The Changing Face of Higher Ed LMS
In recent years, learning management systems (LMS) have become increasingly popular among educational institutions across the world. Colleges and universities can utilize LMS platforms not only to distribute materials to learners, but to manage and measure every aspect of learning in the process. Despite their usefulness, higher ed LMS systems are still not being utilized to their full potential.
The Current State of LMS in Higher Education
The use of these in higher education differs greatly than the traditional use in public schooling systems across the globe.
Underutilization in Colleges and Universities: As of right now, there is a problem of underutilization of LMS platforms in colleges and universities. While it’s estimated that about 99% of higher education institutions have some form of LMS in place, the platforms generally aren’t being utilized to their full potential.
Perhaps the main reason as to why LMS features are being underutilized (especially in the higher education environment) is a simple lack of training; very seldom are educators given thorough training on how to use all the features in any particular LMS service. This, combined with the notion that most faculties in higher education are already overworked and underpaid, leaves many educators left to fend for themselves in terms of learning the system.
As a result, educators figure out the “basics,” such as how to update the grade book or how to upload an assignment, but they simply don’t have the resources to learn the rest of the platform. Interestingly enough, in a recent poll conducted by SmartBrief, 50% of respondents in higher education reported that they were unhappy with their school’s current learning management systems.
How LMS Can Improve Education?
With the right amount of training and by implementing the right LMS software for each school, these services can have a huge impact on the quality of education. Schools simply need to be able to keep up with the ever-changing and evolving technology trends in education to begin reaping the benefits. Moreover, new-age learning management systems are easy to deploy.
Benefits for Educators and Learners
#1 All information in one central location
When properly utilized to their full potential, LMS platforms serve a huge advantage to educators and learners alike by providing a platform for fully centralized learning.  For example, rather than maintaining a physical gradebook, a separate dropbox for student assignments to be turned in, and a course website for announcements, educators can keep track of all of this information in one central location online.
#2 Anytime Anywhere Access to Courses
Likewise, learners enjoy the simplicity and convenience of being able to receive course announcements, check their grades, turn in work, and download course materials all in one place. Not to mention, in today’s age of technology, LMS platforms allow learners and educators alike to access the information they need from just about any device—whether it be a laptop, desktop computer, tablet, or smartphone.
#3 Collaboration and Communication with Fellow Learners
Also, when LMS features are used to their full potential, these systems also provide an excellent opportunity for communication among learners and others; for example, learners can collaborate, share ideas, and even delegate tasks among each other while also staying up-to-date on course announcements.
#4 Customized Learning Experience
Perhaps most importantly, however, an LMS platform allows for a customized learning experience, resulting in better learning outcomes for learners. For instance, LMS platforms these days have the option to support self-paced classes, which is ideal for learners who prefer working at their own pace. And of course, the ability to take course content online allows opportunities for more engaging lessons. Rather than standing in front of a group of learners in a lecture hall, for example, educators can use LMS systems to upload relevant videos, audio clips, and other multi-modal forms of instruction that will better captivate learners in a way that a face-to-face “lecture” simply cannot.
Lesser Known Benefits of a Higher Ed LMS
A. Using LMS as a Platform for International Exposure
Higher ed LMS platforms also provide a unique opportunity to provide learners with international exposure, expanding the audience of their classroom outside the college campus and inviting the rest of the world in, so to speak. There are a number of ways in which this can be accomplished with most LMS platforms on the market today, including methods that involve collaborating with other universities, networking and sharing ideas with foreign learners studying similar subjects, and even hiring international instructors to teach lessons and provide learners with a more expansive horizon.
#1 Collaborating With International Universities
The possibility to collaborate with international universities is very real.  Educators should be taking advantage of these opportunities by connecting their courses with similar courses in other countries. This allows learners from either side to be exposed to different viewpoints on the topic they’re studying. For example, a global economics course in the United States could pair with an economics course in a foreign country, such as France, for some interesting insights that will prove useful for both learners and educators alike. LMS platforms can be used to collaborate with these different schools for an entire course or even just a few choice lessons or assignments.
#2 Allow Learners to Share Ideas Globally
Using an LMS system to connect learners across the globe gives them the added benefit of being able to expand their horizon. They can use break-room features to discuss on a subject. Or, live chat sessions could also be arranged by the educators in either course that allow learners to share ideas on a particular subject.
For courses in radically different time zones where this might not be possible, even setting up a message board or forum using an LMS platform could be a great way for learners across the globe to interact in a way that is meaningful and enlightening for both sides. In other words, LMS platforms allow learners from across the globe to connect in ways never before possible; it’s just a matter of instructors feeling comfortable to use and experiment with the features available to them.
Of course, the real benefit will be that learners would be exposed to diverse ideas and differing opinions. This exposure to diversity and the ability to discuss non-shared viewpoints is undoubtedly a solid skill for any student to have in today’s world.
B. Potential to Hire Foreign Educators
Another unique and potential use for LMS platforms on the international level is the possibility of educators to bring in foreign guest speakers. After all, it may not be possible to have a world-renowned economics professor from Germany set foot inside the physical classroom. But LMS and other education technologies make it feasible for that same professor to engage in a live chat with learners or even to record and post a lecture to the class. In this sense, LMS platforms provide learners with the ability to gain international exposure on their given subject matter while also enjoying a technology interface that allows them to open up to the rest of the world.
Ultimately, the benefits an LMS system can bring to learners and educators are endless—particularly as it pertains to the ability for classrooms to connect and ideas to be shared on a global level.
The major problem right now, however, is that so many institutions of higher education are only using LMS platforms for their most basic functions. In other words, they aren’t utilizing these platforms to their fullest potential. As a result, schools are wasting their money and learners aren’t receiving the quality of education that they theoretically should be.
What’s the solution here? For starters, colleges and universities across the globe need to do their research to make sure they’re buying and implementing the correct LMS software for their needs (especially the ones reporting that they’re currently unhappy with their LMS platforms).
From there, it’s up to the universities to make sure that individual educators are properly trained on how to use these platforms not just for their most basic functions, but for more complex features that will change the face of education as we know it. Of course, LMS providers themselves also carry a responsibility to continue usability testing on their programs in order to improve usability and ease-of-use. After all, the more intuitive an LMS platform is for learners and faculty, the less training will be required upon its implementation.
When higher education facilities and LMS providers alike are fully committed, these platforms can be used in amazing ways. From providing a centralized location for course materials to allowing learners the opportunity to collaborate and share ideas on the global level, these platforms continue to evolve in their use and scope. And only time will tell how they’ll continue to change the face of education in the future.