When teachers and administrators consider adopting a blended learning model, thoughts and brainstorming sessions often focus on the learning content:
- How do we find the best online learning content?
- How will we make readily available to our students?
- Is the content aligned to our state learning standards?
- How interactive/engaging is the content?
- Can I/is our staff ready to teach with this content?
Those are all important questions, but don't be too quick to only look at content. A central benefit of a blended learning model is its ability to efficiently and effectively improve the learning process for each stakeholder.
A solid blend of online and offline instruction methods has a ton a merit. Teachers can be more flexible in their instruction methods. Students have more options for access, pace, and learning environments. Administrators receive timely real-time data and reports.
But, what is the "glue" that holds your blended learning model together and makes all this great stuff possible?
The answer is a solid Learning Management System (LMS)
Let's start here: "What is a learning management system (LMS)?"
- Ryann K. Ellis of Learning Circuits defines a Learning Management System as, "a software application that automates the administration, tracking, and reporting of training events."
You'll notice that that definition uses the term, "training". That's because in their initial stages, LMS's were normally equated with business training systems. However, with the advent of blended learning, schools have adopted much of the LMS attributes honed in the business education world to monitor, prescribe, and improve online/offline learning.
Online and offline learning progress all in one place
Learning Management Systems do not provide instructional content. Instead, the software integrates the different content systems into one, simple-and-easy portal in which the educator can review, observe, and enter various daily instruction tasks and results.
For example, via the Education Elements’ Hybrid LMS, each student signs-in (on their device) through a single sign-on portal and is greeted with the appropriate/assigned online materials, content, and/or learning activities.
There is no confusion about where to go and what to do, which takes a huge weight off your back (as an educator). Because students have fewer questions about logistics, usernames and passwords, etc., you'll have more time to hit the ground running with actual learning and instruction time.
A system that fits your classroom environment
Ease-of-use is not the only value provided by an LMS. Learning Management Systems also adapt to your preferred blended learning model. This adaptability is paramount because when developing an effective model, whether it be rotation, flipped classroom, etc., it is vital that the model fits your classroom's makeup and culture.
Regardless of how many times a student logs in or where he/she logs in from, their duration, data, and progress is recorded seamlessly within the LMS. Additionally, at the click of your mouse, you can assure that your students are assigned the online content and resources they need to meet individual learning needs.
Streamline organization and grades challenges
What if student performance data, attendance, and grading were all kept in the same place, automatically updating when possible?
- Okay, so maybe your Student Information System (SIS) serves this purpose in some regards, but is it automatic and can you assign curriculum via your SIS?
With a great LMS, that is more than possible. Teachers decide when to push out quizzes, tests, and assignments and can see the results/progress in real-time (unless they would like to do the grading themselves; which is certainly an option).
Student progress, status, and pace is automatically tracked, and you can use those metrics (along with your own observations and intuition) to prescribe the next step in the student's learning path. That's pretty amazing stuff!
Reporting that works for you, not the other way around
Report cards don’t need to be challenging. Neither should school- or district-level reporting needs.
Instead of laboring to enter grades, figures, behavior scores, etc. into the system to create a report card, learning management systems provide you avenues for constant formative assessment data that automatically populates, laying out a clear path of where a student is and helping you develop where he/she will go next.
Because each student's progress is being automatically updated, the process of keeping pulse of your classroom becomes innate. This is particularly helpful in a classroom that utilize a Response to Intervention (RTI) model as a piece of its blended learning instruction methods. The student data serves as the driver of resource management, and can help you and your fellow staff make the necessary decisions within the tier structure.
Tackle blended learning with a solid LMS
As you've seen in our four quick points, an easy-to-use learning management system can turn a dauting technology integration period into an effective learning tool, whether your tech experience is high or non-existant.
We'd love to hear about your experiences with learning management systems within a blended learning model -- Start your conversation on our Facebook Page or Tweet us your questions, comments, and even concerns at @Wowzers!