Nothing says moving into the future like the flexibility customization can provide


The base level of technological savvy has surely risen on college campuses over the past half decade, and with that rise has come growing expectations for flexibility in institution’s online learning platforms.

The static nature of learning management systems from the early and mid-2000s for years irked educators, campus technologists, and students who said the web-based learning experience was hindered by the decidedly inflexible platforms that left little or no room for customization.

Only through customization, the argument went, could college students get the most out of the online learning experience. It was a common — if not ignored — refrain for years in higher education.

M.L. Bettino, former dean of academic affairs at Cerritos College, a community college in Los Angeles County, said in an eCampus News interview that the shift toward open-source aspects of university LMS’ was a clear sign that higher education was finally ready to move on from the stodgy learning platforms of yesteryear.

(Next page: Standout online learning platforms)

“They didn’t cater to education in terms of when they’d do upgrades,” Bettino said of the makers of proprietary LMS software once dominant in higher education. “We wanted to be able to look under the hood to modify, to be more in tune with our culture here. There weren’t that many schools doing it at the time, but there was a community out there willing to help. In the end, it’s been a much healthier way to go.”

Bettino, along with a host of college and university IT officials, have told eCampus News editors that adding flexibility to online learning platforms hasn’t just satisfied the former critics of older LMSs. Students who never knew what they were missing have expressed satisfaction with their learning experience as platforms become more pliable for them and their professors.

Here are a few online learning platforms that stand out for their flexibility for college students and the educators who teach in the nontraditional classroom.

  • MindTap from Cengage Learning: Known in higher education for its personalization, MindTap combines readings, multimedia, activities, and assessments into a singular Learning Path. MindTap’s easy-to-use platform helps guide students through their course while allowing educators to tack on their own learning resources via apps that integrate into the MindTap framework. Student surveys have shown that students see MindTap as easy to navigate, adding that the ease of use saves time on course assignments.
  • McGraw-Hill Connect: Highlights for educators using McGraw-Hill’s platform include easy integration of eTextbooks, simple grading, and a course assignment program that doesn’t take an IT whiz to understand. Connect also generates a report flagging at-risk students who have struggled on assignments, quizzes, and tests. The platform’s suite of customizable options includes flexible assignment creation and lecture capture technology that has proven to improve student grades and satisfaction levels.
  • Schoology: This learning management system sports the ability to merge various technologies used by students and faculty into one online environment. Educators can integrate third-party technology’s into the innovative Schoology platform, which streamlines the often complex process. The platform’s Groups feature brings a social aspect to the platform that allows learners to connect and discuss common interests — both inside and outside the classroom. The Groups feature also lets students share content in a decidedly collaborative environment.

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