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Effectively Utilizing Your LMS

Learning Management Systems

A Learning Management System (LMS) can be used to manage and deliver instructional materials and resources online, increase course engagement and interactions, as well as tracking and assessing student academic performance. Blackboard is the designated LMS for UTHSC. LMS have many effective and efficient tools and customizations to best fit your course and student needs.

Advantages of Using an LMS

  • Supports efficient distribution of class materials in multimedia formats
    • Including syllabus, course schedule, projects and assignments, presentations, and resource guides from a centralized source
  • Supplements and reinforces face-to-face instruction and learning experiences
  • Enables diverse options for learner assessment including online collaboration and presentation formats
  • Accessed anywhere and anytime so learners to interact with content whenever they are able and in their own way
  • Increase the options for diversifying learning experiences and enhancing learning
  • Enables the instructor to communicate efficiently and meaningfully with the students
    • Announcements, notifications, discussions, wikis, feedback provision, emails, glossaries, etc.
  • Issues reports and tracking data from student activity
    • Early identification of students in need of assistance
  • Assess learners via pre and post-tests, surveys, and exams
    • Provide feedback including grades, rubrics and assignment comments in differing digital formats
  • The instructor can model the 'standards and expectations' for the students
    • E.g. referencing sources, presentation of materials, etc.
Course LMS Organization

Customize your homepage to best suit your students needs and the course design. Ensure the LMS tools which will be most used are the easiest to access, e.g. Announcements or Notifications. Your syllabus should be the first resource to be accessed as it provides the critical details and expectations of the course to the enrolled students. It is recommended that the syllabus is added to the first section in the LMS under the heading Course Management.

  • Other documents and resources that could be included in that section are: Course Schedule/Course Sequence
  • Instructor Contact Information
  • Course Terminology and Definitions (possible example)
  • University Resources
    • Library
    • SASSI
    • CHIPS
    • Tutorial services and college-specific resources and expectations
Course Design Infrastructure

Determine the organizational strategy which 'best fits' the course design. The LMS should be organized to reflect how the course is actually being taught. A course well organized in the LMS will reduce the number of emails, etc. from frustrated students, enhance learning, clarify connections between information, skills and concepts, and enable greater integration of multimedia to increase opportunities to learn.

  • Module Method where course experiences are divided into meaningful, primarily self-contained segments (all related materials, activities and resources will be accessed within that specific module). Module possibilities include:
    • Content - each module is focused on a broad topic, concept or problem
    • Time Constrained (chronological) - weekly being the most common and efficient option; this can be limiting in adapting the course to the student capabilities or if weather or other events occur which impact the pre-set timing
    • Activity Type - for example Readings, Assignments, Learning Activities, Team Challenges, Labs, Clinicals, Simulations, etc.; this can be useful if students can progress through the course, primarily at their own pace
    • Team or Group - this is utilized when students in the same course are focused on different topics and/or have different time schedules; this approach is also utilized where students self-determine and build their own resources and experiences based on stated goals or expectations
  • Navigation Link Method where, similar to Activity Type Module Method above, all content, activities and resources are accessed via the index/navigation menu. Subsequently, all Discussion topics would be listed under Discussions and the same for Assignments, Team Activities, etc. 

Other Key Strategies

Organize for the users (student-centered) not for the instructor (teacher-centered design)

Module Sections

  • Utilize a hierarchical approach, limiting subsections/indents to four:
    • Broad concept/idea/theme
      • Sub-concepts/themes
        • Topics/cases/problems
  • Group similar items into one section
    • For e.g. if there are four videos for a particular module, then they should be in a sub-section named for example, Neuroanatomical Videos

Section Titles

  • Use titles and terminology consistently throughout
  • Titles should be short, specific and descriptive for efficient access
    • Module and section titles these should specifically describe the activity, content, problem, assignment, etc.
    • Eg. instead of Case Study 3, use Case Study 3: Distraught Spouse Video
  • Provide brief overviews for major sections and sub-sections
  • Bonus materials should be labeled as such


  • Link your sections meaningfully back to the course goals/learning outcomes
    • Link to previous courses and learning experiences as well
  • Be consistent with your organizational approach throughout the entire course
  • Provide context wherever possible to increase clarity and meaningfulness
  • Use multiple formats/options to support different learning preferences, e.g. diagrams, labeled images, video, infographs, narratives, links to further information


