When choosing an LMS you need to spend time determining what your requirements are. There are many free and paid options available and you should spend time looking through the options after you have prioritized your requirements. It is unlikely that you will find a system that meets everyone of your requirements but you should be able to find one that comes very close. You also want to pick a system that will grow as your program grows.
Education has some different needs for an LMS than a commercial company would have. There are platforms that are designed primarily for education, some for commercial uses such as sales support or training, and some that do a good job in both environments. I am going to look at the needs for an LMS for educational use.
First take a look at some reviews of different learning management systems so you have an idea of what different functions they incorporate. Some good information about different systems can be found at PC Magazine’s 2017 LMS reviews,
This article was developed about the selection process used at the University of Georgia. It gives some good ideas on what needs to happen in the process of choosing and implementing an LMS in your school. It covers areas such as where data is stored, open source software and purchased software, and the advantages and disadvantages of working with proprietary programs. It discusses who should be involved in the selection process as well as the pros and cons of different types of groups.
When choosing an LMS the committee should list all the desired features that each person can come up with. It would probably be easiest to list these on a spreadsheet. These features then need to be prioritized into need, wants, and wishes. Look at the current system, if there is one, and find out what works and doesn’t work as well as what could be improved. If you still aren’t sure what features to look for here is a comprehensive list that could be adapted for the particular needs of your school.
How to determine which LMS is best for your school? If you are including a component that involves video conferencing as a key part of teaching it should be one of your primary drivers for decision making. This feature is the one that is most often mentioned when there are different reviews of LMS systems. I would also look at methods of communicating within the system, and ways that information can be presented. Does the platform easily integrate videos, audio files, pictures, pdfs and documents. Can you import classes and tests that have already been developed, usually SCORM import. Is there a way for students to chat with each other and to submit secure information? How does the system integrate testing features? Is it easy to update and change information? Does your systems work with one of the cloud based file management systems such as google classroom or even just the suite of programs? Is it easy to access files for both teachers and students? Do all aspects of the program work across multiple platforms and operating systems?
I think that all systems have some kind of learning curve before they can be used well. You see this in all systems where teachers develop and upload the content. Some are much more comfortable with the system and use many more of the features. This is where training and administrative requirements come into play. Often the system each individual likes the most is the that they feel most comfortable with. This means that it is usually a system that they are already familiar with. Everyone uses some kind of a LMS in college and most colleges use Blackboard or one of the systems owned by them. Angel was a very popular system that was a Blackboard system which is no longer available. Many schools first look at Blackboard and work from there. Many just stop there without exploring further because they don’t really think through choosing other options.
I’ve used Blackboard, Angel, and currently its learning. Each has features that I really liked and features that I found annoying when trying to load information into a class. I don’t know if it is because we were a very big adopter of its learning in the United States but I found the support that was offered to classroom teachers very useful and they are very responsive to suggestions for changes. During the time I’ve been using it I’ve seen several changes that I suggested implemented, of course I’m sure I wasn’t the only one making those suggestions.
When I looked at the different systems listed for this class I narrowed it down to two choices, Moodle and D2L. I haven’t used any of the programs but looking at the websites, reviews, and demos I prefer D2L. The reasons for this is the automated intervention feature. This will greatly help with instruction. I wouldn’t choose this system if a portfolio is a big component of the school experience since it appears to be difficult to work with. This might be bypassed by developing short screen capture videos to help students work through the idiosyncrasies of the portfolio system.
D2L has been around in some form for almost 30 years. There have been many changes to the platform and it continues to add new features. To me, this speaks of a company that is invested in making sure there LMS is responsive to the needs of a school and the different people in the school or district who will be responsible for administering and using the program. This system appears to have the ability to grow and be customized based on the needs of each school or district. Since the system does a lot the would probably be a learning curve but I feel that any system would have that problem. There are many specific videos that walk you through specific sections of the D2L system that would be of great help in learning to use the system to its fullest potential.
I think that the platform that Forsyth County currently uses, its learning, is a better choice. I know they are very responsive to a district and the interface is easy to use. There is the capability for uploading content from other platforms and uploading tests teachers have created from examview. There are numerous ways to lay out the pages to suit individual teaching styles. There are ways to easily individualize the content for different students in the classroom and it is very easy for teachers to add content that can be shared through a common library. There is a planner function that allows students to see all of their assignments for up to two weeks at a time. Grading can be done within the system suing rubrics. It is easy to upload all forms of materials from worksheets and embedded video. I used google docs for my classes for all worksheets and it was awkward to grade those since the only way to submit them in the platform is as an assignment that includes the link to each document.