Learning Management Systems (LMS) / by Tyler Wood

A learning management system (LMS) is a framework for containing an online or blended learning course. In a nutshell, it is the location where the content is held online. For a more detailed explanation click the button below. 

The question is, however, do we need it? Do teachers and/or administrators need an LMS? Bill Fitzgerald answers the question in the video and I respond below. 

I think Bill Fitzgerald wasn't given enough time to really flush out his ideas for why we don't need an LMS. I agree, that we do not need to have a framework for the content we are using for teaching, as he said, learning has been happening for a long time without it. However, I would say that having an LMS is helpful if you are looking for an easy way to build a curriculum for the 21st Century. 

I find that many people that are critical of new technologies or software like this, are people who are well-versed in technology and struggle to understand what it might be like for teachers that would feel overwhelmed by new technologies. An LMS can help reduce the fear of change for those teachers. The internet and the content available there can make your head spin. Organizing that into some semblance of an online curriculum without having some framework can be daunting. Is it necessary to have an LMS to do it? No, certainly not. But I would argue that it is very helpful for many teachers and administrations. And teachers and administrations tend to be the place where advancements in learning are stuck in the pipeline and not getting to the students. We can unclog the red-tape of change to the design by helping administrations and teachers get on board with something. 

He mentions that Socrates has been teaching for millenia, so that is proof that we don't need an LMS. I think this is a weak argument, although I understand his point. His point is that we will learn anyway, we don't need it. That is true, but the rebuttel to that would be, are we trying to teach at the bare minimum possible level, or are we looking for the best way to deliver content, motivate students, offer quicker, more effective feedback, etc...? I would say, Socrates may be able to teach us still, but is he teaching us the best way possible? No. Probably not. Do his books get on the best seller list? Are philosophy classes full and hard to get into in college, not usually. It works, but so does a chimpanzee teaching his children to use a stick for ant fishing, that does not necessarily mean it is as effective as it can be. 

With that said, I will defend the idea that we do not need an LMS as well. I prefer to have one, but before I started using an LMS, I was building a curriculum that could have just as easily been used online without an LMS. Students can easily jump from one site to another, they do this regularly anyway. There can be a school website with links and programs, a blog, wiki, etc... all linked from a central website and used just as well as an LMS. What that lacks is the convenience of automatic grading, in some case, simplicity, and aesthetic design. Children and parents might not always be very proficient with technology, and an LMS offers a much easier interface in a central location. If we are following the UDL method, we should be considering the children with special needs. Keeping it simple is not just about efficiency for teachers or administrators, but ease of use for special needs students and technologically illiterate students and parents. However, an LMS is not necessary to fulfill all of these requirements for learning. 

Why not both? Much like many ideas we come across, one or the other are not the only two choices. Why not have an LMS (especially if it is a free one) that can be used by teachers that are comfortable with it, and the option to not use it for teachers that would prefer not to, as long as they are both meeting the standards of the school, state, country, etc...? Disregarding one way over the other seems a little myopic. Being open to adaptation would be the best stance to have, since learning and education is in a constant state of flux. We cannot know what will come in the future, but having an open mind to change will mean you will not get caught too off-guard. Many people would have never guessed we would have more computer access in our pockets now than the NSA had 40 years ago in a supercomputer. We should always be willing to try things, reevaluate, and adjust. If it means not using an LMS until it makes more sense, great. If it means using an LMS until you get the confidence to go it alone, great. Either way, the goal is educating the students.