Student Voice: LMS or Social Media for Class?
Suchita Chadha is a junior at Emerson College and the author of our weekly “Student Voice” column.
Many post-secondary schools and institutions across North America have adopted learning management systems (LMS) by which students and teachers can communicate and interact with each other outside of the classroom. The goal is to create a space that simultaneously allows for all the basic function of a classroom while enhancing the quality of learning.
But not every teacher will use it. On the contrary, there are many teachers who prefer to capitalize on the existing popularity of social media platforms in order to best reach their students. There are many reasons behind their choices, but a common one is the dislike many students express for LMS platforms.
“It’s frustrating. There are too many different places where the same kinds of things can go. Every teacher seems to organize their stuff in it differently, ” says Christine Lavosky, a junior writing, literature, and publishing student at Emerson College.
And this is true. There are endless possibilities for every LMS: the idea, after all, was to create a product that could adapt to each teacher’s needs. Unfortunately, this also means that students must contend with numerous styles, and the ease of function from the student’s end gets diminished.
The other issue is more complex, and deals with the use of technology across generations. As part of the millennial generation, we do remember a time of limited advancements in technology, but having reached college, a good portion of our life has now been in the midst of smart phones and laptops. This cannot be said for the professors. Those who are in professions that have changed to accommodate technology are generally comfortable. However, for teachers who have not needed to keep up with the latest updates in the tech world, the LMS can present a challenge.
Perhaps unfairly, students do expect their professors to have a certain adeptness at using whatever technology they have at hand, and the inability to do so has resulted in some students getting turned off from the technology altogether. At Emerson, where Canvas is the standard LMS, some students express mixed feelings about the software.
“I like Canvas. It’s always about how the professor is using it. If they don’t know how to use it, it’s not useful at all. It’s just a database of files,” says Sophie Calhoun, a junior interactive media student.
Unfair or not, there is some sense in the expectation. Not every teacher need use it, but if they do, they should take advantage of platform and use it to its fullest extent.
Of the many options, Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress come out at the top of the social media list. Professor Delia Cabe at Emerson College uses Facebook to post readings and updates. These are, of course, functions that any platform can manage, but it’s the instantaneous response she receives from students that Professor Cabe appreciates.
“I started using Facebook group pages for my courses because that’s where my students are.”
Twitter works in a similar way, and both platforms allow professors to respond to questions quickly. There’s also an ease of access for students: it’s one less tab to open and sign into. Whether good or bad, the fact is that Facebook is a part of our daily routine and teachers like who use that to their advantage have the potential of connecting with their students more easily. This accessibility is also convenient for teachers.
“Posting links and course information are quick and easy,” says Professor Cabe. “I can post from my iPhone on the fly, I don’t have to open another tab and squint through Canvas’s interface.”
Like any LMS, social media is only preferred for as long as it used well. Most students can agree that they would rather do things the traditional way than have their professors fumble through technology simply for the sake of using it. One of Calhoun’s professors uses WordPress as a supplementary point of instruction, and she’s happy with that, but she acknowledges that the platform is not what makes the difference for her: it’s the usage.
“I am okay with [WordPress] as long as the professor keeps it updated,” says Calhoun, speaking of her animation course. “Today we did lesson 6. He’s coaching you in class; at the same time, if you click on lesson 6 [on WordPress], all the steps are already written down for you, like instructions. But he could easily do this on Canvas.”
The lesson then, is that teachers should use what’s most comfortable to them. Social media platforms would probably win against an LMS only because teachers, like so many others in the world, have adopted it into their lives to some extent already. Rather than having to understand the many intricacies of an LMS, they can instead simply adjust the way they approach sites like Facebook or Twitter.
Do you use a learning management system, as a student or a teacher? What system, and how do you feel about it?
Suchita is a student at Emerson College, where she is pursuing a BFA in Writing, Literature, & Publishing for poetry with a Global & Post-Colonial Studies minor. She has been published in Verge Magazine (Canada) and Affairs Today (UK).