The function of your LMS/VLE and some of its typical tools

The LMS (learning management system)/VLE (virtual learning environment) at your institution provides the framework within which you and your students will access and engage with content, interaction, and assessment tools. Think about the LMS/VLE as an alternative to the 'bricks and mortar' of the face-to-face learning space where you will find your classroom, and the tools you will use to teach your students in an online or blended course.

You may be using the LMS/VLE to develop and deliver your entire course, or you may be using it to house specific course components. In either case, it is helpful to become familiar with the options you have available in the online classroom, and the way you can leverage those options to support student engagement and learning.

LMS/VLE tool features typically include content development, interaction, and assessment tools. Many also include social media tools to encourage collaboration and community building around core content and learning activities. As you progress through this course, you will have the opportunity to explore each of these areas in more depth.

social media

Communication media which allow for the creation of online communities and the sharing of information, ideas, personal messages, etc. Social media is used in online learning as a virtual 'hallway' for interaction and to foster collaborative learning.

In the following activity, click on each flashcard to explore the online teaching features common to all LMS/VLEs.

The following paragraphs will explore the online teaching features common to all LMS/VLEs.

Did you know?

Take some time to explore content folder options, and the possibility of...

Course content

Course content tools typically include lessons, learning modules and resources. You can develop content areas to include lectures, presentations, documents, links to resources and audio/video files.


Interaction

Interaction tools include email, discussion forums, virtual meeting spaces, and chat functionality.


Assessment

Assessment tools include assignment submission areas, a variety of exam types, and survey utilities. Assessment activities can typically be tied to grade book utilities within the LMS/VLE.


Management

Course management features, such as announcements and calendar tools help keep students on track. Most LMS/VLEs also include tracking and reporting tools to help you monitor student progress.


Student work

Student work areas enable students to contribute to course content, using blogs, wikis, and/or e-portfolios. These areas provide opportunities for collaboration and reflection on student learning.


Other tools

Other tools may include social media plug-ins, and methods for aggregating content from additional sources including library and other institutional resources.

Did you know?

Many LMS/VLEs have mobile interfaces which allow students to access...

Things to remember


  • In some cases you will be asked to teach an online course that has been developed in the LMS/VLE by someone else. If you are teaching a course that has already been developed, you may not be able to edit all of these areas.
  • As you should when using any technology tool, have a back-up plan for if the system goes down! Archiving your course content is possible in most LMS/VLEs, and you may want to check with your institution for instructions on how to save your course at the beginning and end of the semester. This is also helpful if you teach the same course each term.
  • Remember that many of your students will be using mobile devices to access the LMS/VLE – see the 'Did you know' pod to the right for some considerations to bear in mind.
  • Remember that many of your students will be using mobile devices to access the LMS/VLE – see the second 'Did you know' pod at the end of the section for some considerations to bear in mind.

As the LMS/VLE functions as the core classroom in online learning, it is helpful to explore features and think about the types of content and interactions you want to build into the student experience.

In the following activity, click 'Next' to build up a list of questions to consider when thinking about your institution's LMS/VLE and the related support options.

You will now be presented with a list of key questions to consider when thinking about your institution's LMS/VLE and the related support options.

Your context

Take some time to review all available components of the LMS/VLE at your...

Portfolio activity

Work through the questions presented in this section about your institution's...

  • Question 1 of 11:
    What brand of LMS/VLE does your institution use? (e.g. Blackboard, Moodle, Sakai.) Does your local LMS/VLE have a 'local' name? (e.g. StudyWeb, HomeNet.)
  • Question 2 of 11:
    What are the contact details of LMS/VLE support staff?
  • Question 3 of 11:
    Who is responsible for setting up/archiving your course content?
  • Question 4 of 11:
    If you have to request a course area, how do you do this?
  • Question 5 of 11:
    Do you have a practice course that you can use to explore tools and features? Can you view and access all course components in students' view, or have access to a test student account?
  • Question 6 of 11:
    What technology tools are available through the LMS/VLE: For example, can you distribute lecture recordings, access library resources and online readings, link to e-portfolios, etc.?
  • Question 7 of 11:
    What technical training is available for you to use the LMS/VLE? And can you see how others in your institution use the LMS/VLE?
  • Question 8 of 11:
    Are there any policies governing what content or components you can or can't change/use within the LMS/VLE?
  • Question 9 of 11:
    What support is available for the learners who use the LMS/VLE?
  • Question 10 of 11:
    What method is in place for logging support requests?
  • Question 11 of 11:
    Is there any guidance available about what content you can and can't use in the LMS/VLE (i.e. on copyright restrictions and intellectual property)?

As you progress through this unit, you will explore the continuum of technology tools used to develop, deliver, curate and archive course content – from the LMS/VLE components you have reviewed here to the extensive array of available online resources. We encourage you to keep in mind the ways that you can integrate each of these additional content development tools into the LMS/VLE at your institution.


Did you know?

Take some time to explore content folder options, and the possibility of conditional release of content. This will enable content to be released to students on specific dates, or as they complete designated tasks. Check for conditional release date features in all of the tool areas within your LMS/VLE, such as announcements, email messages, and assignment deadlines.

Did you know?

Many LMS/VLEs have mobile interfaces which allow students to access courses on their smartphones and tablets. Most of these interfaces are simplified versions of the standard LMS/VLE interface that you will access on your computer. Key mobile features include announcements, calendar reminders, new content notifications, and broadcast messaging. Advanced features include full content access and interaction capabilities, giving students the opportunity to fully access all course components on their mobile devices. Check with your institution to see what mobile capabilities are associated with your LMS/VLE, and test out your course on your mobile devices to see what features work best for you.

Your context

Take some time to review all available components of the LMS/VLE at your institution. Also check for resources related to LMS/VLE training and support.

Portfolio

Duration: 60 minutes

Work through the questions presented in this section about your institution's LMS/VLE, to enable you to make the most effective use of it.

Use the attached document to record your responses, or complete the relevant page of your Teaching Online portfolio.