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Video & Tips

4 Learning Management System Design Tips For Better eLearning

What makes a good Learning Management System?

Creating a custom system can be a daunting task, and without the right planning, a simple project can turn into a big headache. Having helped a number of schools design and build custom systems, here are the four things I recommend considering when designing or adopting a Learning Management System.

4 Learning Management System Design Tips For Better eLearning

1. Focus on data–for both instructors and students 

We’re obsessed with data these days, and for good reason: it’s relatively easy to get if you know what you’re looking for. While you won’t be able to identify everything that’s useful upfront, take a step back, and evaluate what you’d hope to learn. Come up with a list of the information you need and a list of things you’d like to have. For example, do you need to know the average test score for students in History? What about attendance rates during the month of December?

Knowing what you’re looking for upfront helps you determine what specific information you’ll need to capture from your users.

2. Design for usability–make it ‘pleasurable’ to use

Once you know what you need users to tell you, you should make it easy for them to do so. Design each component of your LMS with usability in mind. Create a hierarchy of actions you need users to take, ranking them in order from essential to nonessential, and use prominent buttons, obvious links, and clean copy to direct people to them.

Also, take advantage of what’s out there. Things like social logins, video streaming, shared calendars, message boards, and forms are all commonplace on the web, and users know immediately what to do with them. Take inspiration from Google, Facebook, Microsoft Word, and others to learn the common themes of web interfaces and copy them. Your users will thank you.

For a great reference on designing easy-to-use interfaces, I recommend Stephen Krug’s book “Don’t Make Me Think.”

3. Plan for mobile from the very beginning

As of 2020, there are more than 14 billion mobile devices in use worldwide, a number that’s expected to grow to nearly 17 billion by 2023.

Further, more than half of all web traffic is mobile–which means that the likelihood that students, parents, faculty, and staff will need to use the LMS on a mobile device is relatively high. To optimize their experience, adopt a mobile-first design approach. Rather than building a full, standard website and then cutting features or scaling back functionality for a mobile version, start by focusing solely on how your LMS looks and works on mobile.

Ask yourself, what are the core tasks teachers, students, parents, administrators need to perform? What information and tasks need to be accessible at all times? How does information look on small screens? How do you interact with information?

It’s always easier to layer complexity for a desktop experience, but designing for mobile-first ensures a seamless experience for users—wherever they are.

4. Design curriculum and instruction with the strengths of your specific LMS in mind

Every platform is different and no single approach to LMS creation is perfect. Some work well as assessment software while others handle video better. Some or visual while others load quickly, are text-based, and use frequent lesson and page loading to move the student through material.

Whatever your approach, design what and how the students learn in cooperation with the strengths and abilities of the LMS rather than designing digital lessons and units and then shoe-horning them into whatever the LMS is able to do.

While the options for customization can be exciting, taking the time to consider these four things will help you build the system that meets your needs so that you can focus on the thing that matters most—providing a great education to students.

Categories
HR and L&D

The Importance Of Intrinsic Motivation for Students

What motivates students?

And further, what motivates them to be engaged at school to master the objective you’ve chosen for them?

The answers here vary dramatically and can have a huge impact on each and every student.

Let’s start with the obvious line of answers. “Everyone goes to school,” or “everyone needs an education in this day and age.” Though there is a certain amount of truth to these cliched responses. But if one of these “‘cuz everyone does it” answers is the best reason a young person can present for attending school, it’s no wonder these same kids do not engage and simply do school because school is the done thing.

Senior students often invoke the mantra “I have to do well at school in order to get into university” when asked about reasons for attending and doing well. This can be a genuine motivational factor, especially in families where the expectation is academic and career success. But is this the answer we really want when we pose that question?  Doing well simply to get to the next level is fine when playing video games, but it hardly seems inspirational as an educational goal for a secondary school student.

There are myriad other reasons students give for attending school, all of them valid. As with any question around motivation, answers to this question can be divided into two categories: intrinsic reasons for attending school and extrinsic reasons. Anyone who’s read Dan Pink’s book ‘Drive’ or viewed the related TED Talk, understands that extrinsic and intrinsic motivations are not equal.

