Don’t Think Outside the LMS, Redecorate the Interior

Don’t Think Outside the LMS, Redecorate the Interior

October 16, 2018 2 By JR

Over the past couple of days I’ve seen through various channels the ‘think outside the box’ comment, which hasn’t come up too frequently I’ll admit. One comment was on Twitter, and the other was via NurseKillam’s recent post (in a slide pictured). The title for this post is a bit tongue and cheek. I recall seeing a poster near the University when I was an undergrad that said “don’t think outside the box, redecorate the interior”. There is so much there to unpack (ha, box puns) but I’ll leave that to someone much brighter and articulate than myself. What this made me think of was the use of a few different tools to redecorate the interior of the LMS. I know both Adam Croom and Keegan Long-Wheeler have written about, and implemented bringing WordPress into the LMS shells. I haven’t figured out how to do that in the version of Blackboard I’m currently using, but you should go check out their examples because they’re beautiful.

Rather than renovating the interior of the LMS like Adam and Keegan did, I chose to help instructors get paintings and other fixtures to decorate.

Shared “Whiteboards”

I’ve been using Padlet for a whole lot lately. In online courses its easy to feel isolated from your class and other participants. I’ve been using Padlet to inject student-student interactions into the flow of content for students. This would be akin to those mid lecture breaks where students do an activity in class and then come back together (think, pair, share for example). These activities are not usually graded, but are often called back to and used later in students’ writing and discussion activities. One such example was rather than a traditional intro discussion forum, we asked students to share a piece of art and explain why it spoke to them, or represented why they were interested in taking the course.

Check Your Understanding

The LMS has been able to run quizzes and self-tests since they were implemented in highered. Tell me how after decades in place they still can’t display that quiz in line with content? I have to click like a million times, navigating away from what I am learning in order to do some self-check activity, and then click back a million times to get to where I just was. Well, that was until a few years ago when I came across H5P. Those of you that know me know I promote two things endlessly: SPLOTS and H5P. H5p has become a staple in many courses I work on.

One particular use was a short course focused on calculations. Originally, guest lectures were used across several courses to place calculations in the disciplines context. A curriculum change moved this material out into its own separate course than ran over the duration of the other courses in the program. I’ve seen this sort of thing before at other universities where some math component that intersected a number of courses was pulled out and put into an online format. So we got to work on this one, knowing that the main model needed to be self-paced and therefore adopted a pretty cognitive approach. An instructor is available for further consult, but the primary mode of interaction was student-content interactions. We provided theory, examples, and case studies for the types of calculations done followed by some H5P activities. We customized the feedback to point out common mistakes made in each calculation and provided solution guides. I guess it might be like a more interactive math textbook design. Sure we could have done it all with the BBL test tool, but this approach allowed students to check quickly and informally how well they were able to perform different calculations.

In both of the examples I’ve discussed today, we used smallish existing tools to redecorate the interior of our LMS pages by embedding activities right in the pages (you know, like you do on the web).


Feature image by stevepb via Pixabay under a CC0 license.