Who needs an LMS – I got Google Apps

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Over the weekend I attended the first ever Google Apps for Education Summit in the Middle East. In between a session, a colleague of mine asked asked me, “Patrick, if we have Google Apps why do we need Edmodo?” For those of you who don’t know, Edmodo is a Learning Management System (LMS). It is used to increase communication in the classroom, roll out assignments, easily post important resources and lets other students or you help the students in the class as well as a few other tricks too. There are plenty out there and many are free, like Edmodo.

So my colleague’s question got me thinking. If we do decide to use the Google Apps for Education suite at our school, do we need Edmodo or any LMS for that matter? To find out click on past the break.

The short answer is yes we still need an LMS.

I’ll put forth some arguments and then dismantle them. If you think of one by all means put it in the comments and I’ll be sure to reply. For the purpose of this post I will be comparing Google Apps for Education (GAFE) to Edmodo as it is the LMS that I am the most familiar with.

I can do that
Technically speaking Google Apps can do the following:

  • Assignments, yeah Google Apps can do that through a shared calendar. You can schedule, add links to documents, etc. So why do I need an LMS?
  • You can turn in assignments through GAFE too.
  • You can use Google Forms to make tests/quizzes like an LMS. it will even grade multiple choice, true/false
  • You can create an attractive class website with Google Sites, like an LMS
  • You can easily communicate with your students

I can definitely see the attraction of doing everything in one place. It is unified (at least on paper) and is all in one place, but I still disagree.

Assignments
Sure you can add assignments to a calendar and share it to your students, but here is the problem. The students will have many calendars from many teachers.
Maybe your IT director sets it up so there is one common calendar that all students share and they can toggle on/off the assignments needed. Folks, let me tell you either way it is not convenient for that student. Too much going on or too many calendars. It creates confusion. An LMS is here to get rid of that confusion. They create a unified calendar that the students don’t need to subscribe to, don’t have to really manage, it’s just there.

Also, think about how these students will be turning in their work. Will they be printing it off? That kind of defeats the point of having a unified platform. The easiest way for them is to share it. At first this will seem awesome. YES! There is complete transparency-they know and can check if it’s shared to me and I can easily see if they’ve done it. Now flash forward a few months and here is what their Google Drive could look like.

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That is only the first page of items shared to me. Some of it is very important while others are just little bits of information. I started to really use Google Drive this school year and I don’t use it for everything! This is where an LMS will organize and help you find your information. If it is an assignment that’s been turned in, then the LMS will have it in a specific place and it can easily be found. Good luck finding it in your Google Drive.

Google Forms for Tests
It sounds good. It sounds effective, so what’s the issue. It’s just not the easiest way to make an online quiz. Edmodo has a feature, Schoology has a feature (that is really good by the way) and there are others out there that will let you create a quiz easily and distribute it effectively. For the LMS, when you give a quiz you can add a time limit, then the quiz expires and they can’t take it again. Not on Google Apps. There is no time limit, they can take it as many times as they want. Anyone can copy the link and share it with their peers, not on an LMS. Those links are specific to those classes. Also, in most LMS platforms you can randomize questions, answers to help cut down on cheating.

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Again, on paper it sounds great to use Google Apps to make test, and in reality it’s not that bad, but when you have something else that can do it better and it handles assignments as well? I think you see where I’m going.

Google Sites is NOT better
Google Sites can allow you to create a classroom website and it can look good, but you won’t have the functionality that an LMS has. You can post assignments and even create a way for students to submit them, but you won’t be able to organize them as well. On top of that the time you will spend on creating the site will be a lot more than just signing up for Edmodo or Schoology. With the LMS you have access and can focus on the content (the most important thing here) as opposed to puzzling over how to add a certain feature and make it work well.

Google is better at communication than an LMS
Well . . . this is probably true. Google chat, Hangouts (for students 13 and over) and Gmail are all quite effective and make it easier to reach out to your students. However, keeping all that organized is not the easiest task; especially if you teach 100 or more students. Keeping up with all that communication can be troublesome. An LMS on the other hand will keep that organized for you by class and in chronological order.

Even if Google is better, it’s not enough of a reason to dump or not consider using an LMS.

Wrapping it up
Let me be clear here folks. I am not saying this is an either-or argument. I am not saying that if you have Google Apps for Education you can’t use Edmodo, nor the opposite. On the contrary, I think they compliment each other quite well. I find that working with Google Apps and with Edmodo brings the best out of both. Google apps is pretty darn good at creating and sharing and Edmodo is pretty darn good at organizing and keeping track of it all by class and student.

The question my colleague asked is a good one. We should all question the services that our school is making us use from time to time, but in this case I feel that the LMS with Google Apps is a match made in heaven (well Silicon Valley at least).

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About Patrick Cauley

I teach middle school technology and love to play around with tech and teach students and colleagues alike. You can read my blog at www.itbabble.com
This entry was posted in Opinion, Patrick Cauley and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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