Many schools, both K-12 and beyond offer teachers and students a Course Management System, Learning Management System or Virtual Learning Environment. No matter what you call it, it is a platform by which you can put course materials all in one place. These systems also offer many different features including blogs, wikis, discussion boards, gradebook, assessments, digital locker/dropbox, as well as many other features.
When looking at tools to use with your students the first thing to think about is purpose, what purpose will you need it for? Many teachers really don’t use all the features of a Learning Management System, and would rather have a different online platform to use with their students. These platforms might include a social network like edmodo, blog, wiki, website, or various combinations of these. I will address these tools in later posts.
Let’s say you have already determined that you want a Learning Management System to use with your students. A place where they will have one sign in and can be informed of assignments, hand in assignments, have class discussions, maintain their own blogs, take course assessments and surveys, and communicate with their teachers and fellow students. The next question is: Which platform do I use? There are many out there including moodle, Blackboard, Desire2Learn, edu2.0, ecto, SchoolRack, dokeos, ePals LearningSpace, sakai, Joomla!,class.io, edline, and Schoology just to mention some that my PLN have mentioned. It is really exciting that there are so many choices, and some of them are free! On the other hand, there are SO many choices… you may wonder where do I begin? Let me save you some time… start with my resources below and definitely make sure you check out Schoology!
I have been exploring many, and as a district we are moving away from Blackboard due to its cost and lately not so user-friendly interface. So, although Desire2Learn and LearningSpace may be great LMS they are cost prohibitive right now for our district so I didn’t really give them much exploration.
After exploring many of these mentioned above (admittedly not all of them) I have landed on one that I have found very user-friendly, free, and has all the features I think a LMS needs. Schoology is that LMS. It looks similar to social networks that students are familiar with. As advertised on their website they are a free web-based learning management system (LMS) built on a social network. This gives you the best of both worlds. Students can easy network, collaborate, and communicate with other students and their teachers. Privacy settings can be set to make it as open or closed as the district, school, or teacher want it to be. Teachers can enroll students or give them an access code that allows them to sign-in to their course. I really like this platform, it is easy to use, very intuitive, and above all free! Make sure you check it out along with these resources:
I think I’m breaking up with Moodle... great discussion here on the Educators PLN ning about different platforms
Schoology Instructional Guide easy to follow to get you started
CMS Compared This is my comparison chart that I started to use when comparing these systems.
Moodle vs edu2.0 Great slideshare comparing these two LMS