Contention: in this day and age every teacher or class ought to have a website with basic information for the students in the course (or their parents). I agree, and much more.
I have experience with several commercial built applications, particularly Blackboard as well as various solutions developed in-house by schools.
Course management systems are one response to that contention. They typically have a range of features from the basics of delivering documents to students in courses, to allocating grades, tracking user data such as which students have gone to which parts of the site, discussion forums, email whole classes, blogs, video and audio conferencing as well as much more. The features I think are essential in a contemporary learning system are:
- Targeted delivery of documents, including audio and video, to classes and individuals.
- A class home page or announcement page which is graphically attractive, easy to update and acccessible by fixed url
- Email to class, multiple classes, or individuals
- Live chat facility
- Video conferencing facility
- Data tracking of student usage of the system
- Allocating grades to piece of work as well as the ability to generate rubrics and assessment criteria common to all, or unique to tasks.
- Discussion forums
- Folders for sections or course components, which can be re-used, or archived.
- Class blogs for students and teachers
- Wiki facility for students and teachers
- Survey tools, for quick and easy one-off questions or more sophisticated data analysis such as student feedback on course effectiveness
- RSS feed capacity
Course Management Systems
Blackboard is expensive and corporate, but has some good features too. It is reliable and scaleable and while it is pretty plain (you could say ugly) it can be prettied up with a bit of hmtl knowledge. Blackboard is over ten years old now, and some say it shows but it has recently merged with WebCT and is still growing.
Moodle is a more radical and revolutionary idea; a free open-source alternative to things like Blackboard. I’ve seen it working, but haven’t used it. They describe it as:
a course management system designed to help educators who want to create quality online courses. The software is used all over the world by universities, schools, companies and independent teachers. Moodle is open source and completely free to use.
It’s a linux based solution, which sits on a school server and so lacks the flexibility of some solutions, but has enormous possibilities.
I’ve just started looking at this; though it’s dubious whether it qualifies a genuine online learning system, more a staff portal and collaboration tool produced by Microsoft that sits on to of Exchange somehow. I know that some schools are heading in this direction, and it can be customised by the school, but it’s not purpose built for learning.
LAMS is a revolutionary new tool for designing, managing and delivering online collaborative learning activities. It provides teachers with a highly intuitive visual authoring environment for creating sequences of learning activities. These activities can include a range of individual tasks, small group work and whole class activities based on both content and collaboration.
Don’t know much about this, but they say,
Designed by educators for educators, Digication brings teachers and students together in a seamless learning environment. Easy to master. Simple to use. With all the connectivity, file sharing and e-Portfolio tools educators and students want.
It certainly looks very web 2.0 (ish) with perhaps the best featured electronic portfolio approach I’ve seen yet.
I want to like Studywiz. It’s bright and beautiful and full of web 2.0 nomenclature. It’s also Australian and pushing its work into UK schools particularly. I hear mixed reports from those who are actually using it, and I don’t think it handles assessment particularly well, but it’s the prettiest.
A Queensland based product that originated at MLC in Melbourne.
A Canadian based product that has class based and course based features.
They say: The Knowledge Community Solution Framework is far more than a school Intranet or portal, it is a series of online enterprise tools built “with” schools to complete many functions in the education environment including, but beyond education.
Not to be confused with Blackboard (although you might have thought they might have thought of that) Perhaps more an admin back-end for a school than an LMS, it does nevertheless have a pretty full set of features. They say: Today’s independent, religious, and charter schools need to manage a wider variety of student information than ever before, while preserving the unique identity that gives them a competitive edge. That’s why the smartest schools depend on Blackbaud solutions for their school administration, fundraising, and financial management.