Prevalent assessment practices are the most obvious example of how we rely too heavily on extrinsic motivators. As long as we evaluate more than we assess–and as long as we provide grades more often than we provide feedback–student motivation will come from the collection of this ‘currency’ that we call marks. Those richest in this currency will be afforded the best opportunities come to the end of high school, an unfortunate fact. The students we label ‘mark sharks’ are simply the ones who have truly taken to heart our message that good grades (i.e. extrinsic rewards), as opposed to quality learning, are the primary goal of our educational systems.

Extrinsic motivators don’t get students truly engaged in their learning, they make school analogous to a job–something that has to be done. If we want our systems to be as strong as they can possibly be we need to explicitly foster an intrinsic motivation in each of our students.

Only students who are intrinsically motivated to be engaged in school will end up truly challenged, enriched, energized, and ultimately fulfilled by their experience. Yes, it’s an ideal–but it’s worth keeping in mind.

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Business

Creating Students Who Solve Problems

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The next time you are teaching a lesson, count how many questions students are asked.

When students are herded and corralled into the narrow chute of standardized testing, they are so heavily indoctrinated with fear of failure that only a fool would dare venture off the beaten path. We are, after all, talking about young people, and can hardly expect them to rebel against it (considering this may make you rethink those students who actually do). The consequences of straying are so fierce: the promise of no job; the shame of failure; the ire of the school. It is no wonder then that students are afraid to take risks and think for themselves, and why inevitably so many unnecessary questions are asked.

To add insult to injury, when governments decide in their wisdom that the solution to ensuring progress in education is to standardize testing even more, they force schools to constrict curricula further. They reduce the opportunities to explore creativity in subjects. They trim a course down to its quantitative shell, and by doing so reduce a student’s opportunities to develop problem-solving strategies. Essentially, they force schools to produce hydroponic students.

Teaching Students In Authentic Contexts

Whilst using hydroponics to grow fruit and vegetables seems like the golden ticket to solving the world’s food problems, the method, while yielding ostensibly larger and faster produce, is significantly flawed in three ways: first, the final product lacks real nutrient and substance, and ultimately taste.

Secondly, the plant itself grows in a very unnatural and toxic state, absorbing inordinate quantities of chemicals and pesticides to control it at every turn, which must affect its overall enjoyment in growing, and thirdly, once the plant is gone and the process is over, it leaves no positive legacy – in fact, it depletes the ground around it. When students are taught in unnatural conditions, with the sole purpose of producing quantifiable results, they too suffer in three similar ways:

First, when they finish their education with a whole lot of credentials, (if they have managed to get through the system), they may lack any real depth of knowledge and any ability to problem solve. This is because the learning has been too shallow, only concentrating on aspects of a course that need to be learned for standardized testing. Like the roots of the hydroponic plant, the brain’s synapses aren’t encouraged to expand and strengthen because there isn’t any opportunity or need to do so. The more prescriptive the learning, the less chance the student has to wander off the path, and get dirty, and find solutions to get out of the mud. Necessity is the mother of invention, but when students aren’t ever given such chances, they lose the capacity to think on their feet, and eventually, to think for themselves in most situations.

Secondly, if students are encased day after day in the confines of the school building, seated for extraordinary long periods of time in rows of desks, and ushered from class to lunch to class under the strict timings of bells, the process of distancing the young from their natural condition is well underway. If students are doused with pointless and irrelevant information disguised as learning, it is obvious that they won’t enjoy school.  

Teaching Curiosity

Even well-meaning teachers can fall foul to the system, themselves operating in fear of not covering the required territory. In fact, it’s an impossible feat to teach the amount of stipulated material of most subjects to any level of depth to the average class. To curb the natural inclination of students to disengage in such a learning context, schools superficially inoculate their students with countless tirades, warning against disengagement and punishing culprits in attempts to quell it. It is no wonder that students can feel that their paths in learning and growth have become stifled and one-directional and oppressed. It is no wonder they rarely if ever connect learning with happiness.

Thirdly, because of the shallowness of the learning required for standardized tests, and the lack of base in the knowledge creation, the transference of the learning into new contexts is limited. The process yields little reward after the examination period, and does little to sustain the learner, or indeed the community around him or her. The student raised in the hothouse of standardized testing struggles to think outside the box, to solve new problems and ultimately flourish and contribute to a rapidly changing 21st century world.

The emerging adult is certainly not going to bud and inspire the next generation, but instead depend upon and drain the world around it to keep it alive.