Time is perhaps the most precious resource for educators who must juggle tasks like communicating with students and parents, preparing lessons, assessing student performance, and keeping up on the latest buzz in the education industry. To help teachers save time, many school districts are using learning management systems (LMS).
Among the hottest products in the LMS world is itslearning; however, is this tool a worthy investment for schools? Here’s a preview of what the platform offers and what some tech bloggers and educators have to say about it.
When you view the itslearning website, you’ll see a slew of attractive features. Some of the highlights of the system include:
Help for planning lessons. You can add lessons you’ve put together yourself, or search a library of lessons created by your fellow itslearning members. As you add new lessons to your plan for the week, students and parents will receive an alert so they can preview the material.
An easy way to communicate with students. You can create rubrics with itslearning and send them to students along with personalized feedback on their work.
Analytic tools. You can look at class performance as a whole, or focus on analyzing the progress of specific students.
Ease of use. itslearning earned top marks in a review by Susan Hixson of MultiMedia & INTERNET@SCHOOLS magazine for its user-friendliness.
The LMS does have a few drawbacks, including:
The price. Unlike its rival LMS, Google Classroom, itslearning is not free.
The loss of continuity that Google offers. itslearning is a comprehensive platform with a closed ecosystem, so the need to use many of the Google Apps for Education will disappear. However, Google’s presence will remain, as many school districts are sticking with using Google’s educational hardware like Chromebooks and Android tablets.
Possible hiccups in communication. If you create an assignment in this LMS without giving face-to-face notification to students, it may be difficult for them to keep up.
itslearning began as the brainchild of students at Bergen University College in 1998. The project created so much buzz that the university signed up as the LMS’s first official customer. Needless to say, it has grown up since 1998.
The cloud-based program has an uptime of more than 97 percent, making it an all-hours resource for teachers and students. Teachers can use all the features, or they can pick and choose. It starts with easy installation and a simple login, after which teachers can get straight to planning lessons and analyzing class progress. This video overview of itslearning showcases how the platform can make life easier for teachers.
One of the standout features of this LMS is the way it empowers a sense of community. Because teachers, students, and parents can all log in, communicating is easy, ensuring that everyone stays on the same page. The tool that teachers can use to search for and review lesson plans is an idea-sharing powerhouse that can inspire educators to hunt for new and innovative ways to reach students.
Of course, a sense of community isn’t the sole domain of itslearning. Through Google Plus and other media, students and teachers can connect with each other for free.
Google Classroom is part of the Google Apps for Education suite, and it’s a large presence in the education technology world. In fact, since all the K-12 schools in Oregon switched from Microsoft apps to Google tools, the state is saving an estimated $1.5 million a year. More than 25 million students use Google Apps for Education. The handy apps combined with an appealing price tag — the system is free for schools — make it a challenge for itslearning to get an edge on Google.
Taken together, Google Drive, Google Plus, Google Classroom, and other Google apps create a system that, like itslearning, encourages student-teacher communication and helps educators stay organized. However, this LMS does (ostensibly) offer a few advantages over the Google universe.
Perhaps the biggest advantage that itslearning claims to have over Google is its analytics. With itslearning, the company says, educators can easily assess whether the class is ready to move on, or if they need to spend a little more time in a challenging subject area.
The power of easy lesson-planning also appears to come in as a win for itslearning. The tools provided by itslearning can prompt teachers to customize lesson plans to the needs of students according to the students’ learning styles. According to Hixson’s review, “The formative assessment and reporting options include a planner, grade book, preloaded learning objectives correlated to state standards, the ability to define local goals and standards, a variety of progress reports, a test tool, attendance reporting, and the ability to create custom reports.”
While the above advantages carry a lot of weight, is it reasonable to say that itslearning will overtake Google as the go-to LMS? Perhaps, given time and some great marketing, it will. This platform currently only has about four million users, though, so it has a long way to go before it catches up.
The reviews on itslearning are mostly positive. David Andre — a tech reviewer who works as the CIO for a Connecticut school district —wrote on his blog, “It’s very rare that I review apps and services that are not free. However, I found out about it’s learning last month and was able to see a demo, and I really liked it as a course management system.” He went on to praise the system’s intuitive setup, among other features.
What do educators have to say about itslearning? South Carolina educator and blogger Cathy Jo Nelson, who is a Google Certified teacher and an advocate of Google Apps for Education, wrote about her initial feelings on the LMS: “I was disappointed we opted for this one over Google’s.”
However, Nelson conceded her outlook on itslearning had changed. After spending some time with the platform, she writes, “I can envision a bright future using this LMS. I don’t think it will magically cure all that ails teachers, especially with their adoption of seamlessly integrated technology in the classroom. But I do think we are definitely on the right track.”
Are there any naysayers for itslearning? Negative reviews for the LMS seem to be rare, although some parents have expressed the belief that it could oversimplify teachers’ work. As one anonymous reviewer says, “They are taking the teaching away from the teacher. I hear ‘blended learning,’ and I hear teachers not doing their work and giving the kids more and more homework.”
Such detractors believe this technology could take the human element out of teaching, alienating teachers from their students. It should be noted that such objections commonly are levied against LMS platforms and blended learning as a whole; however, the veracity of these complaints really has yet to be seen.
In this age of blended learning, it is becoming ever more important to find the right tools to integrate classroom and online education. While itslearning is relatively unknown compared to Google Classroom, it does have some features that appeal to educators who are looking for the easiest and best way to make technology part of the learning experience.
itslearning offers a free trial, so it’s not much of a risk to at least give it a try. Who knows? In a few years, itslearning might be the “it” thing in education.