If you are a student or an educator then an LMS or learning management system is not an empty phrase for you. Even more, you probably have to deal with it on a regular basis, sometimes multiple times in a day. In some cases, these systems witness the hours of your effortful work and undivided attention, since the hefty share of the education nowadays takes place in a learning management system.
It was the same exact situation the founders of CodeGrade found themselves in a couple of years ago. They worked as teaching assistants, who often bridge professors and students, while being computer science students themselves. As you might have guessed, they had to deal with their LMS – Blackboard – on a daily basis to assess, grade and view their own feedback. Being immersed in CS education, they had come up with an idea of how they could improve these workflows, which eventually led to CodeGrade. But what had made them think that programming education needed revitalization in the first case? It was their virtual learning environment. As both teaching assistants and students, they quickly learned the nuts and bolts of computer science from the educational perspective. A learning management system is a great tool in and of itself, yet it is not equally useful for all study programs, at least when used without substantial modifications. For computer science, there are vast areas of improvement from a traditional virtual learning environment.
Quite surprisingly, the science which gave birth to innovative technologies we use every day, up until recently was taught in the more or less the same way as 30 years ago! LMSs were of little help. It is as if you had a bulky cell phone from the 90s in your pocket instead of a smartphone – both inconvenient and nonsensical.
Has anything changed recently in this respect? Let’s take a look at what modern learning systems have to offer for computer science education, by comparing the four most popular learning management systems used by universities worldwide: Canvas, Blackboard, Brightspace, and Moodle. Though being similar at their core at first glance, they have substantial differences in various aspects.
Moodle, for instance, is completely free. On the downside, it is much more effortful to set up its system properly, so as often as not universities contact Moodle partners to incorporate the application in the IT system of the university. Blackboard is a direct opposite – its deployment might cost more, but their solution works perfectly right out of the box. Founded more than 20 years ago, it has long been an undisputed leader of the industry. The alternatives – Canvas and Brightspace – slowly upstage Blackboard by offering more flexible and cost-effective solutions. On the other hand, all of them have certain similarities – they support the plugin ecosystem and LTI, or learning tools interoperability, an education technology standard that allows integration of external systems in LMSs.