A Learning Management System—or LMS—is a software traditionally designed to facilitate the access and storage of information to support face-to-face learning. Typically, these LMSs use tools such as interactive web pages, forums, videos and web conferencing—web 2.0 technologies that emerged over 15 years ago. Despite the ever-growing popularity and sophistication of blended and online learning, not much has changed in the way these LMSs are set up. Their static composition and limited functionality is a cause for dissatisfaction in educators and learners alike.
insendi was built in recognition that educational institutions were looking for something much more than a space to organise their teaching materials. Indeed, insendi understood that these education institutions needed to be able to create a dynamic virtual learning space with the capability to foster an enhanced learning experience for those studying blended and online programmes. By asking ourselves what was missing from these platforms and for the student and teacher experiences, we identified two key areas for improvement: establishing a clear learning journey for students and creating stronger human interactions.
To address the first of these key issues, the insendi platform is designed so that there is a presence of a well-defined learning sequence from the outset. Students are able to see what their learning looks like across layers that include programme level, course level, week level, topic level, and activities within each sub-topic. At a topic level, the insendi platform gives educators the ability to effectively structure a clear learning sequence by setting learning objectives. Then, at the end of each unit, the objectives are presented again to students and they are invited to self-reflect on their learning and how well they have achieved the set objectives. Students are also encouraged to provide feedback on the content. This is an extremely useful tool for educators as it allows them to obtain feedback on student experiences and make changes to future iterations of the course.
Once a distinct learning sequence has been established, the learning journey is further enhanced and strengthened on the insendi platform through the use of narrative text. The activities and overarching course structure are designed in a way that allows narrative text to be embedded in between each task. This creates a structured learning sequence for students and makes it easy for students to navigate through the platform and understand what is expected of them.
The use of narrative text also allows us to address the second key issue the insendi platform addresses: the need for stronger human interactions in the digital space. Through the narrative text, educators can mimic the ‘teacher voice’ in the classroom, and inject their personality into the course. It also enables educators to humanise online course content by posing reflective questions and creating links between activities and real-world context.
In addition to the teacher voice of the narrative text, teacher presence is augmented and interwoven through the use of videos. For example, the first screen of a session will typically contain a welcome presentation from the lead faculty, setting out the themes of the week and perhaps sharing a personal anecdote on the topic. This is a great opportunity for students to see the faculty’s enthusiasm for the subject and remember that they are learning from an expert who is on hand to answer their questions.
During the delivery stage, the insendi platform equips faculty with tools to actively engage with their students and cultivate deeper human connections. For instance, the teaching team can see all students’ submissions to activities within a course and respond to them directly with private, personalised feedback. By using the ‘endorse’ button, faculty can submit a star next to a student’s submission, flagging it as a model answer to the rest of the class. Faculty can also regularly message the cohort as a whole, using the newsfeed feature to address general queries, share additional resources, celebrate great work, and keep students updated on how they should be progressing through the course.
To further foster a sense of active community, insendi activities can be set with ‘shared submissions’, with students actively encouraged to review one another’s work. Activities such as the whiteboard also enable students to vote for their favourite responses; those submissions with the most votes move to the top of the board. This activity simulates mind mapping in a classroom, with peers collectively idea-generating and evaluating responses. Another key community-building tool on the insendi platform is the ability to set activities as group tasks. See our colleagues’ recent article on Group Work and the Power of Social Learning for further discussion of this important topic.
At all stages of a programme, the insendi platform is designed to cultivate real human connections. Students are made to feel part of a community with both their teachers and peers. These interactions help inform and guide a student’s learning journey.