From Traditional Learning Management Systems to More Adaptive Learning Spaces

Learning management systems are extensively used by higher education institutions, K-12 schools, corporations for online training purposes. No doubt that it is an increasingly growing sub-market of e-learning. Some sources claim that it will experience a growth rate of 23% between 2017 and 2018 (Product & Users).

Traditional LMSs and Common Concerns About Them

From a pedagogical point of view, we may argue that some of the learning management systems place the storage and delivery of content in the center rather than leaners and effective learning. Furthermore,

they dictate certain teaching strategies mainly in the form of knowledge transfer. Teachers and trainers are restricted with the features available in an LMS, which makes learning much less effective. However, learning is a much more complex and a dynamic process in which teachers need to be given the chance to be flexible enough with the mode of instruction, interaction and assessment strategies in online & blended learning environments. From this point of view, we can say that adapting the system to fit the instruction is pedagogically more sound than modifying the instruction to fit the affordances of the the tool. When the LMS dictates how learning and teaching take place with no room for flexibility, effective learning is more likely to fall through the cracks. This is one of the common concerns in some education circles and seems to be partly true especially for some traditional LMS’s built around the idea of one-size-fits-all.

Is the Future of LMSs Promising?

Although it is a fact that learning in the digital age is so distributed and learner-pulled that it should not be confined to a certain system, a counter-arguement can be made in favor of learning management systems based on recent developments. We observe that learning management systems are getting more and more sophisticated as the technology advances. For instance, data science is becoming an integral part of learning management systems, and learner analytics are utilized in a way that helps learners experience a more personalised learning. Some LMSs already report if a student has mastered the target objective based on the student’s performance on assignments, tests and activities, and recommend a specific learning plan for the student. This helps each student meet the learning objectives in a personalised way.

The summative assessment features such as multiple-choice tests produced at the end of a course are all currently available in LMSs. However, formative assessment which is crucial for individualizing learning and intervening at the right time before a course ends is what matters for enhanced learning. It is promising to see that modern LMS’s offer teachers the opportunity to evaluate their students’ understanding at the right time with the right intervention plan.

There is also research on whether computers can detect the emotional state of students by examining their facial expressions while dealing with math problems. The researchers have found support that computer programs are able to determine the students’ level of perceived difficulty of a given task and that it is possible to adapt the learning materials based on their affective state. Given the fact that emotions play a crucial role in learning, these adaptive learning systems seem to have the potential to improve the quality of learning and to change our view of learning management systems in a positive way.

It seems that one-size-fits-all methods are increasingly being abondoned and it is easy to predict that we will be using even more sophisticated systems in the near future. Perhaps, what we call learning management systems now will evolve into completely different learning spaces which are much more intelligent and learner-centered.

 

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