Differentiating Instruction in Your LMS

by / Thursday, 26 November 2020 / Published in Teaching with Technology

Anyone who has been in the world of education for any significant amount of time knows that blanketed instruction, or teaching all students in the same way and expecting them all to learn the same thing, just doesn’t work. We also know, unfortunately, that providing individualized instruction for every student in a class, or even different groups of students, isn’t feasible given the amount of time it takes and the amount of time we just don’t have. Fortunately, today’s technology – specifically the use of a learning management system (LMS) – opens up a lot of opportunities for differentiating instruction.

One way to use an LMS to your advantage – and your learners’ – is to provide a differentiated rate or pace for learning. Providing materials within the LMS for learners to access and complete at any time will give them the flexibility they need to process information at their own pace, which will increase retention and enhance learning. The materials can be medium-, low- or no-stakes, can include slide presentations, PDFs and videos, among other types, and can be reinforced with quizzes and interactive tasks to support learning. The quizzes and tasks can offer feedback tailored for each question, which will further help each student as needed.

Another great way to use an LMS to provide a more differentiated learning experience is to deliver additional support resources that cover topics in several different ways. Some students prefer to gather information by reading, while others may prefer to watch a video, while still others others may prefer audio that supports a reading text. Having an LMS at your fingertips means being able to provide your learners with all of this and more, which they can access based on their needs and preferences. Links to supporting websites, articles and slide presentations can all be added to a course, and collaborative tools such as discussion forums can be added so students can support each other. This will take a bit of work on the teacher’s part up front, but once it’s done, it’s there for all to use and it can free up a teacher’s time going forward, as learners are able to get what they need whenever they need it

Neither last nor least of the ways in which you can use your LMS to differentiate learning is by creating learning pathways. You can use adaptive release tools to provide students with resources that lead them in one direction or another through various pathways that all lead to the same end goal. The directions they go can be based on criteria such as performance, task completion and date, to name a few. Some students may go directly to the end, passing each resource or task without need for redirecting or remediation, while others may need to take a different path to get there. As with other methods of differentiation via LMS, this can take a bit of work on the front end – not to mention planning – but it can be so worth it for the benefit it provides your learners and, in the long run, can save you time.

These would be daunting if not impossible strategies to use in a traditional learning environment, but with the addition of an LMS – as well as the growing necessity and consequent popularity of online teaching – we now have at our disposal tools that can help us provide many ways of taking in and using information, which will contribute to maximizing student learning.