Should you build your own LMS?

Bridget McCrea for eschoolnews writes:  The online education movement has pushed K-12 schools and districts to rethink the way they develop and deliver content. No longer relegated to using textbooks as their core instructional materials, teachers look to their institutions for help selecting, aggregating, and then delivering relevant content to their pupils. Districts, in turn, must decide whether to build out their own online content platforms, farm it out to a learning platform provider like FuelEd (formerly Aventa Learning) or K12, or take a hybrid approach.

And while core course content is often housed on the district’s internal learning management system (LMS), the extracurricular content—advanced placement (AP), English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), honors, homeschool, and blended learning content—must also be factored into the equation.

Hiring help

In most cases, schools are turning to third parties for help building out their core and non-core content right now, said Allison Powell, VP for new learning models at iNACOL, the nonprofit blended learning advocacy group. “We’re starting to see some K-12 schools wanting to build their own online platforms to house content, but a lot of times they just don’t realize how difficult that is,” she said. “To overcome this issue, schools will contract with the LMS providers and then customize the content itself to meet their individual needs.”

The only problem with that approach is that districts tend to turn to individual teachers for help with the content build out. Already strapped for time and tied up with their day-to-day responsibilities, teachers can get overwhelmed by the additional burden. “To avoid creating burnout, schools need to form teams that include teachers, content experts/instructional designers, and even graphic artists and web developers,” said Powell. “This is better than saying, ‘You’re an algebra teacher, so go build us an [online] algebra class.’”

Of course, if the district has the right level of financing and support, the do-it-yourself LMS route is actually within reach. Powell points to Facebook’s recent move into the K-12 space as an example. The company has assigned a small team of its engineers to work with California-based Summit Public Schools to develop a “Personalized Learning Plan” designed to deliver content and assignments online.  SNIP, the article continues @, click here to continue reading…

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