Bhaumau, a remote village in Uttar Pradesh, is an incredible case in point to understand the potential of technology in education. Children of this village are using tablets to teach themselves to learn. As part of a tablet programme run by an NGO, children were given tablets with preloaded content. They formed learning groups on their own and with educational videos, stories and games, they are learning English and also conducting science experiments. It is reported that the usage of tablets has resulted in an 11% increase in pupils’ core academic skills such as reading in their mother tongue, reading and speaking English, and improving their science skills.
This is an example of how technology is shaping education in the K–12 sector. The potential that this sector holds is immense.
India’s online education market is set to grow to USD 1.96 billion and 9.6 million users by 2021, which translates to an eight-fold growth in market size and six-fold growth in user base from 2016. This is fuelled by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 60% in the primary and secondary supplemental education sector over the same period.
E-books! One-to-one tablets! Video conferencing! Mobile learning! Which one to choose?
The proliferation of technology devices, tools and platforms in the K—12 market offers schools an opportunity to identify and choose the most effective options for their students and teachers. While e-books and one-to-one tablets are some of the technology tools that schools can choose for their learners, a variety of technological pedagogies, including mobile learning, video conferencing and self-learning are also available. There is constant pressure on schools on keeping up with technology. Moreover, educators often have varied interests in using digital tools and techniques; while one teacher might want to put a flipped classroom to practice, another might prefer a digital classroom. Thus, it can become difficult for the school management to decide on one particular tool.
How can schools overcome these challenges?
Learning Management System (LMS) is technology’s answer to this vexed problem. Although LMS’ have been used in higher education for a long time now, they have made recent inroads in K—12 education.
What is a Learning Management System?
LMS is a web-based application. It helps in the creation, management and delivery of educational courses. The innovative course planning and teaching tools streamline and organise teachers’ work. The inbuilt tracking tools provide detailed reports of the progress made and the deviations encountered, and also aid in tracking course progress. In short, it is an amalgamation of various tools that cover the length and breadth of the entire teaching-learning gamut.
The Need of an LMS
Curriculum Planning: A major challenge faced by principals and HODs is maintaining a consistent plan across multiple courses and monitoring the progress of the same. Sharing the course plan as hard copies can be problematic as well since teachers are not in a position to make alterations in the plan while the academic session is in progress, and the chances of collaboration among teachers are also reduced. An LMS mitigates these concerns besides helping schools save time and effort.
It enables teachers to create courses using learning materials such as activities, assessments, board papers, homework assignments and, questions. It lets them create their own content library with reusable content across courses.
Instant and Continuous Evaluation: Teachers are often bogged down by mundane and repetitive tasks such as creation, grading of assessments and entering marks that they don’t get the time to focus on concept engagement among students.
LMS supports evaluation for objective as well as subjective questions. Automated evaluation is done for objective questions ranging from MCQs to fill in the blanks. Also, learners can attempt subjective questions online, and instructors can grade them on the platform itself. In a traditional classroom, students wait for weeks before they receive their answer scripts after evaluation. Instant evaluation, on the other hand, provides students immediate feedback, which can help them to improve if they have not fared well or motivate them further if they have done well. Frequent conduct of exams and instant evaluations also help alleviate anxiety in students.
Social Engagement: Though not everything is wrong with rote learning, it should never be an end in itself. It is necessary that students don’t just remember the information but also learn to apply their learnings. To be able to attain such goals, it is necessary that students are engaged in their own learning process and not remain passive receptors of information.
An LMS doesn’t keep learning confined to the four walls of a classroom. It allows students to browse through their lesson plans anytime, anywhere and take up what interests them at that moment. This also gives them the opportunity of studying at their own pace and to form their own discussion forums. This promotes social engagement among students as they get to share their knowledge and collaborate with fellow teachers and students.
While these are the many requirements of LMS in the K—12 sector, its need in India is all the more dire.
Need of LMS in India
Reduces Teacher Burden
Lack of well-trained teachers has often been cited as the reason impairing the standard of education in India. Besides, teachers are burdened with many additional administrative duties. An LMS can ease the burden on the teachers by sending messages to parents, evaluating answer scripts, etc.
Improves Learning Outcomes
As already mentioned, rote learning methodology with teachers delivering hour-long monologues to a class of more than 40 students, limits the scope of education. Education needs to enhance problem-solving and critical-thinking skills in students. An LMS with embedded tracking tools provides insightful reports on learning progress to teachers and students, which makes students aware of their strengths and weaknesses. With micro-level analysis of learning, it becomes easier for teachers to correct students’ learning gaps.
