Choosing a learning management system (LMS) for your schools is never an easy task. With over hundreds to choose from it can be both intimidating and confusing when trying to find the right one for your particular needs. Let’s break this down. In an educational setting, an LMS refers to a software-based platform that optimizes the management of online student learning. If your school mandates accordance with Common Core State Standards (CCSS), it can be a real bonus if the LMS you choose coincides with these standards. Therefore, this is something to seriously consider when deciding which one is appropriate for your school. Here's what you should know. Google Classroom is one popular option. Google Classroom is continually adding new features and has received favorable reviews from many educators. It is a learning management system that allows you to digitally create and manage assignments as well as to provide feedback to your students. Google Classroom works with Google Apps for Education, a suite of productivity tools (Drive, Docs, Gmail, etc) that you may already use in your school. Though Google offers a variety of features, it falls short for teachers adopting standards-based or competency-based models. Here are three alternatives that give Google Classroom some serious competition in this area. They include MasteryConnect, Kiddom, and Schoology. Let's size up these three tools. MasteryConnect is a competency-based grade book that helps teachers effectively assess CCSS while also monitoring both student progress and mastery. It is fully aligned to the CCSS to help guide teaching methodologies. Curriculum management is its strong suit and it has specific curriculum maps following the CCSS for all 50 states. MasteryConnect’s digital resources allow for a variety of assessments and automatically generate reports based on student progress. Teachers can also track attendance through the application, write comments, and make notations within the attendance page. Through the teacher-to-teacher features, teachers can browse public content and check out course materials from their coworker’s pages. Groups of teachers can then be formed for private discussions and collaboration. MasteryConnect is free to individual users, but, the company offers upgraded features for teachers at $249 a year, or for schools and districts at $7 per student per year. Here is a link for their basic pricing, they also offer custom pricing upon request. Kiddom, the newest kid on the block, is a collaborative learning platform that allows teachers to plan curriculum, administer assessments, and analyze student growth in one user-friendly platform. This app was designed to provide users with a virtual toolbelt incorporating creative and cutting edge ways to make learning both personal and collaborative. Kiddom allows teachers the advantage of planning and designing individualized educational playlists and learning units. Kiddom offers features that lend itself to naturally as an LMS alternative. These include an emphasis on blended learning or the flipped classroom model, their lesson guides incorporate all facets of learning including social and emotional learning as well as differentiating lessons. Kiddom seamlessly integrates the standards and guides teachers in their instruction as well as gives them performance-based analytics. The platform allows you to easily import and export data, and gives immediate results, accessible to all. Kiddom provides access to free professional development to pilot schools and is accepting schools interested in piloting this school year. Schoology is a well-established LMS platform designed to meet the learning, assessment and administrative needs of K-12 students as well as higher education. It is known for streamlining the process of course-building. It provides a collaborative learning environment that engages students and allows them to receive instant feedback. It offers features such as calendars, messaging, personal and shared content, and an online grading system. It allows teachers to create assignments, upload worksheets, and have students turn in their work directly through their Schoology accounts. By working within this platform, teachers can then view student work, give feedback, and record grades. Schoology also has the ability to track students’ engagement and provide data on student activity, such as what they are spending the most time on when logged in. Schoology’s Global Learning Community is a bonus, giving access to resources, best practices, and professional development from local as well as international instructors. There are two versions of Schoology: free and enterprise pricing. The paid version costs $10 per student and there is a one-time fee. At this point in time, an LMS is a must-have for any educational setting. It pays to do the research and compare what different platforms are offering to find the right fit for your school. Every LMS has its own pros and cons and as an educational establishment, you really have to think through which LMS best fits your needs.
Written by Jayne Clare
Jayne Clare is dedicated to being in the forefront of the ever-changing digital landscape. She has been working directly with students and startups and recognizing what works and what doesn’t, along with the why behind both. Jayne co-founded Teachers With Apps in 2011.