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The New School Year Is Right Around the Corner—Are You and Your LMS Ready for Online Learning at Scale?

  • 3 Min Read

With some of the biggest names in post-secondary education, including major institutions ranging from California State University to Rutgers, Harvard, and Princeton, all announcing plans to remain mostly online for the fall of 2020, the September 2020 academic season is expected to be very different from that of a year ago. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact North America, the number of learners enrolling in interstate distance learning has now reached an online high[1] and colleges and universities remain in a state of uncertainty with respect to a timeline for faculty and students to return to campus.

The sudden surge in online learning also has raised questions with respect to quality of education delivery. According to survey data from Quality Matters, remote instruction is for many faculty a completely foreign concept. Prior to the pandemic, only 50% faculty had exposure to teaching online.[2] Data from the National Center for Education Statistics indicated that of the approximately 8.5 million students who receive federal financial aid attend colleges or graduate schools outside their primary states of residence, many of these students were likely forced to return home as campuses shut down in the spring to finish their year out online.[3] And students at more than 70 U.S. universities are now filing lawsuits against their schools, demanding partial refunds for tuition and campus fees, saying they’re not getting the caliber of education they were promised.[4]

As the backbone for online learning delivery, an institution’s learning management system (LMS) will play a vital role in ensuring a quality learning (and teaching) experience for students and faculty come September. Factors such as scalability, uptime, and a modern mobile learning experience have always been important, but even more so for colleges that are seeking to create quality online learning experiences at scale.

Free and fully open-source learning management systems have traditionally found a sweet spot among smaller educational institutions such as community colleges and smaller private institutions.[5] Schools were attracted to the fact that open source required no upfront licensing fees. IT staff liked that they could customize the application and had control of their data (by hosting on-premises). Of course, the degree of customization required for open source also appealed to IT folk who were looking for job security.

But that was then and this is now. September 2020 is an entirely new type of school year for colleges and universities large and small. The demands on the LMS will be unprecedented in terms of numbers of users and intensity of use. So, the questions to be answered now are as follows: Will your open-source LMS scale to support a fully online delivery model? Will it deliver on the expectations of today’s tech-savvy modern learners? What will it cost the institution to get up, running, and ready in time for the start of September?

If your institution is currently relying on an open-source LMS, we have developed a quick 10-question quiz to help you assess your platform’s readiness for fully online learning. We’ve also created a detailed guide to walk you through some of the key planning considerations when looking to invest in or scale an open-source LMS platform.

[1]https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2020/07/20/covid-surge-distance-learning-demands-renewed-focus-quality-assurance-opinion

[2]https://www.qualitymatters.org/sites/default/files/research-docs-pdfs/QM-Eduventures-CHLOE-5-Report.pdf

[3]https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2020/07/20/covid-surge-distance-learning-demands-renewed-focus-quality-assurance-opinion

[4]https://www.expertinstitute.com/resources/insights/universities-sued-for-covid-19-refunds-following-campus-closures/

[5]https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/02/13/moodle-tops-blackboard-among-small-colleges-analysis-says

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