LMSs (continued)

I’ve written about Learning Management Systems (LMSs) recently here and here. Both entries contained well-intentioned advice for the makers of LMSs. To round out this LMS trilogy, I’d like to emphasize an aforementioned point, which is again directed at those creating LMSs:

LMSs must be simple to use.

Here’s why: 

  • Teachers are learning a lot this year; the necessary professional development is unprecedented. Common Core, 1:1 implementation, new textbook adoptions (with obligatory technology components), and the many other programs and apps are overwhelming. Throwing a complicated LMS at teachers will only add fuel to a very hot fire.
  • Students are less distracted when the LMS they’re using has fewer embellishments.
  • Many components are unnecessary; believe me when I say no one needs another digital calendar.
  • Fewer bells and whistles means there’s less to add to the mobile or tablet app. This is good because most LMS apps are medicore. Hopefully fewer accessories will make a lot of apps easier to create.
  • Your product will sell better if it’s simple. Less is more. The venture capitalists and technology conglomerates will be happy.

Here’s how LMSs can be simple:

  • When showing information concerning student performance on formative assessments, use a dashboard model. (Personally, I like the doughnut infographic–Edmodo Snapshot seems to be one of the only LMSs that’s gotten this right.) Teachers need a common and simple way to compare student performance. Too many ways to manipulate data–while exciting for data nerds–is anathema to teachers who have just taught a full day.
  • Create a lot of white space and pick good typography.
  • Don’t make it possible for people to do everything on every page. Embed intuitive movement within the LMS’s layout.
  • Make it easy to import students. Easy import makes curriculum and technology specialists happy, which in turn will only benefit you.
  • Create tutorial videos; then be generous and share them on YouTube. In addition, hold weekly webcast seminars. Don’t worry if they’re poorly attended.

If you’re staring an LMS, remember this: It’s easier to start simple and build more features than it is to throw in many features and then slowly take them away. (Google exemplified this well with Classroom, but they caught hell from a lot of people when they discontinued Google Reader.)

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