This post has been updated on January 23 2020.
In this final post of the mini series we'll explore the technologies available to help turn your face-to-face (F2F) class into an online course. The first post dealt with the preparatory planning steps that are essential to creating an online course and the second post dealt with the two most popular instructional design models, to help you model the flow and scope of the course.
Obviously technology plays a huge role in translating your content into an online course. Learning management systems are software products that are designed to make compartmentalising, reinforcing, supporting and delivering online classes easy, and time efficient. Once you start discovering the many features of an LMS you will hopefully also find the process of converting your real-world course material into an online course easier.
There is a small issue we need to briefly look at: Definitions.
You will notice a host of acronyms once you start researching technologies to deliver your online course, two of them are LMS and LCMS. One is a Learning Management System (LMS) and the other Learning Content Management System (LCMS).
In a very broad sense the difference is content. An LMS is the student-facing system that allows you to manage their submissions, grades and portfolios, while also scheduling and managing your role and instruction. An LCMS is a system that helps you to create and load the content into the LMS; it plays more of a back-end role.
It is not crucial, but can be helpful if the LMS you choose has a content function as this will assist you in the conversion process and guarantee that the content you have created is perfectly suited to the LMS you plan on using.
Turning your F2F class into an online course: the LMS
So let’s look at some features an LMS geared towards K-12 learning should have:
There is simply no way you will be able to seamlessly integrate your computer system with those of your students without the cloud. The cloud is actually just another word for the Internet and means that you don’t have to install specific packages of software onto your or your students’ computers. The entire system is online, and accessed via your normal web browser.
It goes without saying that this is a crucial feature to look for when shopping for an LMS. It’s also really cost-effective to have a cloud based learning management system.
This means that your LMS has an LCMS component, as discussed above. A quality LMS will have a number of easy-to-use authoring tools that will help you to capture and convert your content within the system, so you don’t have to use alternate packages to create the content and another to distribute it.
A comprehensive authoring tool will allow you to upload various files and formats and convert them into embedded lessons all in one step. A good LMS will accept videos, pictures, Office and Google docs.
Yes, another weird acronym, however this one is useful and important. SCORM stands for Shared Object Reference Model and is a set of technical norms set and governed by the US Department of Defense, and specifically encourages e-learning providers to standardize their learning objects (units of learning content) so they can be shared across different systems.
It is a good idea to look out for an LMS that is SCORM compliant, as this indicates not only a quality LMS but also indicates you will have a large degree of flexibility and versatility when it comes to expanding the reach and scope of your online course. Learn more about SCORM here.
Personalized learning paths
One of the major benefits of moving your F2F class online is the ability to see both the big and the small picture. A good LMS will offer detailed user data sets, mapped across the curriculum that will assist you to track mastery per student.
As you know, students all learn in different ways and at different rates; learning paths mean that you can design different routes for students, yet still get them all to the same point of mastery. As your class progresses, an LMS should be able to give you the tools and insight to manage each learner's progress on an individual and personalized basis.
We’ve spoken previously about online security in schools, and an LMS that has a built-in collaboration mechanism is far preferable to one that requires students to go off-site to collaborate; this is especially true of younger students.
A comprehensive LMS should have tools that allow students to interact with each other via a messaging systems. One feature to look out for is a forum or messenger board functionality that students can set up around specific topics or challenges, and can use to chat with each other. Instant messaging is also a key feature your LMS should have as it give students to reach out to you and each other in real time.
Having read all three parts of this blog you may feel like converting your F2F class will be too time-consuming or beyond your technical abilities. Looking back on it perhaps I have not delivered on my promise to make it less overwhelming - I certainly didn’t plan to cover this topic in three parts! But on the other hand, the process is as important as the results.
Taking careful and well-planned steps in a strategic and systematic manner will result in an online course that resonates with potential. I believe that by capturing your face to face class in an online format preserves your lessons in a way that is essentially timeless, as well as borderless.
In short, I think that starting the process of taking your gifts and skills in the classroom and transforming those into online lessons is a gift to future generations that is definitely worthwhile.