DP5 Learning Management Systems

ET2 Learning Management Systems

“There are two fundamental equalizers in life – the Internet and education.”

- Chambers

Virtual Learning Environments (VLE's) support teaching and learning online and continue to rapidly evolve. The most common, Learning Management Systems (LMS's), emerged from a training model to be incorporated firstly into all higher education institutions and now most K12 schools. LMS's provide control over what, when and how students access course materials and have evolved from supporting self-paced learning to facilitating online synchronous learning sessions. LMS's are however extremely teacher directed, and Personal Learning Environments (PLE's) have evolved to mirror the capabilities of LMS's using popular online tools that are controlled by students rather than the teacher. Most recently, Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC's) have become popular, scaled to permit any number of students to engage in an online course either in a connectivist learning process or through self-paced and automatically assessed process. In all of it's forms, Virtual Learning Environments continue to enhance the ways in which students can learn, increasing flexibility in when, where, what and how students study, and even challenging why such learning is constrained by individual institutions and credentialing processes (awarding grades, certificates, degree's, etc.) that may soon change many traditional practices, 

Dr Jason Zagami

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Virtual Learning Environments

A Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) or learning platform, is an education system based on the web that models conventional real-world education by providing equivalent virtual access to classes, class content, tests, homework, grades, assessments, and links to external resources. It is also a social space where students and teacher can interact through threaded discussions or chat systems. Virtual learning environments are the basic component of contemporary distance and e-Learning, but are increasing integrated with physical learning environments - referred to as blended learning.

Virtual learning can take place synchronously or asynchronously, In synchronous systems, students and teachers meet “live”, and teachers conduct classes in virtual classrooms. Students can communicate through video, microphone, chat systems, and virtual whiteboards. In asynchronous learning, which is sometimes called “self-paced” learning, students complete lessons and assignments independently through the system without attending synchronous or 'live' sessions.

Learning Management Systems

Learning Management Systems (LMS) are software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery of education.

LMS's include the ability to:

  • centralise and automate course administration;
  • permit teacher management of processes and self-guided learning for students;
  • assemble and deliver learning content rapidly;
  • consolidate learning initiatives on a scalable web-based platform;
  • support sharing, portability and standards of learning resources; and
  • personalise content and enable
    resuse of learning material.

LMS's differ from Content Management Systems (CMS) used to manage documents and files on a shared server, by incorporating processes and functionality to assist student learning such as sequenced lessons, assignment submission, etc

Personal Learning Environments

Personal Learning Environments (PLE) differ from Learning Management Systems (LMS) in that they permit learners to take control of and manage their own learning by:

  • setting their own learning goals;
  • managing their learning, both content and process; and
  • communicating with others in the process of learning.

PLEs integrate "Web 2.0" technologies such as blogs, Wikis, RSS feeds, Twitter, Facebook, etc. around the independent learner. 

"PLE's are... one node in a web of content, connected to other nodes and content creation services used by other students. It becomes, not an institutional or corporate application, but a personal learning center, where content is reused and remixed according to the student's own needs and interests. It becomes, indeed, not a single application, but a collection of interoperating applications—an environment rather than a system".

                                                                                                                                    - Downes

Massive Open Online Courses

Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC's) are online courses aiming at large-scale participation and open access via the internet. MOOCs are a recent development in online education and rely on the use of open educational resources. Typically they do not offer academic credit or charge tuition fees and only a few percent of the tens of thousands of students who may sign up actually complete courses. Two categories of MOOC's currently exist:

cMOOC's are based on a connectivist learning pedagogy, emphasising that learning and knowledge emerge from a network of connections.

xMOOC's are based on a more traditional instructivist learning pedagogy, emphasising scalability and automated or peer assessment process.



The Blackboard LMS is a commercial system developed by Backboard Inc and has incorporated several other LMS as it evolved to be the worlds leading LMS. 

Blackboard focuses on an instructivist or direct instruction pedagogical model. 

Functionality includes announcements, chat, discussions, mail, course content, calendar, learning modules, assessments, assignments, grade book and media library. While becoming dated compared to the latest cloud based LMS services, Blackboard is very robust and widely used in many schools and universities. It is the LMS used at Griffith University (Learning@Griffith) and Education Queensland (The Learning Place). iPad and Android apps are available for mobile devices.


The Moodle (Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment) LMS is an open source system originally developed in Australia by Martin Dougimas.

Moodle focuses on a social constructionist pedagogical model but has 'matured' to successfully compete with commercial LMS platforms such as Blackboard. 

Functionality includes assignment submission, discussion forums, grading, online calendar, online news and announcement, online quizzes, a wiki, an the ability to add from hundreds of additional modules. While becoming dated, Moodle is very robust and widely used in many schools and universities with iPad and Android apps. Being open source, Moodle can be downloaded and hosted on school servers, Amazon Web Servers, and a number of organisations provide free hosting for teachers to use Moodle such as:  FreeMoodle.org, iteach.org, and Ginomio


The Sakai LMS is an open source system developed by a group of universities with two variations: the Saki CLE (Collaboration and Learning Environment) and the Sakai OAE (Open Academic Environment).

Saki focuses on a collaborative learning pedagogical model. 

  • Sakai CLE functionality includes learning management, research collaboration, project collaboration, and ePortfolios.
  • Sakai OAE functionality includes permeability with external services, social media integration,  personal control, and remixability with other services.

Sakai is open source and can be downloaded and hosted on school servers or trials of CLE and OAE versions are available.


The Edmodo LMS is an online social learning system designed for use in schools. 

Edmodo focuses on a connectivist pedagogical model.

Functionality includes posting assignments, polls, video clips, learning groups, quizzes, calendar, assignment submission, and assignment feedback annotation.  Parents have special accounts to see their child's assignments and grades, alerts about school events, missed assignments, etc. Edmodo also has a badge granting system to recognise student learning achievements and Android and iPad apps. 


The Canvas LMS is an open source cloud based system developed by Instructure

Canvas focuses on an Integrated Learning outcomes based pedagogical model that sets outcomes and then aligns these to specific course activities with educational objectives, and includes an assessment rubric and tracking system to identify at-risk students. Canvas also includes mobile application (app) integration with the ability to review and grade assignments, submit video, audio, or text commentary feedback to students, view grade notifications, class schedules, send and receive messages, participate in discussions, and post video and audio comments from mobile devices. It also integrates with social media web services such as Twitter, Facebook, Skype, Google Drive, Linkedin, Delicious and Diigo.

A free hosted trial is available from Canvas but being open source, teachers and schools can host their own Canvas service on their own server or an Amazon.E3 service. There are also iPad and Android apps.

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