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Building a Learning Management System That Works for Distance Learning

distance learning system

College and university will look very different this fall. While some schools are making the leap back to on-campus learning, many are opting for hybrid educational models or hitting pause on the entire process to help limit COVID-19 concerns.  No matter the academic approach, however, post-secondary schools share a common challenge, finding a distance learning system or learning management system (LMS) that has all the functionality they need without the cost. Teachers, schools, and universities are all scrambling to find a tool that fits their needs especially during a time when nothing is certain. That’s where learning management systems can help bridge the gap, by offering secure document collaboration with unique features like viewing, annotation, commenting, redaction, and more.

Current Collaboration Issues

As noted by the Harvard Business Review, while the last-decade uptake of massive open online courses (MOOCs) offered the potential to displace face-to-face learning, COVID’s effect on e-learning was nowhere near student and staff expectations. Post-secondary schools have been forced to deploy MOOC-like frameworks at a frantic pace as they attempt to minimize learning disruption and ensure students have access to critical educational resources.

It’s one thing to implement collaborative and communicative solutions — it’s another to ensure these deployments are efficient and effective. While Zoom calls, text chats, and email chains offer some ability for staff and students to connect, they’re not enough in isolation. As a result, schools now face three key collaboration challenges:

  • Enhancing Student Engagement If students aren’t engaged, success isn’t possible. Schools need learning management systems that simplify engagement initiatives.
  • Ensuring Staff EfficacyIf staff spend all their time managing documents, they sacrifice student connection. Simplified document viewing, conversion, and editing tools help streamline this process and improve student outcomes.
  • Expanding Solution ScopeAs e-learning becomes common practice, schools need to ramp up solution scope. Here, process automation tools are critical to bridge the digital divide.

Potential Platform Pitfalls

While initial shifts to online and blended learning were given a measure of leeway as schools struggled to cope with the emerging impacts of a global pandemic, students and staff now want focused, functional online learning tools.

As noted by Inside Higher Ed, for example, while students are willing to be flexible, they also want assurances that their education will include regular communication opportunities with staff and classmates, and won’t sacrifice their career potential at the expense of an untested, rapidly-evolving educational model. Academic staff, meanwhile, need the ability to both engage with students and evaluate their work at a distance to ensure at-home learners enjoy the same advantages as their on-campus counterparts. 

Here, digital platforms offer both promise and potential pitfalls. For example, if document management tools can’t offer the flexibility and functionality required to easily convert, view, and edit multiple file types, time is wasted for both staff and students. Customization is also critical, since every school has specific processes around document formatting, grading, and user access.

In addition, concerns exist for schools making at least a partial return to on-site education. As student numbers ramp up, campuses must reduce the potential risk of virus transmission by eliminating as many common touch points as possible. Here, barcoded student ID cards already used by many schools offer built-in practical potential — but only if the right infrastructure exists to support these solutions at scale

The Learning Management System Answer

So how do universities and colleges support both hybrid and entirely e-learning approaches? It all comes down to content management — the combination of key solutions and services to both empower student success and reduce staff frustration. For post-secondary schools, essential tools include:

  • On-Demand Document ViewingWith students now required to submit work electronically for assessment and evaluation, instructors and administrators need on-demand document tools that let them easily view, add comments, and insert redactions across multiple file types.
  • Comprehensive File ConversionTo help standardize document management and storage, comprehensive file conversion is critical. By converting multiple file formats into searchable, scalable PDFs, schools can unify document management and ensure edits are only possible with specific permissions.
  • End-to-End Document AutomationThe sheer volume of information now processed by post-secondary schools — from organizational sign-up forms and healthcare waivers to loan applications and contact tracing documents — demands end-to-end document automation that ensures all forms are routed through the same, secure process for simplified security and storage.
  • Superior Barcode Support Barcodes not only help schools manage physical resources such as books, computers, and lab equipment but can also be leveraged on ID cards to support no-contact transactions in bookstores, food service establishments, and other campus facilities. As a result, schools need superior barcode support capable of quickly reading codes — even if they’ve been damaged or worn down thanks to continuous student use.

Blended learning strategies will remain part of post-secondary life for the foreseeable future. As a result, it’s critical to bolster both student and staff success with learning management solutions and distance learning systems capable of delivering both on-campus and off-site collaboration, communication, and connection. If you are looking to enhance your current learning management system or create an application that can help educators during these challenging times, contact us for a free consultation.