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3.1 Learning management systems

Online courses and courses with any online component are usually delivered using a host platform, commonly referred to as a learning management system (LMS) or virtual learning environment (VLE). These systems (Moodle and Blackboard are popular examples) support the delivery of materials to students, keep track of registered students, and support other tasks such as assessment and communications.

Educators based in traditional universities and colleges will not normally have much input into the selection process when their institution is investing in one of these systems (even ‘free’ LMS systems such as Moodle require investment in terms of adapting and running the product). Usually the role of educators and collaborators/support staff is to find out what possibilities exist for teaching online using the product, and to use the elements that seem most productive in their individual context.

A variety of tools can typically be included, such as e-books, blogs and wikis, quizzes and automated assessment processes, spaces for synchronous and asynchronous learning activities, and repositories for learning objects. The ways in which LMS tools can be used in teaching will be covered in more detail next week.