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Navigating learning management systems

Learning management systems are often marketed as a panacea for teaching and administration. Ironically, this cure-all approach to their design—supporting everything from content organization, student dialogue, lectures, assessments and evaluation—often results in headaches for users. LMS software needs to shift from providing users with a smorgasbord to offering more a la carte options.

Institutions often make the lateral shift from one LMS to another every few years. The new platforms boast improved functionality and user interfaces yet offer diminishing returns on user experience. Teachers and administrators are left having to learn the new platform and navigate the dozens of features to select the few they will use for a course. Frustratingly, learning management systems live up to their namesake: managing options for student learning instead of facilitating it.

The next generation of LMS software will need to focus on the following elements of user experience: simplicity, speed, and choice. Most contemporary LMS platforms offer users exactly what they need; however, they require a significant investment of time and motivation to access and gain proficiency.

Imagine purchasing a PC and only being able to use basic programs like Edge, Media Player, and Movie Maker. These programs function, but many prefer to install Chrome, iTunes, and Premiere Pro. The same choice should be made available for LMS platforms. Instructors and students want simple point-and-click simplicity in their LMS platforms and a growing number of third-party organizations are responding.

LMS platforms will not be disappearing anytime soon but need to allow more out of the box software options. By allowing users to manage their LMS and customize functionality with third-party software, it will drive innovation in education software and reduce turnover rates for LMS subscribers.

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About the Author: Dustin is a senior account manager with DesignedUX, providing communications and marketing strategy to organizations in education and technology. Dustin is also a part-time faculty member at Centennial College and serves on the board of the Canadian Public Relations Society.

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