The Curricular Technology team has been researching learning management systems (LMS) for use at Middlebury, using findings from its focus group sessions, surveys and technology usage analysis collected over the last year to determine what features would be most useful in an LMS. The team also researched which LMS platforms other institutions were using, focusing on those institutions most similar to Middlebury.
From the above research, the team has found 3 LMS that are viable candidates for use at Middlebury and would now like to make these available to faculty to pilot over the winter and spring semesters. The LMS platforms being considered are:
For more information about these pilots and how to participate, come to an LMS Pilot Information Session, here are dates/times:
- 3 – 4 pm, Monday, Dec 6th, Library 105
- 3 – 4 pm, Tuesday, Dec 7th, Library 105
LMS platforms are designed to help use the web for both teaching and learning, with tools for grading, assignments, online discussion and so on. Below are descriptions of some of these tools.
Assignment Submission Module
Our focus groups and surveys revealed issues with many of the tools and techniques currently used for collecting and grading assignments. Most LMS platforms have “modules” for assignment submission that greatly simplify this process, allowing faculty to create assignments with due dates that students can easily access and upload completed assignments to. These modules are configured to allow students to see that their assignment has been successfully submitted and to allow faculty to see all submitted assignments and be able to grade and give feedback on these from within the LMS itself.
LMS platforms allow faculty to “grade” many of the activities students do within the LMS including assignments and discussion posts. Typically this grading functionality can be applied to specific assignments, discussion topics and quizzes and the LMS provides tools for aggregating all graded items into a single view that can be used as the basis for evaluating student performance. Most LMS can be configured to show students only their own grades (and not those of their peers) to help them keep track of how well they are doing in a given course.
Middlebury has long provided various tools for online discussion including Segue, WordPress and MediaWiki. LMS platforms also have tools for online discussion with options to grading individual discussion posts by students. While this sort of functionality is not something that our surveys and focus groups indicated a strong need for, having it available to use may result in new teaching practices.
Most LMS include calendars that can be used for scheduling class events, assignments and exams.
Blog, Wikis and more
LMS platforms also include popular tools such as those for blogging, wikis and podcasts, similar to what has been available via Segue, WordPress and MediaWiki.
The Curricular Technology Team has proposed an alternative to Segue that has been approved for development. Based on our analysis of existing course and curricular resources as well as findings from focus groups and surveys, we recognized that no single platform would meet the teaching, learning and research needs of all of the College and its affiliates. Thus we recommended the development of a “course hub” architecture that would enable faculty to create collections of resources for a given course in a single location referred to as a “hub.”
We recommended course hub sites be automatically created for all courses with basic course information such as the course title, description, instructor profile, schedule and location. These sites would include basic functionality for adding additional content such as a syllabus and links with an emphasis on ease of use and simplicity.
These sites would also include links to “connected” platforms allowing users to create additional resources using popular tools such as WordPress and MediaWiki that would be automatically linked back to the hub site.
The Curricular Technology team is now working on evaluating other platforms to connect to the course hub, focusing on learning management systems (LMS) and better tools for online discussion, collaboration, assignment submission and grading.
Many faculty have started to use WordPress for course sites. WordPress is a good choice if you just want to:
- Share course information with your students
- Post course announcements
- Create hierarchically arranged pages
- Upload files (on larger than 10 MB)
- Start online discussion
- Have students upload papers for peer review
Access to WordPress sites can be limited to students in a class (or any other Active Directory group of users). For more information on how to use WordPress for course sites, see:
WordPress @ Middlebury > Using WordPress for Course Sites