Choosing the Best Learning Management Systems for Colleges

Carolina Jacobs

Feb 18, 2023

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Although many students took advantage of distance learning through their respective colleges before the COVID-19 pandemic, learning management systems became widely utilized during lockdowns.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), online learning was 97% higher in 2020 than in 2019 — 11.8 million compared to 6 million students. By the fall of 2020, 75% of college students enrolled in at least one class, while 44% took online courses exclusively. 

Despite schools reopening since vaccination roll-outs, students have continued to enroll in online classes and programs. Of course, the only way to make distance learning possible is to have the correct software in place. This guide will help colleges choose the best learning management systems for faculty and students. 

What Makes an Effective Learning Management System?

Learning management systems present a single goal: To simplify learning through digital means. Before purchasing and deploying a learning management system college-wide, it’s crucial to understand what makes an effective program. Perhaps, most surprisingly, learning management systems must be sufficient for faculty and staff before students.

Only a slight 52% majority of educators agree that learning management systems have made teaching easier, while 11% of respondents say they make teaching somewhat or much more difficult. 

Part of the challenge is lacking tools to reach kinesthetic learners who’d prefer to move, touch and feel while learning, leaving educators to find ways to engage non-conventional learners through their devices.

The most effective learning management systems only work when employees are well-trained and comfortable using the software’s features. Additionally, internal resources must be easily accessible in the learning management system database for future reference. 

General education support, whether through additional features or troubleshooting and assistance, is also integral to transitioning the learning experience online. 

How to Choose the Best Learning Management Systems for Your Institution

Once the most effective components of learning management systems are understood, it’s important to take a step-by-step approach to deploy the best program. Here are three things to keep in mind. 

1. Basic Requirements

One must identify the target audience to select the best learning management systems at a college or university. Some programs cater to large institutions, while others are suitable for smaller schools.

Depending on the average age level of employees, a system with minimal functionality and simplistic designs might be better than something more complex. Another detail to consider is how many employees will require training on the system.

Finally, choosing a learning management system functional with multiple devices, from smartphones to tablets, is essential. This will ensure a more seamless learning experience for faculty and students alike. 

2. Technical Requirements

After determining who will utilize the program, the next step is to list its technical requirements, such as the required content, training courses, and built-in tools for course creation. 

For example, some programs support different test modalities like multiple-choice or open-ended questions. Colleges should also find out whether or not the software can integrate with adaptive equipment to enhance accessibility for those with disabilities.

Otherwise, learning delivery — the real-time or delayed exchanges between professors and students — should also play into the decision. Some schools opt for a learning management system that allows students and teachers to interact via instant messaging, while others only authorize email communication. 

Learning management systems should also have a sufficient reporting and grading system and capabilities for large student enrollment. 

3. Desirable Features

Most learning management systems comprise under-utilized tools to enhance the online educational experience. Colleges and universities can decide which additional features they’re interested in providing and make their selection accordingly. 

Aside from the main features, some programs lean into social learning, which relates to group interactions, discussion forums, group chats, and more. Others might support mobile access to the courses.

Social interactions create a greater sense of community and belonging among classmates. When students feel like they don’t belong, their grades and motivation to complete assignments might falter.

Learning Management Systems for Quality Distance Learning

Selecting the best learning management system for online students is essential to enhance the distance learning experience. Ensuring faculty and staff have the tools, resources, and training needed to teach students effectively should be at the forefront of each school’s program purchasing decision.

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