Learning management systems
With the move to blended learning, it's useful to have a central online 'home' for every course. This will provide a single point of access to all the online communication, resources and activities. Most educational organisations have one or more such systems that they support. Although there are benefits from using a variety of systems, a major advantage of a single standardised system is that staff and students don't need to learn how to use different systems.
A Learning management system (LMS) is an online system specifically designed to provide centralised 'homes' for courses, and typically have a wide range of tools for learning methods and approaches.
Many online publishing platforms such as blogs and wikis can be used as an 'alternative' LMS. They typically have fewer tools specifically designed for learning and teaching online, but may have other advantages depending on the context.
You might like to review the earlier section on online and distance learning for more information about learning management systems and their alternatives.
Case Study: Emilia
Emilia's organisation uses Moodle as a standard learning management system, and provides support for staff and students on how to make the best use of it.
The team quickly decides that the new Sociology course will have a home base in Moodle. Although not all the resources will necessarily be located in Moodle, it will provide a centralised access point for everything related to the course.
- Find out what learning management systems are supported in your organisation and whether you are required or encouraged to use a particular system.
- Decide on the learning management system or other platform you will use for your blended learning course.
Case Study: Emilia
The team's analysis has found that there while there are already some excellent resources, the move away from traditional lectures means that additional content resources will be required. Some online resources will need to be developed within Moodle.
But given that much of the subject is not specific to local conditions, the team has decided that the course will also make use of high quality open educational resources already on the web. For example, Yale University's open sociology course which can provide much of the content previously covered in face-to-face lectures. This will allow the face-to-face sessions to focus on learning activities (such as small group discussion and problem-solving) rathe than information transmission. The redesign is thus incorporating a form of the flipped classroom model.
- Consider what new or additional content resources will be required for your redesigned course. Consider also whether existing resources such as print-based readings might be better to be replaced with other media such as video. But bear in mind that you may need to apply for funding or staffing to enable new resources to be developed!
- See what open access resources or courses are available that would be suitable. Check out:
Communication, interaction and collaboration
An LMS such as Moodle will normally provide a range of tools for communication, interaction and collaboration. Typically these are primarily asynchronous with limited provision for synchronous interaction.
More powerful synchronous tools may be provided as an add-in to the LMS or as a separate platform. For example, Otago Polytechnic uses Adobe Connect (a virtual classroom) to provide the synchronous interaction not supported by Moodle.
Case Study: Emilia
Emilia's team now moves on to making some key decisions about the use of blended learning technology, including the mix and proportions of various tools and approaches:
- information delivery
- critical thinking
- video conferencing
- mobile learning
- Find out what tools for communication, interaction and collaboration are provided by your organisation's LMS and other learning systems.
- Complete the section on blended learning in the blended learning redesign plan.