Advantages of Learning Management Systems in K–12 Classrooms
Learning management systems (LMS) are software or web-based applications that provide a central, integrated space for educational resources, including content resources, assessment tools, grading tools, and administrative tools. They offer a portal through which students are able to access learning materials and see their assignments and grades, and make administrative tasks—such as tracking grades and attendance—easier for educators and administrators. LMS also make information from assessments more readily available, and some can provide individualized activities based on student assessments.
They have been widely used in higher education and corporate training for some time, and are now being integrated into K–12 education as well. There are a number of LMS on the market, from robust free applications to fee-based applications, with newer ones being developed specifically for K–12 learning. Some estimates show that around half of classrooms in the United States have some form of LMS. Why are these systems becoming so popular? What are some advantages of LMS at the K–12 level?
Consolidating resources for students
A major advantage of LMS is the ability to place a wide range of resources in one location and make these accessible with one login. The National Center for Scholastic Statistics found that nearly all public schools were connected to the internet by the end of 2000—but while this access has opened up a world of educational resources, it comes with its own challenges. For instance, many of the resources that educators want students to access (including both free and subscription-based resources) require a login, and keeping track of multiple logins for entire classrooms of students has the potential to be an organizational nightmare. LMS make it possible for educators to consolidate these resources for students, alleviating the need to juggle multiple logins. The systems also serve as a portal through which students are able to easily see assignments and grades, which can help them better manage their own learning.
LMS simplify lesson-building for educators, particularly when students will be working with files and online resources. The platforms also make collaboration easier, as resources can be easily shared among colleagues within a school, district, or other group of educators. Similarly, districts or other entities have the ability to bank searchable lessons and other resources so educators can find quality resources on demand. Moreover, many systems include components such as quizzes or games that educators are able to easily customize with their own content. In addition, formative assessments are possible to create within most LMS, and data from these assessments assist educators in identifying students who need additional instruction or practice. Some LMS go a step further and provide or recommend resources based on a student’s assessment.
Making administrative tasks easier
LMS also allow educators to consolidate administrative tasks into one place. For example, these systems can alleviate the need for educators to log in to multiple applications to review student work, track performance, and report grades. Calculating grades and other routine tasks can be automated, freeing the educator to do more important work. Some systems also provide tools for formative assessment and offer data that enables educators to easily identify students who need more support in particular areas.
Some of the LMS developed specifically for K–12 education include a parent portal that enables parents to view their student's assignments and grades, as well as to see in real time if the student is missing or having difficulty with an assignment. This is an improvement on the traditional report card system, wherein parents aren’t notified about grades until it may be too late for effective parent intervention, such as at the end of the semester or if the situation reaches a crisis point. Allowing parents access to their student’s information upfront facilitates parent-teacher communication and partnership.
Offering access anywhere
Web-based LMS can be accessed from anywhere, allowing educators to log in outside the classroom to review student work, add assignments, or execute other tasks. Similarly, if students forget to bring home their organizers or need login credentials to access a website for homework, they can use the LMS from home to see their assignments and find the necessary resources.
LMS can be excellent tools to simplify and organize the digital aspects of the K–12 classroom; They offer a single portal through which students access learning material, educators utilize administrative and lesson-building tools, and parents monitor assignments and grades. With a plethora of available options, the most importance guidance is for schools and districts should shop around to find the platforms that best meet their unique needs!
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