Course management systems are often confused with other similar platforms, such as learning management systems or systems that track data on student usage. This training video identifies the main features of a CMS, including what a CMS is not, and distinguishes a course management system from competing or complementary software.
- [Instructor] So what is a course management system? Well, a course management system, also known as a CMS, is a software platform, usually web-based, that facilitates and simplifies common classroom activities. In other words, it provides a single point of access that teachers can use for things like grading, attendance, communication, and distributing materials, all of which is designed to provide a very clear ultimate benefit, and that's streamlining classroom administration.
When I taught without a course management system, a lot of my work environment looked like this, and that was on a good day. Paper-based systems are time consuming and inefficient, so limited energy goes into managing routine tasks instead of going to things like lecture prep, lesson planning, or student feedback. A well run CMS though makes all those common tasks easier, and not just for the teacher. It also helps the students. Students don't just have to master material, they need to track deadlines, organize assignment sheets, and manage detailed notes.
In a traditional class, a lot of energy goes into those challenges. With a CMS though, that energy can be redirected elsewhere. In other words, everything you need to know about a course management system is really right there in the name. It is an electronic system that teachers and students can use to manage their course, and to keep it running smoothly. Now, a few things a CMS is not. Though it is customizable, a CMS is not adaptive. It doesn't get harder when students master certain tasks, or simplify them when students struggle.
Though it can ask students to repeat certain tasks if benchmarks aren't met. A CMS is also not a data aggregator. It won't track how much time a student spends on an assignment or discussion board, and so it won't report back. It may be coming soon, but for the moment, that kind of reporting functionality is outside of what a typical user gets from a CMS. What an end user does get out of a CMS though is more than worth the time it takes to set one up. First, they get the ability to centralize tasks.
An effective CMS will provide a single interface for what used to be scattered systems of management and organization. Second, it'll simplify tasks, meaning that it streamlines efficiency, and even automates common activities, but that isn't the best part to me. A CMS consolidates all the fragmented elements of both teaching and taking a class into a centralized web-based point, and in the process, it also creates exciting new opportunities for communicating and understanding content.
There are things you can do with a CMS, in other words, that would be impossible in traditional classrooms. I don't use a CMS because it makes my teaching easier, I use one because it makes my teaching better.
- Communicating with students
- Developing course competencies and learning objectives
- Setting up a classroom, include a digital dropbox and discussion board
- Adding assignments, quizzes, and exams
- Providing feedback
- Setting up a gradebook
- Customizing Desire2Learn
- Managing discussion boards
- Using Desire2Learn as a student