Help your students use your LMS.

When students perceive that a Learning Management System, like Blackboard, Canvas, or Moodle, is effective, they put more effort into learning. So, while you absolutely have justifiable complaints about whatever LMS your institution uses, if you can help students use it effectively, so they can shift their cognitive energy to content, not “learning management,” you can help them learn better. Here are some quick ideas, none of which takes more than 30 minutes, to help students understand how to use your course’s LMS site.

  • Include a video tour of your LMS site in the front matter of your class. 
  • Give your students a chance to make sure they know key information about your course by requiring a quiz over the syllabus; include questions about the LMS. 
  • For each module, create a brief video (2-3 minutes) reminding students of the work due in the course during that module and showing them how to submit it.
  • For each major assignment or assignment type (like discussion posts or glossary entries), create a video showing students how to submit it. 
  • Make sure that your LMS site aligns with your syllabus. Use the same language to talk about assignments (for example, use the words tests or exams consistently), policies, etc. 
  • Give students a chance to practice needed LMS skills in a low- or no-stakes way before a major exam. For example, if you give online exams or quizzes, let them take a low-stakes or no-stakes one before the first major exam or quiz The more they practice without negative impact, the more confident they will feel. 
  • When it makes sense to do so, standardize your LMS sites so that key information (the syllabus, the video tour of the course, the video introduction to the professor, a list of links to important resources, a list of links to tech tutorials) is in the same place in each course. This may be across your classes, across multiple sections of a widely-taught class, or within a department or college.
  • Make sure your LMS course is accessible to students with learning, visual, or hearing disabilities. One way to do this is to include instructions in both writing and video. Another is to make sure you are using hyperlinks, not URLs. Finally, be sure that every image includes an alt-text/image description so that students who use screen readers can access visual information.
  • If your institution offers feedback from an instructional designer or online teaching mentor, ask for a formative review of your LMS site so you can improve it even further. And if you can, petition to provide teachers, especially non-tenure track ones, who undergo such a review and then revise their classes with a stipend.
Above, an illustration titled The Headache shows a man by the fireplace, two large books on the table next to him. Small demons poke him with a hot poker, yell in his ear, blow a horn directly in his ear, drive a screwdriver into his temple, and smack him in the head with a gavel. Prevent your students from seeing your LMS as pain by teaching them how to use it and making it easy-to-use.

Do you have tips to improve the student experience of your LMS? Share them, please!

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