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Deciding on the right Learning Management System (LMS)

Year Level: Primary and Intermediate

Cluster Type: Traditional ICT PD Cluster

Context: This is the second year of our Arataki ICT PD cluster (2010 - 2012). The cluster has four schools - three contributing primaries and one intermediate. The four principals have, over some years, attended MOE Roadshows on Managed Learning Environments, and have, until now, chosen not to make their introduction in school a priority. However, participation in the ICT PD program has produced a proliferation and variety of web applications in the schools, such as wikis, google sites, and web sites. We were aware of other local schools communicating to parents and across their schools using commmercial Learning Management System's (LMS) and wanted to investigate whether they could provide the consistency and simplicity we desired. We wanted to decide which LMS might be best and whether the decision to adopt any should be further delayed.

Intention: Why did we decide to investigate LMS?

The Principals intentions focused on the need to have a secure internet / e-learning Learning Management System that could:

  • Provide a standardised, secure class web page for teachers and pupils to engage, share and relate to others.
    • The NZC Key Competencies (NZC p12 – 13) are capabilities for “living and lifelong learning”. The use of internet and e-learning is featuring strongly in the lives of our students now, and in the future. Schools need to have a safe, secure environment to develop student’s skills and knowledge in this electronic world.
    • The use of an LMS will support our students to be “connected” and “effective users of communication tools” (NZC p8 Vision).
    • The NZC (Effective Pedagogy p34) notes that “facilitated shared learning” is a teacher action that promotes student learning. The secure e-learning environments will provide an opportunity for students “to learn as they engage in shared conversations with other people, including family members”.
  • Communicate to parents information and provide access to assessment information
    • The LMS would be used as a method to provide mid and end of year reports to parents on students progress and achievement.
    • A characteristic of effective assessment is that assessment involves students and the data on line will enable students to develop the capacity to inform parents of their progress.
    • The provision of assessment data through the LMS would be a long-term goal where assessment information from specific tests would be available to parents to observe. This would strengthen the home and school partnership regarding the transparency of student data.
  • Create a staff website for the sharing and communication of teacher resources
    • Most schools have an administration server that store information for teachers. The LMS would provide a secure environment for school administration information, school calendars, teacher and team planning.
    • Teachers would be able to develop their own specific website for reflective commentary on their development as a teacher in the form of an e-portfolio. This would be linked to the Registered Teacher Criteria and Professional Standards.
  • Create a secure environment for the development of a pupil e-portfolio.
    • Currently schools are using data sticks and/or server storage for individual student files and at the end of each year there is great difficulty in transferring this data to the next year group. This would be solved by the LMS with a secure system that “flows “ across the school and year groups.
    • This would provide a coherent structure for students to reflect on their work over the years and demonstrate to them how they are life-long learners. The e-portfolio’s would strengthen the home and school partnership, as well as the reporting on progress and achievement.
  • Provide greater security in access to curriculum choices for students (LCO p6)
    • the LMS could be a forum for schools across the cluster to develop GATE programmes and share the activities in a collaborative manner.

Interventions: What did we do?

The Principals decided to investigate the two main suppliers in the market - KnowledgeNet and UltraNet.

Why just these two?

  • We didn't have any major resources in our school personnel to try free ware (moodle)
  • Locals schools were using these two providers and main secondary schools
  • Personal connections with one of the providers
  • The providers had experience in the area and we could get information from them to help us better understand the uses of the LMS.
  • At the Learning@Schools Conference two of us checked out the two main suppliers in the market - KnowledgeNet and UltraNet. When we met again we decided to invite the two suppliers to chat with us about their product.
  • Ian Suckling, Cluster Facilitator, set up a page on our wiki to gather resources on MLE's as well as the VLN booklet Learning Communities Online
  • Notes were taken at the Interviews and placed on the Arataki Wiki.


These were varied with some being:

  • Personal connections with a provider as one Principal is a personal friend of a developer of the LMS it is a challenge for this Principal to show no bias towards the specific LMS.
  • Two of the schools have been advised that SchoolMaster, their School Management System, does not share information with either of the LMS the cluster we are investigating. It is not known whether their new product “Assembly” will be able to either. This means that these two schools are not eligible for funding support from the Ministry of Education for purchase, professional development and support.
  • Unfortunately with this topic we have found that the more people you talk to the more varied opinions there are regarding the positive or negative aspects of the various LMS.
  • A challenge has been discovering the new vocabulary surrounding this area. The abbreviations of OLE, LOC, LMS, MLE where an initial stumbling block before we were fully immersed. I have just found out that an MLE also means a Modern Learning Environment (MOE Ten Year Property Plan Information booklet – March 2011)!
  • A need to be confident that the benefits for students is value considering the staff commitment with time, energy and money invested by the schools.

