Module 4: How to ensure access to our content

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This module will help you to understand how a Learning Management System provides support for creating, delivering learning activities and contents, and reporting on learning progress. Furthermore, it gives an overview of the main criteria used to select a LMS and how they can also contribute to analyse your existing LMS and improve its performance within your learning ecosystem.

  • Concept and uses.
  • Restrictions to materials uploaded.
  • Open / Closed source options.
  • Choosing an LMS.

A Learning management system (LMS) is a software tool that allows you to create, deliver, and report on training courses and programs.  Some examples of LMS are Blackboard, Canvas, Moodle, Google Class

Before we get into the inner workings of an LMS, let’s look at its two main interfaces to understand how it generally works. The first is the admin view. This view is what the main admin, manager, or instructor has access to. From that interface they can build engaging diverse courses without technical expertise, scale and coordinate how your training/course is managed, and track and report on training data directly from your LMS. Next, let’s look at the user interface. Once a learner is registered/added to the LMS, they can be enrolled in any course on offer. Some LMSs provide options to create groups that are organised by learning programs, courses, class, or specific training needs. The learner can take part in the different learning activities using a browser on a desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile device to support anytime, anywhere learning (nowadays having a mobile-friendly LMS is a must).

LMS top features:

  • Course management: The main function of an LMS should be that you can easily deliver course content to your learners, so it’s essential to get an LMS that makes course creation as simple and straightforward as possible. A good LMS will allow you drag, drop, and arrange content into place, making it easy to create courses. On top of this, it will allow you to use multiple content formats; PDFs, slides, videos, audio, and even live training sessions (Cisco Webex, Zoom, Adobe Connect, Zoom, MS Team).
  • SCORM & xAPI compliance: SCORM and xAPI is one of the wide used methods for standardising learning content that will allow you to easily export/import courses from one LMS to another one and to support the learning analytics and reporting.  So, you need an LMS that has the ability to upload SCORM and xAPI course files in an instant. The process should be simple, and your preferred authoring tool should be compatible with your chosen LMS, so you can feel assured that your files will function properly.
  • Integrations: The LMS should help automate training and reduce the amount of time-consuming admin tasks. By having a solution that integrates with the software you’re already using (webinar tool), you can automate actions such as user creation and access, data synchronisation, enrolments, and more. With Single Sign-On (SSO) for instance, learners only have to sign in to one system, like Google Suite, and they’re securely logged into the LMS. Single Sign-On (SSO) is a property of access control of multiple related, yet independent, software systems. With this property, a user logs in with a single ID and password to gain access to a connected system or systems without using different usernames or passwords, or in some configurations seamlessly sign on at each system.
  • Learner experience: Having a user-friendly platform is vital for creating a great learner experience. After all, you need them to focus on their subject area, rather than on learning how to use an LMS. A good LMS makes it easy to access courses/training and is responsive on any device. So, whether a student is at the university, at home or commuting between the two, they need to be able to access and complete the course/module anywhere, at any time, on any device.
  • Learning paths is essentially a feature that enables you to plan and structure training activities by grouping courses together so a learner can master a particular topic or program. Sequenced learning paths fit when courses need to be in a particular order. Once a course is complete, the learner will then get access to the next, but they need to complete all courses in order to complete the path. Another option is learning paths with learner choice: this is when the learner must complete a specific number of courses available to them.
  • Gamification: Gamifyingyour learning/training activities will help create an engaging learning experience. Gamification is used to set clear goals and motivates learners by using milestones, and achievement recognition. The support for Gamification elements in an LMS includes the availability of badges, points, and leaderboards which of course, adds a bit of healthy competition and fosters learners’ motivation.
  • Social interactions: By facilitating this communication through an LMS forum, it creates a space where learners can support, and learn from each other. It also acts as a repository for learners to search and find additional learning information.
  • Reporting: LMS reports should showcase data on learner progression, survey responses, exam results and so on. It’s also helpful to be able to export or schedule reports so they’re sent straight to your inbox. You can then use these reports to identify trends or highlight any opportunities for improvement. Reports can also give insights into what users want to learn and how. For example, you might have a lot of video content, but notice that courses get a higher pass rate with written content. Using this information, you can create more written content to meet your learners’ needs.
  • Certifications: Tracking skills learned, and certifications completed also gives your learners a sense of achievement by certifying them for successfully completing their training. An LMS should allow you to customise certificates as well as setting them to be automatically generated. So, when your learner completes their course or learning path, they’re instantly awarded.
  • Multilingual support: Choosing an LMS with multilingual support ensures your learners have access to a system that’s in their native language, improving adoption and increasing engagement with training.

