I’ve been working on setting some things up for next semester’s iteration of my class, and one of the things I have been looking into is setting up a learning management system (LMS) for my students. Both my undergraduate and graduate schools use(d) LMSs with us, and I enjoy having course information at my fingertips. A good system is also important if I decide to go the flipped-class route next year. I’ve been spending a good deal of time playing with the options for LMSs, and each has its pros and cons. It’s made the decision-making process difficult for me. Here is a little bit of what I’m thinking about three of the choices I’ve looked at so far:
Pros: Appears to be the trendiest option available. Edmodo is currently in favor with a large number of teachers and schools. My own district has an Edmodo domain, though they do not require anyone to use it. Edmodo bears a strong resemblance to Facebook. It’s widely praised for its ease of use and setup. You can provide parents of students in your classes with view-only access codes, so they can see what their child is doing in your class. Edmodo also offers good mobile support. Students who use Edmodo generally seem to really like it, which means they’re more likely to look at it.
Cons: Edmodo is a third-party company. There’s always a chance they could simply fold and go out of business, taking you and your class down with them in a blaze of glory. There’s also a chance they could require paid subscriptions in order to use their site. And that’s not a remote possibility, either; I heard it happened with Ning and a lot of teachers who used that site were upset. You can’t enroll students in Edmodo yourself; you have to give them a code and let them enroll themselves in your class. Edmodo also seems to lack in structure. I was not able to locate an option to set up my content in modules or anything similar. Edmodo also has terms and conditions that contain the following statement, which appears to indicate that Edmodo can use your content for whatever it wants:
You understand that by posting information or content on the Website or otherwise providing content, materials or information to Edmodo or in connection with the Services (collectively, “User Submissions”), Edmodo hereby is and shall be granted a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty free, perpetual, irrevocable, and transferable right to utilize and exercise all rights with respect to such User Submissions…
Pros: Moodle is an open-source LMS with a surprisingly wide adoption at all levels of education. You can host Moodle on your own server, which avoids many of the terms-and-conditions issues Edmodo raises. In my case, my hosting company offers a “one-click install” where they set up Moodle for you. Moodle is very sophisticated and offers a ton of features. It is highly structured, with the ability to create different forums and modules to break up your content as you see fit. Students can be manually enrolled, and an e-mail address is not required. Moodle has a very high level of customization available to the person designing and running the course.
Cons: Running Moodle on your own server means that you alone are responsible for fixing it when something breaks. There are companies that will host your Moodle class for you, but that requires payment. Unless you get heavy into the customizing and templates (requires some web design knowledge), you may be disappointed with the default themes available. My Moodle looks a little bland and industrial. I doubt students would find it visually appealing. No mobile support that I’m aware of, and I didn’t see any options when I set up my self-hosted account. There is a learning curve involved, for teacher and students. Unlike Edmodo, Moodle looks nothing like Facebook.
Pros: New to the game, Canvas tries to strike a balance between Edmodo and Moodle. For the most part, it does a good job. Visually, it has an “Apple” feel to it. Canvas lets you pick and choose the features you want to use, which is nice. Canvas offers some type of mobile access, though I couldn’t find out exactly what that meant. This is the first LMS I’ve seen that offers wiki pages that students can create and edit together. Canvas does not look too complicated for middle school students to use.
Cons: At only a couple of years old, Canvas is relatively new to the came, and isn’t exactly proven yet. Other users report there are bugs still to be worked out. No ability to generate parent codes for access, though it appears you can set them up as “observers” in your class. Requires a student’s e-mail address to add them to your class (same for observers). E-mail is not ubiquitous in my student population, which could be a problem. Still not as visually appealing as Edmodo.
It’s such a close call. Because they all have different pros and cons, it’s difficult to get a clear picture of which one is truly “better.” I think I have mostly eliminated Moodle from the competition. As much as I like it, having it depend solely on me to function is not a great position for me to be in. Edmodo vs. Canvas is a more difficult decision, which may take some time.
If you’ve got experiences in different LMSs, I’d love to know your opinions.
I fought back and forth with myself about attending #flipcon12 virtually this week. I’ve never done a virtual conference before. What if my (generally poor) internet gives out, and I end up watching two days of “Buffering…” messages? What if the conference ends up not being what I wanted–or needed? What if I’m the only one watching? I had a hard time deciding if $100 was worth it on a gamble.
Then I came down with bronchitis.
Being to sick to work or go out means you will be subjected to days of the worst programming daytime TV has to offer. Even with my high fever (102.6!) and being fully medicated, I whipped the Visa out.
And I’m so glad I did. The conference was fantastic and far exceeded my expectations. The streaming video was just about flawless, and I hooked my laptop up to the flat-screen TV to watch it even bigger and louder. The sessions were excellent and the presenters definitely knew their stuff. All of the keynotes featured exceptional speakers and engaging presentations. And not only that, the sessions are archived until December, so not only can I go back and watch the presentations again, I can even watch the sessions I didn’t get to see! I had a great time Tweeting and learning with everyone and its pretty much a slam dunk that I will be participating virtually next year.
Whether or not I will be able to successfully implement flipped-classroom practices in my classroom next year remains to be seen.
First, the physical location of my classroom is very much still up in the air. I was expecting to be using a computer lab for my one class but I was assigned a regular room with just one student computer. I plan on asking for a hybrid room that has 8 computers, but who knows how that request will turn out. If I have identified any weaknesses in flipping, it seems to be access to technology at school, and this could be big.
Second, the tasks associated with flipping are no joke. I am not an experienced video editor and I prefer not to be on-camera anyway, but I understand the advantages of doing this now so I will be learning Video 101 myself this summer. Flipping your class seems to prompt a full review and overhaul of your lessons. I’m creating this whole course from scratch anyway, but that’s still got to be factored in.
And then there’s the time factor. I am only teaching one class every other day next year and will be keeping all of my regular duties as technology coordinator. How much time do I need to be spending going over the top on what is, bluntly, not my job?
The Flipped Conference helped me understand these questions but I know enough to know that there are no easy answers! Oh, and we start back on July 31, so time is slipping away! I will be thinking hard about these questions in the coming weeks.
Note: I wrote this whole post from my phone, so please forgive the occasional typo.
Ever since I found out in going to be teaching a class next year, I’ve been checking out the flipped class model. I have been more than a little skeptical that this was more than just the flavor of the month in education; however, the more I’ve seen, the more I think there might be something to it. I have looked at a few examples of flipped classrooms and I like what I have seen. I also participated in a webinar this week that was very practical and down-to-earth and I am encouraged. I’m looking forward to looking into this more over the summer.