Impact on our school:

One school has already withdrawn from future investigation and the reasons for the withdrawal will be shared on the website in the near future.

The impact on the schools at this stage is limited to the Principals time at his stage with the attendance at meeting and informal communications. The expected impact will need to be managed carefully to ensure the transition is smooth.

The MOE have milestones to achieve if they are giving funding support:

  • Week 12: An implementation plan is in place and this is providing direction and clarifying areas of focus.
  • Week 20: 50% of teachers have populated their class space with content and resources to support a unit of work.
  • Week 30: Parents have received logons and are logging in at least once a term to see attendance and assessment information (Primary: 50% of parents; Secondary 25% of parents).
  • Week 38: Prepare a report that i dentifies the challenges/barriers encountered during the implementation process and the strategies employed to overcome these, and also describes the measures taken to ensure that development will be sustained beyond the period of the contract.

Impact on our pupils:

The impact on students is limited at this stage yet we are anticipating that if the process is concluded this year then 2012 will see class websites and passwords being circulated and organised for pupils.

The MOE process will be a guide to the timing of the impact.

Next Steps:

At this stage of the process the next step are to:

  • Develop the reflective comments from the Principals.
  • Ensure the LMS meets the MOE suggested requirements for an OLE.
  • Visit schools who are using the LMS
  • Begin to widen the group of people involved in the process e.g. Key Lead Teachers, ICT Support staff
  • Make a decision on the LMS and draft a rationale for staff and Board
  • Present rationale to Board and Staff
  • Develop an Implementation Plan

Reflective Interviews:

At this stage of the year reflective comments from the other Principals involved have not been gathered and I have placed some thoughts onto the Arataki ICTPD VLN Reflective page



  • Christine Templeton

    Target Road School:

    We have embarked on a similar journey to the other schools in our cluster, except that the timeframe is a little delayed due to the appointment of a new principal in the new year (2012). We are having our server replaced this weekend in preparation for this. We have looked at Assembly as an upgrade to our School Master system already in place, but would also like to investigate other options eg Musac, E Tap etc as there are issues with transference of data in and out of the Assembly SMS. We delayed this decision till February 2012 when our new principal will be a part of the decision making process.

    The next step for us will be training of teachers and admin staff etc to enable efficient data entry and retrieval. After staff are proficient in using the new SMS system, the ICT Lead Teachers and Principal will be looking at an LMS that suits our school. We will be visiting local schools to see how their systems operate and will investigate Ultranet and Knowledgenet by inviting their representatives to the school for a demonstration.

    It is not something we want to rush into as we want the needs of our school to be served and we also do not want to inundate teachers with new learning until they are very proficient with the new SMS. The expected timeframe for a decision as to our new LMS and its installation is by the end of 2012.

  • ian suckling

    Reflections on the choice of LMS by Sunnynook Primary School's Principal Nov 2011

    Web address http://vimeo.com/32600860

    (Password MS4)

  • ian suckling

    Grant Murray, Principal, Wairau Intermediate School

    Senior management staff met with a representative from Knowledgenet and from Ultranet who went through what their product could do. We then visited two schools, one using Ultranet and one using Knowledgenet. Although their were short comings at both schools (eg. Class pages not updated regularly) we thought that Unltranet was more user friendly and have chosen this option to pursue next year.

  • ian suckling

    Enid Watson, Principal, Forresthill School

    Last year we were looking at ways  for students to collect all of their  computerised learning in  a file that parents teachers as well as themselves could access. This was going to lead to masses of data being stored and so a 'cloud' option had to be found. We had heard about Ultranet, Knowledge Net and the Google Dashboard, but knew little about these. With our ICT cluster schools we visited various schools that used IT well and in addition to this several of us from our own school visited schools where we had small group tutoring on Ultranet and Knowledge Net.  Our cluster also invited personnel from both the "net" companies to run us through their programmes.  Over time we got a real feel for these applications / programmes whilst our interest in Ultranet really began to grow. After a visit from the expert from Ultranet to present to our own school management team and ICT team  we  decided that we would commit to this learning management system.  We are really excited by this now and can see the system enabling the parent community a clearer look into the school as well as at their own children's leaning, and  a central place of communication  for our teachers and support staff.