A Learning Management System (LMS) is a useful tool in K-12, particularly for schools using one-to-one and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) technology. For one thing, an LMS gives secondary students a preview of how their college coursework will be organized (every university in my region uses one). If you want to know more about the benefits of using an LMS, check out Why Use a Learning Management System over at matbury.com.
Once you decide that your school needs an LMS, you’ll need to select one. How to Choose the Right Learning Management System offers a good overview of the complex and time-consuming process of choosing an implementing an LMS. This is not that blog post. Instead, I give you how not to choose an LMS:
1. Have someone far-removed from the classroom, like the PR guy, superintendent, or the IT director in your district choose the LMS (or at least make a short list to pretend to get input from teachers about). He or she will definitely be familiar with the instructional goals of the teachers, the preferred learning modes of the students, and the data needs of the administrators.
2. Don’t involve too many (avoid including any, if you can help it) actual potential users of the system when choosing an LMS. Students, parents, and teachers couldn’t possibly provide any valuable input, right? Listening to them would be too time-consuming.
3. Pick an LMS based on one simple and easy-to-measure factor, such as cost. Ease of use/navigability, possible accommodations for SPED and ELL learners, and integration with currently used 3rd party software aren’t important and shouldn’t really factor into the decision.
4. If you make the mistake of getting buy-in into the chosen LMS from several district teachers, and they implement it with enthusiasm the first year of the roll-out, quash that movement quickly so it doesn’t spread. Provide no ongoing professional development, lock down the teacher/user permissions so they can’t use the LMS easily, refuse to help integrate your district’s third-party software, and most importantly, don’t tell anyone in the district, whether parent, student, or community member, about the LMS. Aim for confusion, frustration, and despair on the part of those pesky early adopters.
5. Plan to dump your chosen LMS after paying for it, shelling out money for PD costs, and providing support after just a year or two. Either provide no LMS at all so teachers are left to their own devices and secondary students have to learn a different (free) LMS to use every class period or just pick another one. Base your decision on which LMS vendor gives you the most freebies at a conference or else just draw names out of a hat. Don’t forget to block the previous LMS on your network to make sure no one uses all the valuable content they spent hours creating in the former LMS. Teachers and students have loads of spare time, so they can just make it all again.
6. Do not, I repeat, do NOT, use an educator trained in project management, instructional design, or educational technology to manage the process of selecting and rolling out an LMS. All the various school sites in the district can just figure out how to implement it in their own way, if they bother to use it at all. When the LMS fails to be used by all but a small percentage of teachers, blame them and then reallocate the budget money you used to use on an LMS to buy a stable of ponies for the next school year.
Hopefully, this post has given you some examples of outcomes you’d like to avoid when selecting an LMS for your school district. Be sure to do your research, involve stakeholders, use project management principles, and prepare to use your chosen LMS for years to come in order to capitalize on your investment.