Addressing inconsistency in use of the LMS: A collaborative approach

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Elizabeth Masterman
University of Oxford, UK

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Inconsistency in the use of the learning management system (LMS) by academic staff is a source of dissatisfaction among university students in the UK. One solution is to establish a set of minimum standards (or baseline) for LMS use within an individual institution. Another is to supply templates – frameworks for LMS course sites – with a view to providing students with a seamless experience in their interactions with the LMS.

This paper describes how the issue of inconsistency was addressed at a leading research university in the UK through an exploratory project, WebLearn Improved Student Experience (WISE). The widespread devolution of responsibility for site management to administrative staff, together with the ‘maverick’ creation of course sites by those academics who chose to engage with the WebLearn LMS, had resulted in unevenness in students’ access to learning materials. The project team engaged in close collaboration with 19 departments in order to achieve the immediate purpose of improving uptake of, and consistency in, their LMS presence. The ultimate aim was to develop a support package comprising LMS templates and ‘best practice’ guidelines that would enable departments in the future to achieve the same objective, either unsupported or with minimal assistance from the central team of learning technologists. The project was evaluated using a modification of the Innovation Histories method. The evaluation findings additionally threw into relief the complex social and cultural factors at play that can inhibit a consistent student experience in an institutional LMS.

About the authors

Elizabeth Masterman

Liz Masterman holds a PhD in Educational Technology from the University of Birmingham, UK, and is a senior researcher in the Academic IT Services group at the University of Oxford. Her research focused initially on Learning Design; projects included an evaluation of LAMS, and the Phoebe Pedagogy Planner and Learning Designer tools. Liz has also conducted research into the student digital experience, OER and open educational practice. She is currently involved in three institutional projects: a review of the centrally supported LMS, a trial of electronic essay exams, and the design and implementation of a Learning Design model for Oxford. Other activities include editing the Academic IT Services blog and co-ordinating the annual OxTALENT competition, which rewards the creative use of technology in teaching, learning, research and outreach at the University. In 2015 Liz co-chaired the annual conference of the UK’s Association for Learning Technology.