Since its inception, online learning—also known as “distance learning” or “eLearning”—has steadily grown in popularity, and before COVID-19 shifted most classrooms online, one out of every three learners were participating in at least one online course. Many learners have appreciated their convenience: a computer or smartphone is all learners need to get started.
For educators new to this, online learning may feel anything but convenient. It is not without its difficulties; for many learners and instructors, the root of these difficulties is the learning management system (LMS). Fortunately, by learning the ins and outs of their LMS, most instructors can overcome the most common challenges that arise for them and for their students.
In our recent webinar, NHA’s Community Connect Forum: The Five “E’s” to Success in Online Learning, we asked participants which LSMs they were using. Here’s what they said:
Based on this feedback, we’ve assembled a collection of excellent learning resources for the most popular online learning platforms that you can use to ensure your lessons are as engaging and productive as possible.
Tips, Tricks & Resources
A common issue learners and instructors have with many LMS platforms is how difficult it can be to access/attend lectures and download course materials if they’re not at a computer. Fortunately, Blackboard—one of the most popular and longest-running LMS platforms—has a mobile app for both iOS and Android that allows learners and instructors to access the platform from anywhere.
There is a wealth of great information for instructors to master their Blackboard skills. A good starting point is Blackboard’s help section. Part knowledge base, part quick-reference guide, this section of their site is especially useful if you, your students or your administrators need to troubleshoot an issue with the LMS or need a quick explainer on one of Blackboard’s functions.
For more in-depth guidance on getting the most out of this popular LMS, Blackboard Community is another essential resource. Blackboard Community is Blackboard’s forum, and it’s where instructors around the world go to share useful tips and tricks about the platform and trade online learning strategies. It’s also a good place to look if you have a technical issue that isn’t addressed in Blackboard’s help section.
For instructors who don’t have time to read through the documentation in the help section or browse the Community forums, Blackboard also has its own YouTube channel featuring video walkthroughs and how-tos for using the platform.
Although a relative newcomer in the LMS space, Google Classroom has fast become one of the most popular online learning options. Google Classroom is fully integrated with other G Suite applications like Drive, Docs, Slides and more, which means instructors can create and save all the necessary course materials from one convenient location, instead of having to manually upload each file to an LMS.
Google Classroom can also be run from any computer via Google Chrome and from any smartphone, making it easy for learners to attend classes without the need for a dedicated app.
If you’re looking for ways to get more from Google Classroom, TeachThought has 60 Smarter Ways To Use Google Classroom—which includes everything from the basics to more advanced functionality. This list is a great place to start.
Google’s Teacher Center is possibly the most robust learning resource for instructors that we’ve seen; not only can you find information from other users in the “Communities” section, but the “Training” section offers a series of modules to give instructors firsthand experience with using the platform. Finally, there are also a number of YouTube videos offering firsthand insight from instructors on how to make Google Classroom work for you.
Canvas is a popular LMS among higher education institutions, and it’s slowly being adopted by large corporations as a training platform as well. From what we’ve seen, Canvas also has the most robust—and active—community forum for users.
Canvas Community has a lot of great insights and advice from instructors and educators, and it goes far beyond just LMS-related questions and tips. Some focus on things like facilitating engaging virtual lessons, while others offer a deep dive into the features of Canvas that you may not have discovered yet. (If you’re looking specifically for ways to enhance your experience with the platform, this community discussion on Canvas’ best-kept secrets is an excellent place to start.)
There are a number of different forums dedicated to instructors and educators of all stripes: some forums are focused on Canvas for higher education, while others are geared specifically towards vocational education and training. The video below offers a thorough review of all of Canvas’ features and how to make the platform work for you.
Along with Blackboard, Moodle is one of the two original online learning platforms, and both have lasted this long for one simple reason: they work. That said, the learning curve for Moodle is a little steeper than some of the newer LMS options, and instructors who are new to the platform typically need a little help learning all the ins and outs.
Your first stop should be Moodle’s tips & tricks page. It’s filled with answers to the most frequently-asked instructor questions, and if you have the time to read through it all, there’s also a lot of great information on how best to use Moodle.
If you don’t have time (and who does?), YouTube is a great option as well: Russell Stannard has a whole series of videos dedicated to explaining and demonstrating the ins and outs of Moodle for educators and instructors, as does Faculty Workshop.
Finally, Udemy—an online learning platform—is also an excellent resource where instructors can learn about and practice with Moodle. There is a nominal fee for most of the courses, but they’re filled with useful and practical information that can help you get the most out of Moodle and might be the perfect solution for you.
There are plenty of excellent resources to help you make the most of your LMS, but don't forget one that might get overlooked: your colleagues. Be sure to check in frequently with your colleagues who are using the same LMS and other online tools. They may just have the best advice for the students you teach!
Looking for more resources to support your online classroom? Be sure to check out:
- 4 Resources to Help Students Access Internet and Technology
- Free Teaching Tools to Engage Your Allied Health Students in Online Learning