  • Provide rating scale, rubric or checklist PRIOR (best at the beginning of the semester) to an assignment, project or activity to guide learner performance and decision-making
  • Regularly check links and update resources where ever possible
  • Only release content as needed to limit confusion
  • Keep your course activities, content, grades, announcements, discussions, etc. up-to-date
    • This will increase the value students have for the course LMS site and will visit it regularly
  • Customize your Course Menu to fit your course and course needs
Managing Your Course and Student Learning in the LMS


  • Provide a detailed syllabus and a course outline or schedule to keep students on task
  • Focus on course goals and objectives or threshold concepts
  • Go BIG - concepts, broad ideas first
    • Always, always provide context (the scenario, essential variables, goals, etc.) to increase meaningfulness
  • Share pre-class meeting resources, interactive activities and multimedia presentations early


  • Provide multiple means of representation for course materials
    • Include multimedia formats such as infographs, videos and podcasts
    • Graphs, diagrams and background information
  • Actively engage the students
    • Contextualize learning experiences to increase meaningfulness
  • Provide interactive resources and links to supplemental material
  • Integrate the principles of Universal Design for Learning and Instruction
  • Connect prior learning materials to stimulate new learning and increase meaningfulness


  • The LMS into your course by using it often in purposeful ways (develop proactive student habits)
  • Post/announce information and deadlines once
  • List deadlines/due dates and times on your calendar as soon as possible
  • Incorporate LMS assignments and tasks with in-class activities
  • Technology that can provide a new and/or different perspective
  • Can increase context and authenticity
  • Discussions to foster meaningful dialogue exchange
  • Using synchronous and asynchronous options
  • Links to assessment tools and surveys for knowledge checks
  • Refer to research and other resources contained within the course LMS
  • Provide resources and opportunities for students to continue learning beyond the regular boundaries of the course
  • Student recommendations to improve course organization and management


  • Schedule content release and auto-graded content to enhance organization and efficiency that helps learners better manage their time
  • Spread the assessment and high percentage activities across the semester
    • Consider what expectations and assessment activities are occurring in the students' other courses
  • Use announcements to send reminders and program news events to help students stay on course
  • Incorporate a regular meaningful interactive activity that is embedded within the course LMS
  • Message students concerning assignment submission details and deadlines
  • Vary formats from typed and written to audio and video
  • Vary groupings from individual, pair and small group activities and projects


  • Use the LMS diagnostic tools to identify early students struggling so you can proactively intervene
  • Facilitate a community of learners by providing a secure, virtual space for students to collaborate, hold discussions and ask questions
  • Conduct virtual office hours for individual student consultations and whole class Q and A's
  • Link to the Teaching and Learning Center for academic technology support

Research indicates the "blended learning approach
increase[s] the level of active learning strategies, peer-to-peer learning strategies, and learner-centered strategies used," 

(Monsakul, 2007, p. 8.2)



  • Bonnel, W. and Smith, K. (2010). Teaching technologies in nursing and the health professions. New York: Springer Pub.
  • García- Peñalvo, F. J., & Forment, M. A. (2014). Learning management system: Evolving from silos to structures. Interactive Learning Environments, 22(2), 143-145.
  • Hetsevich, I. (2017, February 9).7 Benefits of Using an LMS for Teaching in Schools and Colleges. Retrieved January 22, 2018, from
  • Keengwe, S. & Agamba, J. (2014). Models for Improving and Optimizing Online and Blended Learning in Higher Education. Hershey, Pennsylvania: IGI Global.
  • Lieberman, M. (June 6, 2018). How technology enhances science learning. Inside Higher Ed
  • Liu, Y. (2005). Exploring and supporting effective faculty use. In P. McGee, C. Carmean, & A. Jafari (Eds.), Course management systems for learning: Beyond accidental pedagogy, (pp. 131-145). Hershey, PA: Information Science.
  • Monsakul, J. (November 18-19, 2007). Learning management systems in higher education: A review from faculty perspective. Fourth International Conference on eLearning for Knowledge-Based Society, Bangkok, Thailand 
  • Shah, H. (2015, June 4).Why a learning Management System is Useful. Retrieved January 22, 2018, from
May 26, 2022