When analysing LMS features you will also need to consider the restrictions to the material to be uploaded respecting Intellectual Property Rights (Copyright or OER), it is important to keep in mind the European Commission Open Source Software Strategy 2020-2023 as it aims to reinforce the European working culture largely based on the principles of open source, which positively impact the digital autonomy of Europe as it contributes to maintain its own, independent digital approach and stay in control of its processes, its information and its technology.

Furthermore, accessibility and inclusiveness are key when defining an LMS’ requirements. The accessibility aims at reducing access barriers to digital content, teaching and learning activities and assessments to minimum to ensure learners with special needs will have the same opportunities to carry out their learning activities.

Over the years, the Learning Management System (LMS) has undergone several developments offering numerous, advanced features. Thus, while selecting your LMS it is essential to achieve a balance between your requirements, budget, value for money, and usefulness.

Given the multitude of available options, selecting the right commercial or open-source LMS satisfying the organisation’s learning needs is a complex task. There are a set of key aspects you need to assess to be able to select the most appropriated LMS to meet your institutional requirements:

  • Understand your learning needs and the required LMS features.
  • Ensure your platform is accessible from different device types (web, mobile)
  • Easy integration into your learning ecosystem
  • Type of platform (closed and proprietary vs open source). Licensing and pricing.
  • Content compatibility (what types of contents you will need according to your pedagogical strategy)
  • Security
  • Required reporting features

We recommend you to read the article entitled “10 Things You Need To Know When Choosing A Learning Management System” to get the full overview on the above mentioned aspects.

Now you are familiar with the different aspects of LMS, we invite you to read the following resources:

  • The Tutorial Open Source Software (OSS)on how to use it in school and aid society in one go (5 min reading). The sections What is OSS and Why does OSS matter? describe the relevance of OSS for the educational community as it allows anyone to study how an OSS works, modify it and/or redistribute it but also contributes to preserve learners’ privacy. Also read the article entitled Open Educational Resources which will help you to understand the differences between OSS and OER. (10 mins reading).
  • Getting started with accessibility and inclusion guide This guide serves as introduction to the concept of accessibility as the design of products, devices, services, or environments so as to be usable by people with special needs. Please in particular review section “What is assistive technology?” and the blog entry which includes multiple examples of assistive technologies (20 min read).
  • Digital inclusion- A toolkit for senior leaders in higher education This guide provides an overview of the key drivers and benefits of inclusive practices. It explains why inclusion needs to be central to digital strategy going forward in order to improve quality, to mitigate risk and meet student expectations. It also helps you to understand why investing in inclusive platforms and technologies will enhance the experience and outcomes for all and be usable by everyone without additional investment or adaptation. Please check review the Inclusion strategy section and its Resources where you will find A checklist for digital inclusion– UK Government Digital Service blog  as guide for helping organisations to ensure digital inclusion with working.
  • 10 Things You Need To Know When Choosing A Learning Management System” This article will help you to understand what are the key aspects to consider and their relevance in your decision when selecting an LMS (10 mins)
    How To Choose The Right LMS Platform: The Ultimate Guide This is an step-by-step guide that will help you choose the right LMS platform (13 mins).
  • 10 Tips To Create a Winning LMS RFP This guide will help you to prepare a procurement process for selecting your LMS and its vendor (20 min read).

Take Action!

  • Contact the someone from your TIC Department in charge of the LMS and consult him about the main requirements for an LMS for your institution or the improvements to make for the existing one. Create a blog post describing those requirements. Remember to include details about your learning requirements, accessibility support, type of contents and activities to carry out. Use of OER, as well as privacy and security required support.
  • Discuss about a proposal with some colleagues of your institution, ask for opinions about your idea.  You can do so in a face-to-face approach or in a virtual meeting.
  • Share your proposal with your peers in the course, find three strong / weak points of the posed proposal, and give feedback to a proposal from other partners.

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