Early years of LMS
In the initial years, LMS was used for the following:
- As a repository of teacher resources
Maintenance of files is a cumbersome task and negligence or a calamity can displace all valuable resources, resulting in a waste of efforts. So LMS served as a repository of sorts to store various resources used by teachers.
- To access files and resources from home
When digital classrooms were introduced, it became a place where engagement and active learning took place. However, students were unable to avail similar learning at home. LMS helped them in accessing the files and resources at home.
- To submit assignments and evaluate student performance
Submitting assignments on a digital platform is easier for students and also enables teachers to evaluate. Besides, it helps in maintaining a record of students’ performance. LMS thus served this purpose.
However, there has been an evolution in the needs of teachers and students. Thus, most of themes in the market are not able to cater to the needs of the present generation.
Early versions of LMS Not Fit for Today’s Needs
The availability of a wide range of tools and resources often confuses teachers. Creating rubrics is a cumbersome task too. Thus, there is not enough teacher usage of LMS. Lack of training of teachers on LMS could also be attributed as one of the reasons behind its limited use.
The learning curve is steep and students feel pressured when new topics are introduced. Most of the available LMSs are not student-centric and a one-size-fits-all approach is still in place.
On-premise LMS solution is a costly affair which involves setting up a basic IT infrastructure and its maintenance. Besides, it is difficult to update the software or develop new features. In fact, developing a new LMS is cheaper than maintaining an old one if the system architecture is complex.
LMS of Tomorrow for 21st Century Learning
However, it must be underlined that the LMS has undergone overhaul over the years and transcended from being a virtual cabinet to an integrated learning platform, thus providing a holistic experience. It now aims to facilitate peer interaction among students as well as open collaboration among all stakeholders, which include teachers, parents, students and principals.
A modern LMS should have the following attributes:
A future LMS should have adaptive learning and assessment integrated into it. Powered by artificial intelligence, adaptive learning, which is a personalised learning solution suggests a learning course based on an individual’s ability and pace of learning.
Adaptive assessments: In this type of assessment, a mid-level question is presented to students. If they answer it correctly, the difficulty level of the subsequent question is raised, and if they give an incorrect answer, the difficulty bar is lowered. Thus, a student’s learning progress and gaps in understanding the concepts can be identified within a short period of time.
Adaptive content: Based on a student’s response to a particular question, tools provide relevant hints, corrective feedback and resources. There are different resource materials such as articles, simulations, videos and notes. for learning, which the system suggests based on the interests of a particular student.
Predictive Learning Analytics
The best way to empower learners is to provide them with insights into their own learning. The instructors, too, can be notified if students are in need of help so that the former can provide better guidance. The main objective of predictive learning analytics is to avert a deviation from the learning goals. A student might show disinterest to a point where artificial intelligence might actually predict him/ her dropping off. To prevent it, positive interventions ought to be taken. Predictive learning analytics is not about the prediction but it is about gaining insights to prevent any unforeseen incident.
New-age Integrated Content
As mentioned earlier, the LMS ought to put students in the driver’s seat vis-à-vis their learning. The motive of designing new-age LMSs should not be just providing more or new information to the learners. The LMSs of the past had failed to retain students and new LMSs need to address this. The information needs to be split into a number of small lessons, that is bite-sized learning in the form of interactive exercises, audio and video lessons is really beneficial for students. Moreover, it is the need of the hour to design an integrated curriculum solution where textbooks, digital classroom content and home lessons are in continuation and sync with each other.
Integration with ERP
It is essential that the LMS is well-integrated with the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. There are two reasons as to why LMS modules, such as curriculum management and assessment should share a common platform with that of school management modules, such as attendance, fees, staff and student demographic and biological details. First, it would save duplication of data entry in different platforms. It would also entail that the system can combine data from all modules to provide effective insights. Processing such data for individual students could be a difficult task for teachers. Technology could help provide valuable insights into students’ performance.
Other than increased collaboration between the stakeholders of the K—12 sector to meet learning outcomes, the future LMSs need to be more user-friendly and comprehensive. Students across all grades should be able to use it to collaborate on various projects. Features such as discussion forums, surveys or polls and publication of e-journals can improve collaboration of students across grades. Parents, who are pretty much neglected in the learner’s learning process, also need to be brought within the fold of their child’s learning to improve the latter’s learning outcomes. A specialised parent portal would give them the opportunity to keep abreast of their child’s learning without interfering in their studies.