Building the Best Learning Management System – Features and Components

LMS (Learning Management System ) is a platform that helps you optimize the learning process. Optimization can be done within the realms of an organization, school or university. LMS can also become a product or service offered by the business to the market. In each case, the development of a successful LMS implies congruence of business goals, learners’ needs, and the requirements imposed by the taught subject.

 

Business goals, such as optimization of the teaching process, improved recording of students’ results, financial gains, and overall better performance of the university system have always been important. However, nowadays, due to an increased emphasis on individual approach, learners’ needs are seen as a higher priority. Education institutions thus are shifting their focus from creating Learning Management Systems that serve the university system to developing smart solutions that help students acquire skills and learn faster with less effort.

 

This article is intended to explore the LMS of a new generation, that puts learners’ needs first.

Learners’ needs and how they can be met

Learners’ needs are varied and can be met in many different ways. In the context of LMS learners’ needs can be defined as follows:

  • An individual approach which requires consideration of the objective and subjective characteristics of each student. Objective characteristics include age and educational background. Subjective characteristics are the results of preliminary and intermediate testing as well as behavioral signs.
  • Easy access to instructions while learning. This requires the formation of a knowledge base and communication environment to effectively address issues that arise before students over the course of study.
  • Sustained motivation. This implies the development and implementation of approaches aimed at maintaining students’ motivation.

Components of an ideal LMS from a learner’s perspective

Here are some basic components intended to meet learners’ needs:

Educational unit

The unit consists of a set of training materials put together into a curriculum. Educational materials are books, videos, online resources, tests in any known format, as well as special training materials.

A curriculum is a way to organize training materials. In an ideal platform, the curriculum is built as an individual “route” for each student. You can think of the curriculum as a graph, the vertices of which are training materials, and the edges are marked with various attributes that allow you to choose the best route based on the individual characteristics of each student.

 

The platform treats training material and curriculum as abstract terms. It then allows for the implementation of such abstractions as well as gives third parties an option to upload their own implementations. The implementations can be offered free or for a fee. This approach allows the educational institution to set up a store and sell training programs and materials, similar to Google store.

Statistics collection unit

The purpose of this unit is to collect information about the student and their actions. Collecting information about the student doesn’t require additional effort from a student’s side, rather the unit records each action independently. These actions might include training material already acquired, results at each stage, chosen order of courses, time spent on each task, behavior, and questions occurred in the learning process – all this information can be recorded and stored.

 

Subsequently, this information becomes available for analysis with the help of external tools. Such tools can also be presented and sold as a product in the store.

Statistics analysis unit

The statistics analysis unit is one of the analytical tools applied to the collected data. It identifies statistical patterns in the student’s data, actions, and performance. It also makes recommendations on the best possible individual “route” of instruction.

 

In the simplest form, statistics analysis unit defines a set of rules to form conclusions such as “everyone who has listened to this audio file increases their chances to pass this test by 25%” or “it is better for everyone who graduated from a rural school to start here with these basic materials”.

 

Third-party organizations can create their own version of the statistical analysis block. Competition between different third-party organizations can help create a high-quality statistics analysis unit.

Motivation unit

Students’ motivation is probably the most discussed aspect of eLearning. Often gamification is offered as the ultimate solution to motivation. However, not a single system can claim to have increased students’ motivation through gamification. There is a fundamental contradiction between the goals of “learning something” vs “winning the game”. If the game becomes the purpose, it replaces the real purpose – learning. On the other hand, if gamification elements are scarce, they become superfluous and distracting.

 

Apparently, gamification isn’t a fundamental component of an ideal LMS. So what does an ideal motivation unit entail? What students need to stay motivated is positive feedback. Learners must know that their efforts aren’t in vain, that their performance is no worse than the rest, and that they are close to the final goal.

 

The motivational unit uses the data of the statistical analysis unit, identifies student’s achievements and reports them back to the student. Such reports can be presented in the form of “You were able to master the material faster than 70% of students. Well done!”.

 

Additionally, the motivation block visualizes the progress achieved and shows statistics day by day. A good example of a motivation unit made right are the ones used in fitness apps – they count steps, calories, or record parameters while also noting personal accomplishments.

Knowledge base unit

At the core of the knowledge base unit is a mechanism behind quora.com and StackOverflow. Each student can ask a question and get the answer from the community. The answers are then rated by the voters based on how helpful they were.

 

Besides the community, it is important for the learning platform to employ a person or a team to check if the answers were provided on time as well as to eliminate the duplicates, categorize the knowledge, and remove knowledge that becomes irrelevant over time.

 

Lastly, students’ interactions with the knowledge base unit can be utilized by the statistics collection unit and analyzed by statistics analysis unit.

Communication unit

A communication unit is probably the simplest, but very important component of the platform. Its goal is to provide opportunities for communication with teachers, students, and university staff.

 

A communication platform is integrated with the knowledge base. As a result, when the question is asked via the communication platform, the student receives the link to the knowledge base article in response.  

The communication platform includes bots that send reminders on activities and events and provide help with organizational matters, for example, respond to questions on the schedule of classes and exams.

 

Communication with various non-educational departments of the university – a library or medical center – is also possible.

Conclusion

This is not an exhaustive list of LMS components. There are many other factors that can contribute to the final model of the platform: business needs, government regulations, university policies, and market competition. In reality, though, it’s the learner’s needs that form the core of the successful, usable LMS. For the purposes of learning, the aforementioned components are excellent and can help ensure maximum efficiency with minimum time and effort spent.

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