When I tell people about Pathwright, I often hear a version of “man, my university’s software sucks, we should use yours.”
Hating your LMS (Learning Management System) is not an uncommon sentiment. Google “[LMS name] sucks” for pretty much any mainstream LMS, and you’ll find outpourings of ire from students and teachers listing all the ways they’ve been screwed by these poorly designed platforms.
While I wish we could help students dealing with crappy LMSs, the problems with the Higher Ed-LMS market run deeper than poor software design.
Below are a few reason why bad LMSs end up at even the most prestigious institutions.
Most mainstream LMSs were designed with little thought given to the students’ experience. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out (although it may take one to use the software). This seems like a bizarre choice from the outside since 80–90% of the users of an LMS are students, but it is intentional. Student experience isn’t a top priority to the big LMS vendors because the students are not the ones paying for the LMS!
So let’s Follow the 💸 . . .
Imagine a committee (when have committees ever made bad decisions?) composed of administrators, IT people, and the token student and/or teacher. For these committees, due diligence in LMS selection starts with a giant features list (one often found through a Google search or provided by fancy consultants). This list determines the “best” match for them.
I use quotes around “best” because the people helping them make this decision are often aggressive sales staff from LMS companies. As you might imagine, on the LMS side, this leads to an arms race of features— one that plays off the good intentions and fears of the committee.
The committee, with feature-FOMO, throws money at the problem. It’s the LMS that can check all the boxes on the list and that makes the most steakholders (this is a better way to spell it—you know it is)happy that takes the prize.
This leads to LMS software that is a rat’s nest of features that only “power users” can understand. Those features require conferences and time-sucking, on-site training for the primary users (students and teachers) to get any work done. The original committee might even regret their decision, but now they’re trapped by the contract—often a contract that lasts as long as 5 years (light-years in internet time). In the end, this is a losing game for everyone.
There is a better way.
So how should universities pick an LMS? Start with the needs of your students and teachers. They are the primary users of the software and unless their needs are being met, you are making an expensive mistake. Below are a few tips for picking an LMS that will serve your school well:
Thousands of teachers use Pathwright every day to design and teach courses to their team, class, or anyone in the world. If you’d like to design a course, we invite you to try out Pathwright for free. You’ve got nothing to lose!
Topics in this article
learning experience design
active learning strategies
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