Explore: Through my exploration I found there to be eight major tool categories within an LMS:
- Tools: announcements, blogs, journals, glossary, email
- Course Administration: course home, syllabus
- Teacher Information: clas list, calender, bulletin board/class news
- Course Content and LOR: Import/export content, course authoring, course packages, Learning Object Repository
- Communication: email, discussion boards, notification system, instant messaging, blogs, social profiles, calendars, aler systems or agents
- Course Assessments: tests, quizzes, rubric, dropbox
- Grades/Gradebook: report generation, commenting/feedback, rubrics, data import, weight vs. percentage
- ePortfolio: (my favorite!) store, organize, reflect on, and share items that represent your learning
All these tools work together to create a strong LMS. With one of these tools missing, an LMS would not be possible. Some of the tools are more relevant than others, but are are needed to carryout online learning.
Answer: In my opinion, the most relevant tool features offered within an LMS that directly relate to effective online instruction are course content, communication, course assessments, grades/gradebook, and ePortfolios. All these features would be necessary for my online classroom environment. Course content would be absolutely crucial to an online classroom. The material being taught to the students needs to be well structured and accurate. There would be no classroom without course content. Communication is another tool that would be used on a daily basis. It would be used for teacher to teacher, teacher to student, teacher to parent, student to student communication. Teachers would need to communicate both with the students and with the parents about multiple topics on any given day. Students will need to converse/collaborate with other students if they have questions or if they are working together on an assignment. Course assessment and grades would go hand in hand. Teachers need to know if students are mastering content so they must administer assessments and record grades in a gradebook. A gradebook also provides proof that a student has completed the necessary tasks to receive credit for a course. The most outstanding LMS tool feature is the ePortfolio. This allows students to create their own platform for storing, organizing, reflecting on, and sharing items that represent what they have learned. There is no better representation of what a student has learned than letting them choose the items that they feel represent their learning. It is personal and can be shared with anyone. ePortfolios are also used in the 21st century business world making it a great segway into using something like this for a job interview.