.

From an organizational standpoint, this can be quite a task. Each college needs to weigh whether the benefits of an LMS justify this effort. In my experience, while some institutions find it a valuable addition, others may opt for different approaches. It’s a decision that requires careful consideration of both the educational and administrative aspects.

Need authoring, performance, and attendance tracking? Get an LMS

A learning management system includes three core features:

  • Online course delivery
  • Tracking of students’ individual accomplishments
  • Attendance tracking, course popularity evaluation.

So, basically, it all boils down to three key benefits:

  • Convenient publishing and management of e-Learning materials, live interaction between students and educators
  • Granular statistics on performance and instant feedback
  • Running a college with minimal administrative overhead and bureaucracy.

That’s roughly the main idea and the essence of the subject. Is your college ready to jump on the bandwagon? Three checks out of three mean it might be on the right track.

Great option for tech-savvy schools

LMSs support teachers in managing tasks, creating engaging courses, implementing gamification elements, and much more.

However, as with any sophisticated solution, it needs constant professional care. A weak technological infrastructure may be an unsurpassable barrier for introducing a learning management system. Another looming danger is students’ attitude. Even in higher education, teachers still need to disassociate computers and web-based courses with pure entertainment.

Final Thoughts

The decision to implement an LMS in a college setting is multifaceted, balancing educational benefits with logistical considerations. From my years as an instructional designer, I’ve seen how eLearning, particularly when integrated with traditional classroom methods, can really enhance the learning experience. But it’s still important to acknowledge the challenges, especially in terms of the administrative effort and cost involved in adopting and maintaining an LMS.

Each institution must weigh these factors against its specific needs and capabilities. While an LMS can offer streamlined, scalable, and diverse learning opportunities, it also demands a substantial commitment to setup and ongoing management.

As we move forward in the ever-evolving landscape of education, it’s crucial for colleges to continually assess and adapt their teaching methods to best serve their students. Whether an LMS is part of that equation will depend on a variety of factors, unique to each educational environment.

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