Learning Management Systems
Learning management systems (LMS), or course management systems (CMS), allow teachers to post course materials, link to resources, host lessons and discussions, allow students to submit assignments, allow collaboration and communication between and with students, and depending on the platform, do a whole lot more that matches the necessity of blending technology with education today. The real issue is finding a platform that works for you, creating a culture of its use for yourself and your students, and being consistent and realistic about its presence. The other real issue is that the fight for your allegiance is an all-out war at the moment, with different platforms scrambling for funding from education powerhouses and venture capitalists - then one must consider the struggle many will have in the future with ensuring longevity through the use of models that do not yet led themselves to direct profit. So how do you pick a horse in this kind of race when the finish line is so far away, and that horse has to carry your current and future students on its back?
About two and a half years ago, I stumbled across Edmodo. It was a relatively new system that allowed for communication with students, and allowed them to submit assignments. The beauty of it was (and is) that it had several safeguards in place to ensure that students use the system safely and responsibly. Oh yeah, and it’s free. This was the answer to an attempt I made the year before to reach my students where they spent most of their time - online - by creating Facebook groups. Facebook is insecure, and legitimately blocked at many schools (yes, I know they’re trying to wedge into this market too, but I’m not buying what they’re selling). Edmodo became a method for extending our face-to-face lessons while helping students use the web responsibly.
Edmodo has become the status quo at our school ever since. The kids are great with it, and it is rare that they need support with the system or consequences for inappropriateness. Even still, I’m making the change that I hinted at about a month ago.
It can be difficult to choose from among the free LMS platforms - ,, and (formerly Coursekit) - that seem to be current leads in the race (Blackboard does have a free version, but I’m not confident it will take off).
Edmodo is becoming a goliath with 7.4 million users and serving over 80 thousand schools. It’s safe, secure, interactive, personalizable (on a school or district level), has dedicated support that’s quick and eager to respond, works across multiple devices, allows for teachers to network and collaborate, hosts its own professional development workshops and certificates, and even has its own annual, online conference.
Lore is a newcomer, but it’s already getting a lot of support from major financial backers, and is billing itself as an elegant, alternative that allows courses to be more useful and engaging. It’s targeting higher education (and aiming directly at Blackboard), but plans to extend its reach throughout the learning continuum, so that teachers and learners can build portfolios of growth from elementary through university learning.
Schoology, like Edmodo, has carved out its niche of users over time, and like Lore, is getting a lot of attention from financial backers. It isn’t as beautiful as Lore (although certainly prettier than Blackboard), and it isn’t as secure as Edmodo. So why is this the winner for me? Side by side comparisons make me feel more confident that Schoology is in this race for the long haul, and many of the best features of Edmodo and Coursekit are available with Schoology. They have improved consistently and are good at getting the name out there to the key determiners of survival - bigwigs with big wallets. I can tailor the security settings enough for the students I teach - high school students. For this level of teaching, it also provides a big need that Edmodo just doesn’t - discussion boards. Lore is pretty, but it isn’t compartmentalized and gritty enough that my kids will take it seriously. I’ll always have much love for Edmodo, and I still think it’s the absolute best for students in grades 3-9. Also, since most of my middle and high school uses Edmodo, I have to consider how a change will affect that culture, which is why the change to Schoology will only be for my AP students.
Check these platforms out and let us know your thoughts. Does one of these (or one not mentioned) stand out to you as a future winner? What will determine (or has already determined) your choice?