Blended Learning in K-12/Types of Blended Learning/Course Management Systems

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The use of a Course Management System (CMS) can assist a teacher when they are creating a blended learning environment in the K-12 classroom. In addition to using a classroom website to communicate and administer classroom activities (as described in the previous section), a CMS can better assess student work, share course content and help develop a community among the teacher, students and parents.

A CMS enables the administration of blended activities into the classroom through various tools included with the software. For example, a teacher is able to distribute handouts, set assignment deadlines, collect assignments and give quizzes from one location. This frees up time for the teacher. As stated by Schmidt (2002)[1] , “A well-developed administrative component allows a teacher to spend more time interacting creatively with students and addressing higher level thinking skills rather than on mundane activities.”

Enhanced communication between the teacher and students is another administrative benefit gained from using a CMS. A teacher is able to post announcements to the entire class or send an individual email. In addition, syllabus information, grading policies and deadlines can be clearly communicated. Communicating between teacher, students, and even parents, can also occur more frequently with the use of a CMS. Using a CMS means that “assignments and lecture notes can be posted in advance, and students can have continual access to them” (Zirke, 2003) [2]. A teacher can distribute material to the class ahead of time, as well as archive previous material, allowing the flexibility for students to work at their own pace or refer back to previous content.

Course Management Systems also assist teachers in assessing student learning. “One great advantage of assessing student learning via the Internet is the ability to provide instant feedback to the student” (Schmidt, 2002) [3]. Instant feedback can reinforce learning a lesson being taught and gives the teacher an opportunity to reach a student that may have missed a concept. A useful feature of a CMS is the ability for teachers to easily create quizzes. No programming or HTML knowledge is necessary because the CMS provides a quiz function. An added advantage of the quiz function in a CMS is the ability to offer multiple quizzes and tests for the students to use for practice. Schmidt (2002) [4] states, “a teacher can facilitate a random selection of test questions each time a student want to retake a quiz for practice purposes on the same subject matter.” The CMS collects, grades, and records the score of the quizzes and tests, saving valuable time for a teacher. With a password, each student can access his or her individual grades. A parent could have a password, as well, to monitor the progress of his or her child by going online at any time of the day.

A CMS enables a teacher to implement blended learning activities into their K-12 classroom in a more organized and functional way. Using a CMS for routine classroom administration tasks is an added bonus, providing the teacher with time for enhanced instruction.

Website resources are available for teachers to compare a variety of Course Management Systems. One website, EduTools, gives product information, product comparisons, and student feedback. Although a variety of CMS exist, this section focuses on six main CMS examples (WebCT, Blackboard, Moodle, CCNet, ANGEL, and Desire2Learn).

Desire2Learn[edit]

K-12, Higher Ed, Corporations and Health Care Organizations have been using the Desire2Learn Learning Management System (LMS) since 1999 (www.desire2learn.com). The product, the Desire2Learn® Learning Environment, is a web-based suite of teaching and learning tools for course development, delivery and management. Desire2Learn's Learning Environment provides ways to control the environment to match your approach to teaching and learning, and provides tools to help facilitate communication, collaboration and community building. Educators can customize courses by using a variety of multimedia files. Desire2Learn has several tools that are useful to online educators including email, glossaries, competencies , Rubrics, LiveRoom® and the ePortfolio.

Blackboard[edit]

"Through a network of state, regional and local districts, Blackboard serves over 1,200 U.S. schools in 46 states" (www.blackboard.com, 2005). Blackboard "provides software solutions that help manage online academic environments. Blackboard's Course & Portal Solutions for example, provides online course management, academic communities and administrative services" (Schmidt, 2002). Teacher Vivian Evans, gives a personal account of Blackboard, stating that "Blackboard has got some good features...It supports synchronous chat and discussion threads in a way that is very clear. Site administration is another strength. You can control who has access to your site. You can also look back at what happened previously by clicking on a past date to see what was discussed" (Evans, 2005) [5].

According to the Blackboard webite, "Whether a student is hospital or homebound, a traveling athlete or involved in extra-curricular activities, the Blackboard Learning System allows students to take courses online or supplement face-to-face learning" (2005) [6]. This is done through the "Virtual Classroom/Collaboration feature" which offers synchronous chats and office hours. Blackboard also has an "Assignments" feature, allowing students to receive feedback from the teacher after submitting an assignment through Blackboard (www.blackboard.com, 2005).

Moodle[edit]

According to the Moodle Website, "Moodle is a course management system (CMS) - a free, Open Source software package designed using sound pedagogical principles, to help educators create effective online learning communities" (2005). Moodle is used in a variety of settings by a variety of institutions, such as universities, schools, companies, and teachers, throughout the world. Specifically, Moodle is used in universities, high schools, primary schools, non-profit organizations, private companies, by independent teachers and parents home schooling their children (Moodle Background, 2005). What makes Moodle truly unique is the price tag; Moodle is completely free to use (www.moodle.com, 2005).

Moodle does not require the installation of any particular software; it can be created, edited, and used solely online. The creation and editing system is user-friendly and seems to have been designed with the novice user in mind. Templates encourage clear organization of assignments and resources, and forums are also simple to create. Likewise, the student user will quickly learn the simple navigation system with little frustration.

Moodle was created by Martin Dougiamas, a former university webmaster and system administrator of the university's WebCT installation. Dougiamas states that he "encountered many frustrations with the WebCT beast and developed an itch that needed scratching - there had to be a better way (no, not Blackboard :-)" (Moodle Background, 2005). In order to do this, Dougiamas believes that "it is crucial...that this software be easy to use - in fact it should be as intuitive as possible" (Moodle Background, 2005).

CCNet[edit]

According to the CCNet website, "CCNet is a web-based course management and class communication tool. It provides a powerful teaching and study management solution for students, teachers, and administrative staff. CCNet is extremely user friendly and designed to meet the needs of all types of institutions. It has been used with great success by prominent schools and universities as well as individual teachers and professors since its unveiling in September, 2000."


ANGEL Learning[edit]

According to the ANGEL website ANGEL LMS provides a set of teaching and learning features that are open to adaptation. ANGEL's openness allows faculty and information technology professionals to focus on delivering good teaching. It allows the enterprise to control the capabilities it delivers to its users and add the learning content, resources, and technologies that best fit its users' needs. ANGEL Learning was acquired by Blackboard in May, 2009[7]

eChalk[edit]

According to the eChalk website, eChalk provides K-12 schools and educational environments with the necessary tools for students, parents and teachers to obtain a thriving academic community.

eChalk facilitates both cooperative and collaborative learning models. A cooperative learning model is used more often in lower education because it is a simpler and more teacher-led style of learning. Students obtain some necessary learning skills, but this learning style mainly serves to prepare students for collaborative learning. Collaborative learning is a higher form of learning that usually occurs in late middle and upper school. The students have much more independence and room to explore in their learning. Collaborative learning helps students learn more than just the required subject material; the students also learn crucial learning tools and how to work independently.

eChalk allows the teachers to alter their class pages according to the learning style of the class. The teacher can lead the students every step of the way by posting many assignments and communicating constantly (this is an example of cooperative learning) or simply posting a subject matter and leaving the students to learn and explore on their own (this is an example of collaborative learning). These two learning styles are available to the students 24x7 because eChalk brings learning outside the classroom and into the homes of the students.

The company was co-founded by Daniel Watts and Torrance Robinson in 1999 in an initiative to bring computers and internet access to schools in New York. However, the project has now spread across the U.S.

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