What makes a good Learning Management System?
Creating a custom system can be a daunting task, and without the right planning, a simple project can turn into a big headache. Having helped a number of schools design and build custom systems, here are the four things I recommend considering when designing or adopting a Learning Management System.
4 Learning Management System Design Tips For Better eLearning
1. Focus on data–for both instructors and students
We’re obsessed with data these days, and for good reason: it’s relatively easy to get if you know what you’re looking for. While you won’t be able to identify everything that’s useful upfront, take a step back, and evaluate what you’d hope to learn. Come up with a list of the information you need and a list of things you’d like to have. For example, do you need to know the average test score for students in History? What about attendance rates during the month of December?
Knowing what you’re looking for upfront helps you determine what specific information you’ll need to capture from your users.
2. Design for usability–make it ‘pleasurable’ to use
Once you know what you need users to tell you, you should make it easy for them to do so. Design each component of your LMS with usability in mind. Create a hierarchy of actions you need users to take, ranking them in order from essential to nonessential, and use prominent buttons, obvious links, and clean copy to direct people to them.
Also, take advantage of what’s out there. Things like social logins, video streaming, shared calendars, message boards, and forms are all commonplace on the web, and users know immediately what to do with them. Take inspiration from Google, Facebook, Microsoft Word, and others to learn the common themes of web interfaces and copy them. Your users will thank you.
For a great reference on designing easy-to-use interfaces, I recommend Stephen Krug’s book “Don’t Make Me Think.”
3. Plan for mobile from the very beginning
As of 2020, there are more than 14 billion mobile devices in use worldwide, a number that’s expected to grow to nearly 17 billion by 2023.
Further, more than half of all web traffic is mobile–which means that the likelihood that students, parents, faculty, and staff will need to use the LMS on a mobile device is relatively high. To optimize their experience, adopt a mobile-first design approach. Rather than building a full, standard website and then cutting features or scaling back functionality for a mobile version, start by focusing solely on how your LMS looks and works on mobile.
Ask yourself, what are the core tasks teachers, students, parents, administrators need to perform? What information and tasks need to be accessible at all times? How does information look on small screens? How do you interact with information?
It’s always easier to layer complexity for a desktop experience, but designing for mobile-first ensures a seamless experience for users—wherever they are.
4. Design curriculum and instruction with the strengths of your specific LMS in mind
Every platform is different and no single approach to LMS creation is perfect. Some work well as assessment software while others handle video better. Some or visual while others load quickly, are text-based, and use frequent lesson and page loading to move the student through material.
Whatever your approach, design what and how the students learn in cooperation with the strengths and abilities of the LMS rather than designing digital lessons and units and then shoe-horning them into whatever the LMS is able to do.
While the options for customization can be exciting, taking the time to consider these four things will help you build the system that meets your needs so that you can focus on the thing that matters most—providing a great education to students.
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