Redefining Online Education with ELMS:LN

Education has always been a passion of mine. From a young age, I had always wanted to be a teacher and help people learn. There is nothing more worthwhile than seeing someone, who is struggling with something, glow when they finally understand a difficult concept.

In 2013 I was accepted to Penn State University as a student of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) and German Language. Although neither major was directly related to teaching, I was determined to find a way to be involved in teaching and education during my time studying at Penn State.

That first summer I began working part time at Penn State’s College of IST World Campus program. I was involved in helping create website layouts for online courses and copy static content between courses whenever new sections emerged. Not only was this job my first exposure to Drupal development, it was also an introduction to the current state of the Ed-Tech sector at my University.

Although copying and pasting static content to a web page worked for some online classes at the University, the approach was less efficient when it came to courses that required more dynamic tools such as discussion boards, interactive flash activities, and external videos. The lack of opportunity to design custom educational technologies at this time was just a fact of life. Our department was barred down by whatever “cookie-cutter”system that was provided by the university and had little control in innovating in a very controlled space.

A year later, I discovered a project called ELMS:LN; an open source Learning Management System (LMS) built on a Drupal backbone with endless opportunities to make an impact on the Ed-Tech world. What makes ELMS:LN unique is that it focuses on its community (both the Drupal community and community of educators from multiple universities) and draws ideas and support from these groups. ELMS:LN is also extremely customizable, which is very rare for “cookie-cutter” LMS platforms.

While working on the project, I realized I had a unique opportunity to innovate as not only was I an employee of the university, but also a student who had the power to actually change components of the University’s educational technology scene. I took online classes that ran on the ELMS:LN platform and ones that ran on other platforms to do a compare and contrast of the systems. I would see what elements I liked from what was currently being offered as a technology solution and develop patches and ideas in the project’s GitHub issue queue.

I also got the chance to talk to faculty about how they use ELMS:LN to create courses. I would ask them questions both as a developer and student. As a developer I focused on, “what features would make creating courses easier for you?” or, “what are some ideas for tools that you would like to see added to the system?” As a student, I focused more on how the content looked on the page and what parts of the course website were helpful for my studies.

Connecting students, developers, professors, and instructional designers with one another allows for a more wholesome product. This connection builds a community and allows for a communal LMS solution where all parts of the university are work together to continuously improve a platform that fits their needs. This leads to progress – which strengthens the quality of online education as a whole. I am very excited to be a part of this movement. With more community and communication I believe that online education can help transform the world to a place where every person on this planet can receive the education they deserve with the best tools to do so.

I believe in redefining online education, will you join me?