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How to Build a Fully-Functional LMS

Post-secondary schools look very different this year as colleges and universities embrace both blended learning and online-only approaches to content delivery and engagement. But this isn’t a one-off operation. Even as pandemic pressures ease, the shift to distance learning as the de facto solution for many students won’t disappear. 

As a result, it’s critical for schools to develop and deploy learning management systems (LMSs) that both meet current needs and ensure they’re capable of keeping up with educational evolution. But what does this look like in practice? How do developers and team leaders build fully-functional LMS solutions that empower student success without breaking the bank?

 

Learning Management Systems Challenges

When schools first made the shift to distance learning directives, speed was of the essence. While students were barred from campus for safety reasons, they’d paid for a full semester of instruction, and schools needed to deliver. As a result, patchwork programs became commonplace. Colleges and universities combined existing education software with video conferencing and collaboration tools to create “good enough” learning models that got them through to summer break. Despite best educational efforts, however, some students still went after schools with lawsuits, alleging that the quality of instruction didn’t align with tuition totals.

So it’s no surprise that as fall semesters kick off, students aren’t willing to put up with learning management systems that barely make the grade. They want full-featured distance learning that helps them engage with instructors and connect with new content no matter how, where, or when they access campus networks. 

As a result, development teams can’t simply correct for current COVID conditions. Instead, they need to create systems that deliver both blended and purely online interactions, and have the power to ensure students that choose to continue with digital-first learning can still stay connected even after returns to campus become commonplace.

 

How to Create a Functional LMS Framework

So what does a fully-functional LMS framework look like in practice? Six features are critical for ongoing success. Let’s explore how these features can enhance your learning management system and set your end-users up for success in the classroom and at home:

 

Diverse Document Viewing

As schools make the shift to distance learning, the ability to view multiple document types is critical for long-term LMS success. From standard Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations to more diverse image types — such as those used in medical educational programming or manufacturing courses — students and instructors need the ability to both send and view diverse document types on-demand. 

While both free and paid solutions for viewing exist outside LMS ecosystems, choosing this route creates two potential problems. Students with diverse technological and economic backgrounds may face challenges in finding and using these tools, and data security may be compromised. This is especially critical as schools handle greater volumes of students’ personal and financial information. If document viewing happens outside internal systems, private concerns become paramount.

 

In-Depth Annotations

With students now submitting assignments and exams via educational software, viewing isn’t enough. Staff also need the ability to annotate assets as they arrive. Here, professors and teaching assistants are best-served by built-in tools that allow them to quickly redline papers or projects, add comments, highlight key passages, and quickly markup documents with specific instructions or corrections. 

Without this ability, staff have two equally unappealing choices. They can either print out, manually correct, and then re-scan documents, or send all comments as separate email attachments. Both are problematic, since they limit the ability of students and teachers to easily interact with the same document.

 

Comprehensive Conversion

File conversion is critical for effective LMS. Specifically, schools need ways to quickly convert multiple document types into single, searchable PDFs. Not only do PDFs offer the ability to control who can edit, view, or comment on papers or exams, they make it easy for teachers to quickly find specific content. The permissions-based nature of PDFs makes them ideal for post-secondary applications and a must-have for any education software solution. 

 

Cutting-Edge OCR and ICR

Optical character recognition and intelligent character recognition also forms a key part of distance learning directives. With some students still more comfortable with hand-written hard copies and some classes that require students to show specific work, OCR can help bridge the gap between form and function. By integrating tools with the ability to recognize and convert multiple character types and sets, schools are better equipped to deal with any document type. Search is also bolstered by cutting-edge OCR; instead of forcing staff to manually examine documents for key data, OCR empowers digital discovery.

 

Complete Data Capture

Forms are a fundamental part of university and college life — but the myriad of digital documents can quickly overwhelm legacy education software. Integrating tools with robust form-field detection allow schools and staff to streamline the process of complete data capture, both increasing the speed of information processing and reducing the potential for human error.

 

Barcode Benefits

As campuses shift to hybrid learning models, students occupy two worlds, both physical and digital. But this duality introduces complexity when it comes to tracking who’s on campus, when, and why. These are currently key metrics for schools looking to keep students safe in the era of social distancing. 

By deploying full-featured barcode scanning solutions as part of LMS frameworks, colleges and universities can get ahead of this complexity curve. From scanning ID cards to take attendance and track resource use to using barcodes as no-contact purchase points or metric measurements for ongoing analytics, barcode solutions are an integral part of LMS solutions.

 

Automation Advantages

The sheer volume of digital documents now generated and handled by post-secondary schools poses the problem of practicality. Teachers and administrators simply don’t have time to evaluate and enter data at scale and speed while also ensuring accuracy. By automating key processes including document conversion, capture, and character recognition, schools can reduce the time required to process documents, leaving more room for student engagement.

 

Building an LMS Product for Teachers & Students

The bottom line for LMS solutions? If they don’t work for end-users, they won’t work for the broader school system as a whole. Gone are the days of invisible IT infrastructure. Now, students and staff alike are school stakeholders with evolving expectations around technology.

By deploying distance learning solutions that prioritize end-user outcomes with enhanced document viewing, editing, data capture, and automation, developers can create LMS tools capable of both solving immediate issues and offering sustained student success over time. Learn more about these functionality integrations for your learning management system at accusoft.com/products