Learning Management Systems: Which One is Right for Me?

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Over the course of time I have been fortunate enough to experience a number of different learning management systems while in the field of education, both as an instructor and as a student. Below are my thoughts and opinions on how and why you should utilize certain learning management systems. NOTE: My views here are based on usage of these learning management systems and may vary with each user experience.

Edmodo (Unfortunately Edmodo closed in September 2022)

The learning management system I am most fond of is Edmodo. The biggest issue with Edmodo is getting your administration to allow you to use it, as it has been dubbed “like Facebook” which scares aware administrators. However, I feel its capabilities and price make it the top learning management system available. Edmodo is free and allows access to teachers, parents and students so that everyone is on the same page.

First, Edmodo allows you to develop groups for each course where an access code is created so that students may only access the courses they are actually enrolled in. Parents can then be provided with an associated access code to view their student’s work. Educators can setup alerts, assignments, quizzes, polls and snapshot (which allows you to create assessments using core standards). Edmodo also allows you to pool resources from other sites and store them to be used as needed. Finally, Edmodo allows for collaboration among students with its social platform setup. This could cause camaraderie among the students.

Did I mention its free? It is also helpful to note they have a blog and many other resources for all Edmodo users. For more info on Edmodo visit http://edmodo.com/

Canvas

Canvas by Instructure is becoming a new favorite of mine as well. At this time I am uncertain as to what their price points are for large scale sales to a university or school district, but they seem to be open source for individuals, meaning you sign up and everything is free, as you wish.

The reason I like Canvas is the modular setup is just more visual appealing than other learning management systems. Having used it as an educator and a student it is easier to navigate through each assignment, as settings can be utilized to allow individuals not to move forward unless they’ve completed the previous task. It is also great for courses such as personal finance where each module can feature quite a bit of information. Within Canvas you can create announcements, upload syllabi, identify course learning outcomes, create modules for each content area, create assignments, discussions, and quizzes, create pages to place information or instructions, upload files, one stop location for grades and allow students to send messages to the entire class, each other or directly to the instructor if the need arises. Canvas also has an interactive calendar that shows when assignments are due!

I mentioned its open source right? For more info on Canvas check out http://www.instructure.com/

Blackboard

Blackboard Learn as it is now referred was a commonly used staple of colleges when I was younger. It was an intuitive learning management system, but I believe Canvas has passed it by. What Blackboard has going for it is its compactness in nature. With Canvas and Edmodo the focus is on visual appeal, but with Blackboard the focus is on functionality. It may look horrid, but you may be able to navigate and find things quicker than you would with Edmodo and Canvas. I still need to Google some things every now and again with Canvas and Edmodo.

While Blackboard has evolved into more of a social platform like Edmodo and Canvas it is still lacking in visual appeal, but in function can provide you with the same outcomes as the free learning management systems mentioned above.

The primary issue with Blackboard is price. There is a price associated with it, but they do not tell you what it is until you contact a sales rep. To learn more visit http://www.blackboard.com/Platforms/Learn/Products/Blackboard-Learn.aspx

WebCT

WebCT and Blackboard used to be considered two different learning management systems, but now they are one in the same.

ANGEL

ANGEL Learning is a mediocre learning management system that some colleges currently utilize. Ironically enough Blackboard owns ANGEL, but these two learning management systems couldn’t be more different. The only real thing going for ANGEL is that the drop box options look more visually appealing than the other learning management systems mentioned. ANGEL essentially offers exactly the same thing as Canvas, but isn’t visually appealing in its modules. It holds a chat type functionality which is a positive for online courses if students are struggling. Unlike Canvas or Edmodo ANGEL needs to be setup for each course specifically, as opposed to being able to import materials previously stored.

For more information on ANGEL please visit http://www.blackboard.com/Platforms/Learn/ANGEL-Resources.aspx

Moodle

Finally, we have Moodle. This is another free open source learning management system. The issue is there is no in between with Moodle, people either love it or they hate it. Moodle is developed in PHP and placed on your server (whether that’s your personal website or the school’s website). Visibly, as a web designer Moodle makes me want to cry, it looks that poor, even though they do have some templates you can use for visual appeal. It is very difficult to figure out how to use Moodle, as it isn’t as straight forward as the other learning management systems mentioned. Due to this there are documents and a community forum available, as they understand their product is difficult for a lot of people and help is needed.

While Moodle has many of the features the other learning management systems feature the difficulty of navigating it and its lack of visual appeal have caused me to avoid it in every way, but if you’d like more information on Moodle please visit https://moodle.org/

Conclusion

When deciding on your learning management system please keep in mind that your administration may want the learning management system to be cost effective, but may also want to avoid sites like Edmodo that are commonly referred to as “like Facebook.” Educators should try out various learning management systems to see what works best for them, as they may prefer visual appeal over functionality or may prefer both, as Edmodo and Canvas offer.

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