Carbon Lehigh IU 21: Maximizing the Effectiveness of Learning Management Systems

 “Online learning management systems,” says Carbon Lehigh IU 21 Executive Director Dr. Elaine E. Eib, “are revolutionizing the way students learn and teachers teach.”

At its most basic, a learning management system, or LMS, is a technology platform for educators to manage, track, and deliver courses. But CLIU 21 is taking the LMS to a new level, creating the CLIU Canvas Consortium to fully capture the power of a versatile, sophisticated, and user-friendly LMS called Canvas.

CLIU was one of Pennsylvania’s first adopters of Canvas, created by two college students dissatisfied with their online learning options. As the name implies, Canvas is a blank slate, allowing teachers to unify their learning tools in one place or create cyber learning courses. To assure its most effective use as a learning tool, CLIU convenes networking groups where users share ideas, and it offers intensive, ongoing professional development, so implementation is not once-and-done. CLIU also utilizes Canvas for its cost-effective teacher certification courses, and Canvas complements eLearn 21, the IU’s cyber learning initiative.

Through Canvas, teachers can capture unlimited, credible digital course content and encourage students to explore subjects in all their facets, says Dr. Charlotte Golden, CLIU’s coordinator of curriculum and instruction/educational technology.

Outcomes include improved academic achievement, and higher graduation rates among students whose interest is retained “even though they may not be sitting in your school building,” says Golden. Equally important, students are learning the research and critical thinking skills needed to succeed in jobs and in life.

“Unfortunately, our kids are used to reading passages of literature and answering specific questions instead of developing concepts on their own,” says Golden. “This kind of exploratory learning really encourages the problem-solving, 21st century skills that our business and industry leaders say our students need.”

As of fall 2014, six school districts participated in the CLIU Canvas Consortium, and many participants used the online courses offered by CLIU through Canvas.

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