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The critical role of the LMS

Why learning management systems matter for the K-20 journey

4 min read


The critical role of the LMS


Until recently, dual-enrolled high school and college students had little exposure to the learning management system (LMS) in their K-12 experience. LMSs are starting to become more common in K-12, and as a result we are seeing that students who have exposure to the LMS before college seem to perform better once they get there.

There’s a distinct line between the high school and college experience for students. For many, transitioning from one to the next can be overwhelming. Any support, including consistency in technology, can help increase a student’s overall success in their college experience. As we strive to give students the best chance at success, it’s worth considering how technology is transferred between the two experiences and the future of how that could look, given the increasing role of technology in K-20 education.

In many ways, the LMS has the potential to be a contextual bridge for students transitioning from high school to college. The potential of supporting students over their whole K-20 career with personalized learning experiences through their LMS and other technology is powerful. If we could set students up for success on day one in their college experience, supporting them where they need to be supported as individuals, we could potentially increase retention, student success and college completion rates. Consider a platform that uses analytics gathered from student performance to help direct students to either remedial or advanced content. Instructors’ time can then be spent on coaching and mentoring. Engaged students can take ownership for their own learning and develop perseverance and independence, key characteristics students need to thrive in college. The possibilities are encouraging.

Imagine a future where all high school students could retain their personalized learning data after graduating, and higher education institutions could leverage that data to drive student success. An institution could direct efforts to support students in the academic areas that need the most attention or could offer advanced opportunities for those already excelling. At the community college level, it can be challenging to measure and place students. This could help.

Currently, exams are a common and easy method of placing students in college courses. There is a lot of research to show that standardized tests are not always the best predictor of future success. However, visibility into how students fared in math and English from their LMS profile in K-12 could provide the insights educators need to set them on a more personalized path. With LMS use growing in the K-12 space, and the fact that it aggregates a student’s experience over time, there is great potential to leverage this tool in the future to have actionable data that helps drive positive outcomes, beyond high school and into students’ college careers.

When we consider the individual needs of students on their own paths with data to back it up, we can create a clear and thoughtful way forward for each individual learner. Colleges and K-12 institutions are already in frequent communication as they help students find the best match after graduation. To start building deeper partnerships centered around technology, information technology departments and instructional technology resource team members need to enter into conversations and eventual collaborations.

Another avenue is for college and K-12 institutions to partner on programming for students with topics such as protecting a student’s virtual identity. This can be an opportunity to expose students to LMS platforms used by local colleges earlier and can help build momentum for future conversations regarding partnering in instructional technology use.

In today’s connected, digital world, it’s clear that introduction to the LMS in K-12, coupled with the ability to carry data forward to inform their higher education experience has powerful implications.

Jenny Quarles is the director of teaching and learning technology at the Virginia Community College system. Working in education technology and professional development in private and public institutions since 1999, Jenny’s work focuses on matching pedagogical strategy with appropriate learning technologies. Jenny holds a BA from CUNY Hunter College and a MA from Clark University. Follow her on Twitter at @jenny_quarles

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