How far can lightweight LMSes go?

Teams, Google Classroom and Zoom are not learning management systems

In a research report, Gartner® writes “workplace collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams, Office 365, [Google Workspace] and Zoom support a different collaboration experience to that available in some learning management systems (LMSs). The report further states that, “these tools enhance the higher education learning experience but do not fully duplicate LMS functionality and are not a direct LMS replacement”.*

LMSes have traditionally been used in education for blended learning courses. However, Gartner states in its report, “the pressure to evolve online and hybrid teaching practices due to COVID-19 has led institutions to adapt readily available technologies. Existing LMS platforms were stretched and additional solutions deployed where needed.”* The urgency to deploy a quick solution led to the adoption of free, lightweight systems such as Google Classroom, Moodle, and Seesaw that offer basic functionality but lack full learning management features, crucial for school and district adoption.

These easily available, and in most cases free-to-education, solutions don’t fulfill the unique requirements of K-12, where workarounds and additional tools and training are needed to make these tools work even in limited ways in the K-12 classroom. “Workplace collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams and Office 365, [Google Workspace] and Zoom proved invaluable in building social collaboration between learners and with faculty,” states Gartner.* But even if the systems can be made to work for a few blended learning classes by select tech-savvy teachers at individual high school and middle schools, that doesn’t mean they can meet the instructional and learning demands of grades K-6, let alone of every educator at whole K-12 school districts.

Many districts that have opted for lightweight LMSes have found that they can become time-consuming, challenging, and costly over time when considering the array of additional tools necessary to make them work for K-12.

The benefit of robust, dedicated education LMS systems

The holy grail for K-12 education is a single digital learning platform to enable educators to teach, students to learn, families to communicate, and administrators to assess and report – all in one place.

Edsby is a single, feature-rich social learning environment that addresses the diverse requirements of modern K-12 school districts. It can do all that Google Classroom, Teams, and Seesaw can do and a vast amount more, including:

Classroom management and course content

  • Attendance synced with the SIS
  • Printable class rosters
  • Curriculum that can be centrally managed and modeled year-over-year
  • Audit trail of changes made to course content

Group collaboration and parent engagement

  • Multi-level privileges and permissions
  • Monitor groups for actioning at-risk students
  • Planned absences
  • Parent visibility into classes if allowed by a teacher

Assessment & reporting

  • Formal report card workflow with principals and administrators
  • Full principal view of all information on a student when a parent calls
  • Real-time learner analytics

The system also goes beyond classing LMS capabilities. A groundbreaking new feature known as “Edsby Social Emotional Check-Ins” enables students to choose from color-coded animated icons representing emotions and intensity levels so that educators can get a better sense of how their pupils are feeling on a daily basis. It also provides research-based regulation strategies for teachers curated by SEL professionals based on the types of emotions their students may be experiencing and empowers them to take action to ensure all their students are as ready to learn as possible.

The need for world-class electronic tools in K-12 isn’t going away. According to a RAND Corporation survey, 10% of K-12 leaders plan to continue to deliver a blended or hybrid learning model once the pandemic is over. An additional 20% stated they would explore offering a remote learning environment.

Dedicated K-12 platforms such as Edsby will continue to be an ideal, fuller-fledged choice for remote and hybrid K-12 learning environments into the future.

*Gartner, “Should Workplace Collaboration Tools Displace the Higher Education LMS?”, Tony Sheehan, Glenda Morgan, March 24, 2021.

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