An often asked question at district technology meetings is should we have a district wide LMS or should we let teachers chose the product they would like to use?
With seventeen years of classroom experience and twenty plus years as a technology integrator and district technology coordinator, I emphatically endorse the selection of a district wide learning management system. In this blog entry I will share my thoughts and experiences regarding this process.
Initially it may appear to be a good idea to allow teachers choice in selecting the LMS that best meets their needs. This very quickly becomes a nightmare for tech support and instructional implementation. It becomes overwhelming to provide the correct technical specifications to support a smorgasboard of tools, to train your tech team to respond to the needs of teachers as they implement the tools and to support your teachers as they attempt to enroll students in the various online resources. From a teacher perspective how do you provide training and support for all of the various tools and finally from a student/parent perspective, how do you keep track of the various systems you are enrolled in each year?
I would like to share with you some of the reasons that I have chosen to implement a district wide learning management system in several districts and why I chose Moodle as our LMS and eventually settled on outsourcing the hosting of our LMS.
• Implementation – one tool for your district tech support team to specialize in
• Cost – outsourcing Moodle as an open source LMS provides 24/7 server support
• Training – district wide teacher training can be more universally provided
• Student Registration – LDAP students into the system with consistent passwords
• Portability – courses/units developed can be easily shared across district
• Reliability – Moodle has a proven track record with an international user base
• Student Management – all student accounts and enrollment are district managed
• Collaboration – facilitates sharing of resources and activities
• Student Training – students become comfortable with a consistent environment
• Support – enhanced district wide training and support
• Safety – a closed socialization environment
• Differentiation – groupings and multiple activities supported with conditionals
• RTI – just in time learning with access to multiples resources and options
• One stop shopping – minimizes lost passwords, links and resources
• Learning Curve – reduces the need to learn a new system for each class
• Extended learning – 24/7 access to resources
• Safe collaboration environment
As you move into this decision making process, acknowledge that it will be impossible to choose one learning management system that will unanimously be acclaimed and received as the best choice for all. However, in terms of implementation, pedagogical and technical support and best use of teachers’ and technology staff’s time, it is the most beneficial route to pursue. The key is to select a system that has a long-term track record and provides a reasonable, controlled price structure. There is no doubt that moving to a district wide LMS like Moodle has greatly reduced the stress on our district technology support team and it has provided a centralized plan for staff development and support. Most importantly it has provided the opportunity to enhance and support student-learning 24/7. Experience over time has proven to me that the selection of a district wide learning management system such as Moodle the way to go.