Welcome to our last post in the four-part series where education experts give their opinion on learning management systems. In this piece, David Palank, Principal at San Miguel School in Washington DC and Jeannette Geib, the Educational Director at the world’s first online high school CompuHigh, share their experience of using virtual learning environments.
San Miguel School uniquely serves low-income youth in the DC area with a preference for those living in poverty and who would not otherwise have access to a high quality private education. San Miguel uses multiple Learning Management Systems at our school. They are an excellent tool for teachers and schools to monitor progress, give feedback, and gather data on student performance throughout the school year.
They benefit students in multiple ways. One of the ways they benefit students is that they give unbiased and immediate feedback. If a teacher gives you feedback, there is a chance that the student may feel that they are under ego threat and not accept the feedback. However, if a computer gives you feedback and tells what has been achieved or not, it is not a person telling you and therefore the student’s ego is not threatened.
Video games operate under similar principles. Many students enjoy video games because they are challenging, give immediate feedback, and operate on a progression through levels. They engage students because of these elements. Learning Management Systems operate the same way.
However, these systems are a tool, not a crutch. If teachers rely on them as their sole means of instruction, they are not using them properly.
I am the Educational Director at CompuHigh, an online high school that has been around since 1994. When this school was founded, there really wasn’t anything else like it out there; there wasn’t even a ‘World Wide Web’ to speak of, so doing high school online was a unique proposition.
Our founder, Stan Kanner, simply taught himself programming and created the software he needed to run a school on the internet. Today, our ‘homegrown’ Learning Management System works beautifully because the programming has always sprung organically from the needs of the students, teachers, and administration. We just say, “Hey can we have a button here that does this? Can we have a system that tracks this?” and Stan could make it happen, usually the same day.
I realise that most school systems are too large to be that nimble, but I would always recommend hiring a smart programmer and growing your system ‘in house’ rather than trying to buy an ‘out of the box’ LMS.