How to choose an online educational platform?

How to choose an online educational platform?

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An online educational platform (LMS for Learning Management System) is software for creating and sharing teaching and learning documents through the Internet. There are a large number of LMS available either “proprietary” or “open source”. Choosing the best formula can seem difficult. A few specific questions can help define the selection criteria.

What are the goals?

The first thing to do is to clarify the goals you set for yourself by installing an LMS (or by deciding to change it if one already exists).

These goals can be dictated by immediate or projected needs. They can reflect a project to improve the organization of work, time management, and the assessment of tasks performed or even aim for a change in pedagogical management (moving from face-to-face to distance education), to a change in practices. All the actors (management, teachers, educators, students, or pupils ...) must be taken into consideration in the definition of these objectives.

Who are the actors involved?

Any selection process should be guided by an analysis of the prior needs of all the actors involved. Some needs may be difficult to pin down or predict, however, this will allow a more systematic approach in comparing different environments and deciphering their many characteristics and options offered to target the most suitable. Especially in the case of online courses for Hi-Tech Professionals, the selection process should include multiple reviews as the case involves many aspects, more so than “regular online courses.” For example, Udacity, an online learning platform for Hi-Tech Professionals. If you're planning to give the platform a try you'd better read a review on Udacity first.

What are the various needs?

Different actors may have different needs being in different contexts. One teacher can have a hundred students in three different classes once a week throughout the year, while another will be in charge of a group of twelve students for fifteen days as part of a crash course. The needs for the organization of the course, the follow-up, and the evaluations will be decidedly different. The weekly activities of the classes of the large group of students could be mainly of the presentation type of content in the form of lessons, readings to do, various exercises, and questionnaires. The small intensive fortnight group would perhaps do group work, carry out collaborative projects around case studies. An LMS offering a sequential structure (by weeks) will be suitable for the first case but would only work with difficulty with the second, which requires managing iterative sequences and collaborative workspaces.

Observe the workflow of each actor. For example, do employees need a shared calendar or not? How do they follow up on student work and how do they evaluate it? What types of activities do they offer students and how do they manage them? Large institutions will undoubtedly derive the greatest benefit from an environment whose functionalities offer easy enrollment means, efficient classification of groups and courses, and allow administration, teachers, and students to have access to information under a shape corresponding to their respective roles. For a two-week course, it may be sufficient (at least in the short term) to manage everything from a simple database and email.

After all, identifying the various needs as precisely as possible should make it possible to draw up a relatively exhaustive list of features to prioritize in choosing an LMS and also a clear indication of what users want from it and their motivation in choosing an LMS and also a clear indication of what users want from it and their motivation to use it.


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