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"Why do I need an LMS?" by Angela Burgess

We are pleased to be able to share this blog post by Angela Burgess:

I recently had a conversation with a former colleague whose district was (finally!) implementing an LMS. Up until now (well, until August, really), teachers in this district have had the freedom to use an LMS, a website, both, or neither. There was also no specification on a particular LMS to use. A common concern among teachers is now, Why do I need this? Why can't I just keep doing what I've been doing?

Here is my answer to why every district should have something that is at least LMS-like:
  1. Consistency. Imagine that you are a middle school or high school student with 7 different teachers. If each of those teachers has a different way of doing things, you might have to remember 7 different log-ins for 7 different sites. At minimum, you might have to remember which site goes with which teacher. I have an upcoming freshman son - he can't always remember to walk the dog and still has a hard time remembering the 3rd step in a list of chores. Alternatively, imagine you are a parent with multiple children...searching for days to find what you need for all of your children. With one consistent LMS for the district, students and parents go one place to find everything they need for all of their classes.
  2. Practicality. As a parent of a teenager who loses everything and as a teacher who knows that no matter how many extra copies you make, someone will still need one, it's long been my belief that it it more practical to provide digital copies instead of hard copies. For my students who prefer paper, I always made sure that I had some available (and after about two weeks, you know who needs paper and who will leave it sitting on the floor). But for the vast majority, or for those who lose things, placing digital files online in the LMS is the best way to access these files. With an LMS, students can always easily find the notes, worksheets, articles, etc. that they need when they need them (even at 2 AM!).
  3. Ability. A strong LMS will increase your ability as a teacher. I know, I hear you. You're thinking, I'm already great! Spending time on an LMS will just take time away from my students / from my family / from my personal time. Au contraire, I say (remember, former French teacher 😊). While you will have to spend some extra time at the beginning, automating certain things will end up giving you more time to spend however you choose. Want to increase your differentiation? An LMS gives you the ability to group students and provide them the resources they need to be successful in a discreet and easy manner. Want to have the time to focus on writing? An assignment in an LMS allows you to have it auto-grade the "easy" questions (multiple-choice, matching, true/false, even fill in the blank) which in turn gives you the time to truly focus on those free response questions and give valuable feedback to students. With an LMS, you increase your ability to be all that you want to be!
  4. Customizable. Feel intimidated by an LMS? Make it just a digital filing cabinet and announcement board. Place your files online in folders and announce tests, quizzes, due dates in the Planner. If that's your comfort level, an LMS is perfect. Want to flip your class using your LMS? Post videos and/or notes for students to watch for homework and add some quick follow-up questions using a Google Form or whatever assessment tool is provided. If that's your comfort level, an LMS is perfect. Looking to flip, go paperless, and start PBL? Go for it! A strong LMS (like mine, which is itslearning) can do all of those things! Whatever you're looking for, there's probably a way to customize your LMS to do it. 
Granted, I was an early adopter of all the ways that an LMS makes my life easier as a teacher and a better resource for my students. I've used four different platforms (two as a teacher, two as a student) and have found that as a teacher, my current platform is the strongest of them. If I had to go back to teaching without an LMS, I think that would finally make me consider leaving education.

Do you use an LMS? What words of advice would you have for those feeling trepidacious?
Are you one of those about to use an LMS for the first time? What questions do you have?

Check out more of Angela's great blog posts at:

Techy Thoughts & Random Ramblings

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