For my graduate course on Instructional Design, I participated in an online chat with high education technology integration specialists. About 15 of us in total chatted for an hour about designing online lessons using an LMS.

The conversation centered around a couple of key topics:

  1. Student Privacy and Data
  2. LMS vs Tools for Lesson Design

Student Privacy and Data

Some parts of the conversation were bringing up issues around student privacy and LMSs. One of the integrationists, Autumm Caines, suggested that students should be informed about the data collected on them by the LMS. The data usually only goes one way, admin and instructors, but never to the student.

What data?

LMSs provide really helpful, actionable data to instructors about student login rates, time spent on the LMSs, interaction reports, and outcome measurements. Not all of that data is shared with students and, especially at higher ed, Autumm suggested that it should be shared.

LMS vs Tools for Lesson Design

There was a lot of time spent discussing how to design courses that include tools that work with the LMS and that students can access. I asked questions about using elearning design tools with the LMS and whether it is better practice to design things within the course using the LMS or to be integrated into the LMS.

An example of this would be branching scenarios. I asked if branching scenarios should be used as a part of the LMS itself or if they should be built using an outside tool and then entered into the LMS as an assignment or page.

The experts in the chat gave their advice. They told me, basically, don’t worry about it. There is no way to future-proof any lesson. The LMS will be updated at some point and the tool that is used to design the lesson outside the LMS will also eventually become dated. The experts had different opinions about which was the right path but ultimately they said to do what was best for the lesson, students, and teachers.

Final Thoughts

A lot of teachers never even have the chance to explore LMSs to choose one for themselves. It is fun, challenging, and a lot of work. Most of the time, the features most important to teachers are automatically grading quizzes or ease of Google Docs access. But whenever teachers/admins are looking for the right LMS, my advice is to create a list of needs from all stakeholders and then look for an LMS that has the advanced features to best support those needs.