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itslearning featured in eSchool News!

Below is an excerpt from a recent eSchool News article. Read the full article here.

3 LMS adoptions that go way beyond the basics

These districts and schools are drawing more benefits out of their learning management systems

Learning management systems originally got their start in higher education, serving as central hub for college students to drop in assignments, check grades, and contact their professors. Needless to say it caught on with universities—and eventually school districts.

Today’s LMS is a bit of an upgrade, with new features and design elements frequently drawn from the social networking sites students love so much. Developed by Blackboard, Desire2Learn, itslearning, Takai, Canvas, and a host of others, these solutions focus on helping educators organize and orchestrate learning tools, educational approaches, and whole courses.

Any time schools get a new software program, they tend to pick off the low hanging fruit—i.e. the simplest functions or features—and never make full use of the programs’ capabilities, and/or interoperability with other systems. For most, the LMS is rarely so different.

Not so at Houston Independent School District, Ontario’s Greater Essex County, and Brooklyn LAB Charter School—three places where the LMS is being used in pretty innovative ways. Here’s what these institutions are doing and how it’s working for them.

Pie in the sky

About two years ago Houston Independent School District, with its 283 schools and 215,000 students, went in search of an LMS that would help teachers create and use coursework that was both digital and aligned to Texas state standards (Texas pointedly does not use the Common Core). The district put out an RFP and worked with a research firm to get an idea of how far these systems had come in the K-12 space. “We wanted a solution that included curriculum and content management on a single platform,” said L. Beatriz Arnillas, director-IT, education technology at the district.

Ideally, Houston ISD wanted to be able to link learning objectives to specific standards, thus creating a system that teachers could use to determine subject mastery and proficiency of individual students. “It sounded like a ‘pie in the sky’ goal, but we actually had at least three good contenders to select from,” said Arnillas. The district chose itslearning because it enables the meta-tagging of learning objectives within the district’s libraries and the creation of assessment data that tells teachers whether a student has gained proficiency (or not).

Arnillas said this advanced LMS functionality allows teachers to link individual questions—or groups of questions—to a specific learning objective. If an instructor is covering three different learning standards within a specific module, for example, he or she can create a 5-question assessment and quickly learn whether individual students “got” the material or not.

“Our teachers can review the assessment results and figure out who is and isn’t mastering the standards,” said Arnillas, “and then get a list of LMS-generated recommended objectives that can be used to re-teach the standards that weren’t mastered.” This, in turn, helps teachers provide a very personalized learning experience, she added.

Teachers then select the resources that they want to use/include and give students access to that information. Getting instructors to use the system has been easy in some instances and more difficult in others, said Arnillas, who sees this as one of the bigger challenges of integrating an LMS. “There’s a bit of a learning curve for some teachers, so the professional development piece has been very important during this process,” said Arnillas. “Those who have jumped in and learned how to use it are pleased with the results.”


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