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Friday, September 26, 2014

LMS Useful, But Not Very Usable

The average learning management system (LMS) has been in place for eight years and about 15% of institutions are looking to replace theirs in the foreseeable future, according to a new study by the Educause Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR). Most schools want systems providing improved functionality.

However, the study determined that faculty and students don’t use all the available features in their current LMS, creating something of a conundrum in deciding what a higher-level system should constitute. Being able to post content (for faculty) and access content (for students) in the system generated the highest satisfaction for more than 75% of both groups. When it came to advanced system tools, though, satisfaction ratings took a plunge.

Both instructors and students told ECAR researchers they don’t know how to utilize LMS features beyond the basics. Most received sketchy training on their system and were left to explore the LMS on their own. Despite that, both groups still believe the LMS helps teaching and learning and they’d like to take greater advantage of its capabilities.

“To meet users’ needs and expectations, the next-generation LMS should be mobile friendly, personalized, customizable, adaptive, intuitive, integrated, and designed to enhance student learning. These systems will function as digital learning environments for students, administrative systems for faculty to manage their courses, and interoperable systems that institutions can integrate into their administrative IT portfolio to leverage analytic applications,” the report concluded.

Students showed enthusiasm for LMS features that would enable them to interact and communicate with each other more easily, such as instant messaging, video chat, online tutoring, and social group discussions and forums. Faculty were more interested in tools to help manage classroom tasks more efficiently and to recommend new or different academic resources.

The study, The Current Ecosystem of Learning Management Systems in Higher Education: Student, Faculty, and IT Perspectives, is part of a larger Educause initiative, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to explore the next iteration of digital learning and identify where efforts should be focused.

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