Thursday, 18 October 2018

Page for #IDVmatrix on #LMS description and setting it amidst other tools

picture by Giulia Forsythe
In the past year I have been adding some Instructional Design descriptions in my notebook. After I while I realized that something useful could come out of this very varied collection, so now I am putting some of these pages online (the Instructional Design Variation matrix or IDVmatrix). The idea is to grow a compendium of these pages, adding parameters that are meaningful in ID to each of those learning/teaching design elements, and eventually use these parameters as a matrix to use on the job. I will only write them here, and add the #IDVmatrix hashtag for easy recall once these pages grow. The reason behind these pages is to create a contemporary overview of Instructional Design options that are out there, and to build an instrument that allows you to quickly screen whether other ID-options can be used that reflect the same parameters you are looking for (taking into account your target learning population). The collection will have standard ID-tools (e.g. authoring tools, LMS, MOOCs...) as well as more contemporary learning and teaching tools (e.g. chatbots, machine learning, ...). The template I will follow is simple: short description (as brief as possible while allowing main features to be addressed), a segment on who uses it and how (of course that will be a not exhaustive), referring to some examples, important features to keep in mind, and finally adding a matrix stamp to it (taking into account the 5 parameters I think are relevant to structuring educational tools. And trying to add some meaningful, possibly EdTech critical pictures as a bonus. First one: a classic: the LMS.

Learning Management System (LMS)

Learning Management Systems (LMS, also related to Content Management or Course Management Systems) come in many variations, but generally they offer a digital environment to facilitate, support and design online or blended instruction. an LMS offers content structuring options (put specific modules online, sometimes integrate a learning path into those courses), quiz-options (including a question-database with a variety of quiz-options), and communication services between the learners, the facilitators, the course managers ... or all of the learning stakeholders.
The LMS is pre-programmed. In some cases this means the complete system is programmed (e.g. Blackboard, WIZiq), and you - as a course provider - can only customize specific features, but in other cases you can customize a big part of the system (due to open source code), including some programming that you do yourself (e.g. Drupal, Moodle). Some smaller LMSs offer a more specialized and valuable option, e.g. Curatr which emphasizes the social learning factor. Some LMS also include course libraries, or you - the institute - can build an open, LMS supported library to offer support to your learners.
Normally these systems are self-contained, but with options to integrate other tools to align the LMS with contemporary learning realities (e.g. integrate instagram, twitter). Although some LMS are free, you need to consider the cost of server space, programming some features, supporting all users, and keeping the system up and running 24.7.
Who uses it: learners, teachers, trainers, course coordinators, ... each on their own level. Normally user rights can be allocated within the LMS. Depending on the role, the LMS will offer a different experience (back-end mostly for course-delivery people, and front-end for the learner). 
Important features to keep in mind while choosing a LMS: security features are very important as a LMS generates a lot of learner data and communications traffic. A mobile app is a must, test it on multiple devices to estimate the quality of the app. Offline features will make life much easier for learners. SCORM options make life easier for any instructional designer, and xAPI features will allow the educators/facilitators to make meaningful analysis from all the learner data.
IDVmatrix stamp