Over the past few years there has been an explosion in the use of Learning Management Systems (LMS) within the education sector. These are primarily web-based sites allowing teachers to post content, rich media, and assessments/assignments in a format that is pleasing to the eye and easy to use for non-technical personnel. For the use of this blog post I will be using the LMS used by my school, a rather expensive package called Blackbaud, but there are also many free systems available (e.g. Canvas/Schoology). The look and feel of the system may be different, but chances are they will cover similar functionality.
The BIG No No
First off, be aware of the rules for whatever competition you are currently working with, some may have rules prohibiting the use of the LMS during competitions, so consider this your warning/reminder to check.
Above is an example of how we leverage the “topic” board in our LMS. Each of the topics are a “board”, I choose to break up the boards by competition, but that’s just me. You can choose to organize yours in whichever way works for you.
Above is an example of a free Schoology class with a possible layout for National Cyber League (NCL) type wisdom.
LMS Board Management Strategies
The first strategy is the top down approach, or resource management by coach.
In this method you are going to be the central point for all content on the site, this obviously gives you control over the board, but this puts the burden of work and maintaining the site on your shoulders. I find myself spending a lot of time searching for different resources to put on the board.
The second strategy is the bottom up approach, or resource management by students.
If you are going to go down this route and your LMS will let you, it moves the burden of work to the students, but you have to moderate the content to make sure nothing inappropriate or rule breaking gets posted on the site. This method does give the students a great feeling of ownership of the resource, but should be restricted to trusted students/team captains.
Let’s take a dive into the actual content on the board. This is the layout I tend to use. All LMS will allow you to upload links, documents, and text boxes so I use it as a repository for everything that I and my students find and learn as we progress through different competitions. Think of it as a central repository of all wisdom with regards to that competition. I also find uploading tools to be of great value. Spending time searching for the right tool to complete a challenge can waste valuable time and, again, having the tools in one place alleviates some of the frustrations.
The one thing I always specify is that no solutions should be posted on the board. Methods are great because they can be applied to unknown problems and definitely no flags for any competition.
Initially your LMS will look quite barren, but over the years, as you progress through different competitions, it will be a great repository for students to advance at a faster rate than the students that blazed a trail in the beginning. Given that there is a relatively finite number of possible problems within most competitions, methods will allow students to complete the problem and learn something as they progress. Also, from a ‘legacy’ perspective, it allows your students to leave a little bit of themselves for the team that they are probably graduating out of.
Using any notifications available with your LMS will keep students on track with regards to practices and competitions.
One final point about LMS systems. Most LMS systems allow you to set up ‘tests’, therefore for your practice sessions you can leverage the LMS to set up tests, problems, etc. for your students during the downtime between competitions so it keeps skills sharp and puts them in the mood for what’s coming.