What’s an LMS Anyway?

Have you heard your professor talking about using the LMS? Maybe heard about an LMS in discussions about online learning? While the term might get tossed around a lot by professionals, many students are left in the dark about just what an LMS actually is, how and why it’s used, and how they can better learn to navigate it for success in their courses. Here, we aim to change that, giving you the basics of what you need to know about an LMS as a student.  

LMS: A Definition

Let’s start with the basics: what does LMS stand for and what exactly is it?

LMS stands for Learning Management System. An LMS is defined as a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery of educational courses or training programs.

Blackboard is the LMS used by College of DuPage, but other popular systems include Canvas, Moodle, Schoology, Edmodo, and Desire2Learn (D2L), though there are dozens of other systems used by both higher education and K-12 providers (you may have used an LMS for some of your high school courses as well).

Why You Use a Learning Management System

So why use an LMS? Well, as you can see from the definition, an LMS does A LOT of stuff and makes it possible for both students and faculty to use those functions and content from one easily accessible location.

Without an LMS, it would be much more challenging to teach an online course as the system allows for flexibility of access, meaning that students can get the information they need to complete courses from anywhere at any time. Instructors can also easily integrate media like videos, documents, and even games into an LMS to help enrich the learning experience and make students more engaged in their studies.

And it’s not just the course material that becomes more accessible; it’s also the other people in your course. Though the LMS, you can easily have discussions with your classmates, share information, and contact your professor (or he or she can contact you).

Essentially, a learning management system makes online learning more enjoyable, accessible and practical.

How Can You Become an LMS Pro?  

Any online course you take here at COD will require you to use Blackboard to complete your coursework and interact with your professors and classmates. But many students, especially those who have not used an LMS in previous courses, may not really know how to navigate through the tools and resources offered by the LMS. While some of your learning will probably take place simply by virtue of figuring it out as you go, there are actually several places you can look to for support if you’re struggling with addressing specific issues.

One of the best places to look for help is on Blackboard itself. Blackboard has a wide range of resources designed to help you learn how to use their products, including a YouTube channel that’s full of instructional videos. Students can also take advantage of some introductory help on COD’s own IT site, which offers quick start guides, introductions to Blackboard, and links to where you can get more support.

If your questions about using Blackboard pertain more specifically to your individual course (where is the discussion board for chapter 3, how can I submit my assignment, etc.), then the best person to contact is your instructor. He or she will be able to tell you what you need to know about navigating the LMS and finding and using the resources you’ll need to complete your coursework.

And what if you have a technical issue? Like, say, Blackboard stops working while you’re in the middle of taking a test? While you should let your professor know about technical issues that might impact your ability to complete coursework, for assistance in solving the issue the best place to turn is the Student Help Desk.

Keep in mind that it may take you some time to really become comfortable using Blackboard or any other LMS, and that’s OK. Keep seeking out opportunities to learn and practice your skills, and you’ll not only learn your course material but also become a proficient LMS user, too.