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Using a Couse Management System (CMS)

Module by: Larry Ragan. E-mail the author

Summary: This module focuses on tools commonly found in a Course Management System and the competencies that faculty need to develop to use these tools effectively in their course. This module is part of the Best Practices in Online Teaching Course created by Penn State University World Campus as a guide for faculty who are new to teaching in an online environment.

Using a Course Management System in Your Teaching

Course Management Systems (CMS) provide a range of tools to support learning and the administration of courses in an online environment. Through a CMS, instructors can deliver virtually any content to students that could be delivered in a traditional face-to-face setting. Examples of commercial systems include: Blackboard, ANGEL, or Desire2Learn. Examples of open source systems include: Moodle, Sakai, or Atutor.

You will need to become familiar with the specific feature set offered in the CMS used in your university or organizational setting. The following is a brief summary of the types of tools you will need to use in your online teaching.

  • Communication tools - include tools such as email, discussion forums, and chat to allow faculty to correspond with students quickly and conveniently, and students can also use these tools to work on group projects and discussion.
  • Dropboxes - Through the use of dropboxes, students can submit lessons and other electronic files to instructors, and instructors can then provide feedback directly to students through the dropbox functionality.
  • Assessment tool - Instructors can administer quizzes and exams online using an assessment tool. Many systems allow for automatic grading of quizzes in the case of multiple choice or true/false questions. And for short-answer or essay questions, instructors can often grade responses and provide feedback on a question-by-question basis.
  • Gradebook - Some systems provide course gradebook; a single location for storage of all course assignments, from online items such as dropboxes and quizzes, to offline items such as proctored exams and class participation.

Selected Faculty Competencies - Using a CMS

Faculty competencies for using a CMS may include more than those here presented and will need to be adapted to the specific CMS used at your institution. The list below was generated by Instructional Design and Development (ID&D) staff of the World Campus at Penn State University. The list reflects faculty's commonly asked questions or difficulties while teaching in ANGEL, the CMS currently in use at Penn State.

Competencies you should possess include (but are not limited to):

  • posting an announcement
  • sending email within the system to one student or all students
  • posting to or moderating discussion forums
  • setting up groups
  • using the calendar (Optional)
  • managing students' assignments
  • submitting course grades at the end of the semester
  • establishing settings that notify instructor by e-mail when students submit an assignment
  • using the key instructor tools (e.g. Login Report, WhoDunIt Agent, Ungraded Items Agent, User Preview Tool, etc.)
  • grading dropbox and quiz submission
  • resetting student quiz
  • setting points for assignments
  • using the course gradebook

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Definition of a lens

Lenses

A lens is a custom view of the content in the repository. You can think of it as a fancy kind of list that will let you see content through the eyes of organizations and people you trust.

What is in a lens?

Lens makers point to materials (modules and collections), creating a guide that includes their own comments and descriptive tags about the content.

Who can create a lens?

Any individual member, a community, or a respected organization.

What are tags? tag icon

Tags are descriptors added by lens makers to help label content, attaching a vocabulary that is meaningful in the context of the lens.

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