Course management tools (CMT), also known as course management systems or virtual learning environments, are used in education as a way to support teaching and learning in the classroom. CMTs are usually run through the internet and include a variety of tools for assessment, discussion boards, uploading and downloading content, class announcements, web links, and students’ grades. While most were originally developed for online courses, CMTs offer valuable additions to all learning environments. They offer areas where all class content can be kept and organized for students and teachers (Virtual Learning Environment, n.d.). Web-based course management tools can be used to support classroom instruction, and they can be used to teach online classes or distance learning classrooms (Dabbagh, 2002).
While some CMTs are used for online or distance based learning, most are used to support classroom instruction. CMTs can be used to capture class content and archive it, encourage students to participate since it is readily available, encourage active learning through discussion boards, facilitate peer reviews and collaboration on group projects, and promote learning through a variety of forms (Dabbagh, 2002). CMTs allow teachers to enhance the learning process through a variety of tools not available in the traditional classroom. Teachers can promote collaborative learning through the use of online discussions, group project organization, and navigation tools (Dabbagh, Bannon-Ritland, & Silc, 2001). Students are not bound to learning through the classroom with CMTs. Discussions can be carried on outside of the classroom and updates are readily available to both students and teachers.
Course management tools also create more of a constructivist learning environment, if used correctly. Moodle’s (Moodle, n.d.) philosophy includes “a constructivist and social constructivist approach to education, emphasizing that learners (and not just teachers) can contribute to the education experience in many ways”. Moodle, as well as other CMTs, is flexible to allow for a full range of teaching, including introductory lessons to advanced lessons (Moodle, n.d.). Many courses that were at one point a traditional classroom have incorporated CMTs. This transition has led to restructuring of content and features tools that allow students to create their own knowledge (Bannan & Milheim, 1997; Reeves & Reeves, 1997). It is very likely that courses previously designed for instructional base learning will undergo a “pedagogical reengineering” becoming more constructivist in the process (Dabbagh & Schmitt, 1998).
There are many course management tools on the market today, but I want to focus on two: Moodle and Blackboard.
Blackboard- Blackboard (also known as WebCT) is used in many educational environments, including Webster University. Blackboard is a great tool in that it can be used across a variety of courses. Email, websites, discussion boards, assignments, and course content can all be posted online for the student to access. The downfalls of Blackboard are that you have to buy the software, and the user interface is slightly outdated.
Moodle- Moodle is a newer program and is available free to the public. It is open source software and provides tools for creating internet based courses or web assisted courses. Moodle has all the features of other CMTs including forums for discussion, assignment links, grade access, web links and email, and links to wikis that students can work on together.
Moodle has been used in many schools ranging from elementary to college. One particular school in Grand Rapids Michigan has found many uses for Moodle in the classroom. Some teachers developed a course to be taken at home, while others were able to enroll students in a course that used a particular eBook as a resource (DeVaney, 2008).
While there are many course management tools out there, certain ones might be more beneficial for particular teachers. Some of the older programs are very basic in nature, while the new sites offer many links and tools to provide the students. CMTs offer every teacher an avenue to diversify their curriculum and allow teachers to create a more constructivist classroom environment.
Bannan, B., & Milheim, W. D. (1997). Existing Web-Based Instruction Courses and Their Design. In Web-Based Instruction. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.
Dabbagh, N. (2002, March/April). Using a Web-Based Course Management Tool to Support Face-to-Face Instruction. The Technology Source Archives. Retrieved from: http://technologysource.org/article/using_a_webbased_course_management_tool_to_support_facetoface_instruction/
Dabbagh, N., Bannan-Ritland, B., & Silc, K. (2001). Pedagogy and Web-based course authoring tools: Issues and implications. In Web-based training. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.
Devaney, L. (2008). Report Looks at School’s Success with Moodle. eSchool News. Retrieved from: http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/top-news/?I=51956
Moodle. (n.d.). Retrieved April 17, 2009, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moodle
Reeves, T. C., & Reeves, P. M. (1997). Effective Dimensions of Interactive Learning on the World Wide Web. In Web-Based Instruction. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.
Virtual learning environment. (n.d.). Retrieved April 17, 2009, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_Learning_Environment
1. True or False: Course management tools are strictly for online courses and distance learning courses.
2. Which of the following is NOT a course management tool?
a. Moodle b. WebCT c. Blackboard d. Smart Ideas
3. True or False: Classrooms that use course management tools have a tendency to take on more of a constructivist approach.
4. Which of the following can be offered using a course management tool?
a. Email b. Discussion forums c. Grade updates d. Assignments e. All of the above