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Online Learning Platform: Is it possible to have simplicity and flexibility?

Online Learning Platform: Is it possible to have simplicity and flexibility?

by Nicole Runyon
June 24, 2016

The online learning platform comes in many shapes and sizes.  While many providers want to offer a more advanced customized product, it’s important to keep easy of use and simplicity in mind as well.

Universities select an online learning platform as a foundation and shell in which to house the content of their online learning programs and classes. While customized offerings often add greater flexibility, it’s also critical to maintain a simple ease of use. Many students can thrive in a simple environment that gives them easy access to the material that they need. Customization is nice, but not at the expense of simplicity.

Online learning platforms come in many shapes and sizes. Some offer broad abilities for faculty and users to customize the classroom. Providers offer plug-ins and additional applications that allow for synchronous learning and sharing as well as complete integration with third party tools.

The basic components of any online learning platform include:

  • Discussion area
  • Assignment submission area
  • Lessons/content area
  • Tests/quizzes/examinations
  • Gradebook

Other or more complex tools or options can include:

  • Content sharing among students and faculty
  • Synchronized chat platform
  • Group tools
  • Links to other external resources (e.g. library)
  • Integration with plagiarism detection applications
  • Detailed student tracking dashboards
  • Journals and wikis

While all of the bells and whistles can offer significant customizing options for faculty and usability features for students, they can also overcomplicate a classroom. If the navigation of the classroom is not such that students can easily find what they need, the result can be a distracting learning environment. Rather than immediately being able to focus on learning, faculty have to spend time providing directions or referring students to tech support tools for guidance.

It seems as if the later editions of online learning platforms are trying to add customized solutions but perhaps at the cost of losing simplicity and ease of use. There is something to be said about providing an uncomplicated platform that allows for there to be immediate focus on the content without a lot of time spent having to search for it. Customizing solutions might be very beneficial for some fields of study but, by and large, most students can thrive in a simple environment that allows for ease of use.


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Nicole Runyon has been been teaching online since 1998 and loves helping
adult learners find ways to achieve their goals and broaden their perspectives.
We are proud to have Nicole offer her mentoring services at The Babb Group,
take a moment to read Nicole's resume and service offerings

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Contact the author Dr. Nicole Runyon