itslearning: not as pointless as it seems

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itslearning: not as pointless as it seems

Susie Paine, Staff Writer

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For the second time in four years, students are forced to learn another Learning Management System. But, as pointless as it seems, this news is not all bad. There are many compelling reasons to use an LMS, and itsLearning displays all of them. Rather than groan about the website, students should think about what good My Big Campus’ replacement can do.

An LMS helps students organize their homework and keep all of their assignments in the same place. Students don’t have to hunt through multiple sites for their homework, and itsLearning is a secure place to save important information. Students are able to quickly find their homework from home, school, or their extracurricular activities.

A common argument is that an LMS would negatively impact student productivity. An LMS has the potential to do students’ organization for them. The website would do all the work, and students would not have the opportunity to create their own organization systems, or be responsible for keeping track of their own work.

However, Mrs. Amy Dirlam, Director of K-12 Media Services and Instructional Technology for the district, says, “The responsibility is always going to come back to the student. This is not an online school. The ultimate authority is the teacher in front of the room, what they say, not what is posted.”

Students must learn to be responsible and be held accountable for their work no matter what, LMS or not. There will always be assignments that don’t make it online. These are the real tests of student organization.

“As an adult, I get reminders on my phone all the time. Does that allow me to be a little less organized with my calendar? Maybe. But, it’s also the way of life,” Mrs. Dirlam said. An LMS reflects the adult world, and the way it has become increasingly technological.

Many teachers understand the benefits of an LMS; it helps them organize as well. “It’s a way of putting my agenda and homework out there for the week,” Mrs. Bean Klusendorf, English teacher, said.

Using an LMS, teachers can easily check to see that all of their students have received important information and that the students understand what they are required to do. Also, itsLearning provides a direct method of communication with students, including a messaging system, so it is easier than ever for teachers to respond to students’ requests for help.

Another prominent reason to use an LMS is the number of colleges that use one. Local colleges such as Lake Michigan College and Western Michigan University utilize an LMS, as well as many colleges around the country, according to LMS’s seem to be the wave of the future, but are only supplements to the traditional classroom. The information sent through itsLearning is only to help explain and refine the material in the classroom.

“The intent of the LMS is not to replace a teacher, not to replace traditional learning,” Mrs. Dirlam said.

Everyone had just learned how to use MBC when we switched to itsLearning, so adjusting to a new LMS has been difficult. Everything is tucked away in different places in itsLearning, sometimes behind inordinate amounts of clicks and folders, and teachers have had to transfer over huge numbers of files. Many feel that switching to itsLearning has been a waste of time.

ItsLearning does, however, make a concerted effort to put all the materials for one class in the same place. The planner contains quizzes, schedules, and other homework items. In MBC, quizzes were located in a separate place from schedules, and homework sheets were in another place as well. itsLearning has done a much better job of consolidating these pieces of information and making the LMS as useful as possible.

While itsLearning is an established site, the teachers and students are still feeling their way around. There are many features that have not been implemented. As teachers and students learn more about itsLearning, more features will be added, and the LMS will begin to reach its full potential. Just because we don’t understand the product, doesn’t mean it is bad; it just means we don’t understand it.

To help this process, Mrs. Dirlam wants to add student voices to the district-wide technology committee. The committee’s mission is to ask “How can we best prepare you for future learning, while making sure you are still keeping some of the traditional responsibilities?” Student voices are important because they make sure that administrators are truly doing what is best for the students when making big decisions about technology and LMS’s.

As Mrs. Dirlam says, “Even if we haven’t perfected yet about how we’re communicating, we’ll get there.”