Most academic institutions use a Learning Management System (LMS) to provide students staff, and faculty centralized access to what they need for teaching and learning. These generally require login with a username and password to restrict access to registered users. Typical features are:
Course Management – catalogue of courses, mechanism to register, prerequisites, credit information
Teaching Materials – syllabus, text and multi-mediated course content, etc.
Communications Technologies – asynchronous tools like emails, forums, threaded discussions, and voice-threads as well as synchronous tools including chat, audio teleconferencing, and web conferencing
Assessment and Evaluation Tools – self-tests, quizzes, progress tracking, student response systems, eportfolio, course evaluation surveys, etc
Administrative Tools – student progress tracking, assignment management, online grading
Beyond the features native to a particular LMS or external options that can be integrated into it. there are also freestanding web-based resources that cannot be integrated into a school’s LMS. Faculty and Information Technology/Educational Technology staff need to work collaborately to ensure that teaching/learning goals direct technology choices. Ideally, faculty should identify the FUNCTIONS they need to effectively achieve their learning outcomes and IT/ET staff should recommend options that are compatible with a school’s resources. WCET (WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies), a division of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, created this detailed matrix of LMS features.
There are a number of online resources to aid LMS selection. Advanced Distributive Learning Co-Laboratories created a comprehensive guide for the federal government titled Choosing a Learning Management System. Longsight, an open source solution service provider, offers an adapted version of McGill Univesity’s Criteria for Selecting a Learning Management System. The eLearning Guild offers members a guide for Evaluating and Selecting a Learning Management System.