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Learning management systems and VLEs for schools - Part 1

The learning management system market is hard to navigate. There are hundreds of different systems and it’s difficult to make a choice when so many have similar functionality.

It must be easier to find a learning management system/VLE for a school. Schools are a niche and most will want something that has less rather than more functionality - ease of use will be a key school requirement.

What about the requirements? What choices have you got if you’re a secondary school in the UK and you want an online learning platform that:

  1. Sits alongside what happens in the classroom - is ‘light touch’ and supports true blended learning.

  2. Is easy to sign up, perhaps a free trial and and easy to switch off if it doesn’t work out.

  3. Has low setup costs - no big upfront job course creation/data entry job.

  4. Allows teachers to create simple courses and post materials, assignments and worksheets.

  5. Lets students upload work.

  6. Can be used for homeworks - maybe online quizzes, worksheets that can be downloaded and then re-uploaded by the student.

  7. Doesn’t lock your school into a wider ecosystem of applications. So It has a fairly open architecture that means it can be used alongside systems from other vendors.

Here are 5 possibles:

  1. Canvas

    Includes an online markbook, connects parents with schools and there are apps for iOS and Android.

  2. Moodle

    Well established open source VLE that is popular in the FE world. Companies like Webanywhere provided wrap around support packages for schools.

  3. eSchools

    Again, teachers can create and share resources online. Parents can also get access.

  4. Firefly

    Timetables, lesson plans and resources. Homework setting, tools for marking and ways to track progress.

  5. Google Classroom

    Simple, free and 'light touch'. Comes with an app for iOS or Android.

    8 things to know about Google Classroom

Think carefully about ease of use and the admin overhead. You will struggle to get teachers to really engage with any VLE if it adds to their workload, but doesn't deliver obvious benefits. A good VLE should mean a teacher spends less time photocopying, handing out sheets of paper, chasing missing work and transferring marks between spreadsheets.

Last updated - 22/03/2019

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