NCUOne: A Learning Management System that supports Teaching by Engagement

In 1989, when I first experienced teaching in an online format, I discovered the potential power of online learning, and the extreme limitations of our learning management system (LMS).  As one technology director stated, “It doesn’t do much, but it is reliable.”  Truthfully, the LMS was horrible, nothing more than horrid lecture notes, posted online, and email.

Early LMS’s provided almost no ability to meet learners in their comfort zone. Without getting into a debate of the validity of “learning styles” and “learning preferences”, I think most educators would agree, different students prefer to learn differently. This is true even if there is little, if any research, proving causality between learning styles and preferences, and student outcomes.

“The term learning styles is widely used to describe how learners gather, sift through, interpret, organize, come to conclusions about, and “store” information for further use.” (CTL Vanderbilt University.)  Flemings learning paradigm summarized learning styles as VARK: Visual, Aural, Verbal, Reading/Writing, and Kinesthetic.  “There are well over 70 different learning styles schemes.”  (Coffield, 2004, CTL, Vanderbilt University).  The concept of “Learning Preferences” is sometimes used to describe learning styles and sometimes to explain individual preferences of learners in terms of when, where and how to learn. At other times it vaguely describes the characteristics of a student’s comfort zone while learning.

Effective LMS’s, like good teaching, provides students with multiple modalities to convey content, encourage mastery and motivate students to learn. I remember teaching an on-ground four-hour block and learning quickly to alternate teaching techniques, or risk losing student engagement.

In 2016 NCU completed the transition from a propriety LMS to NCUOne. When implementing our LMS there were, of course numerous technical considerations including reliability, single sign-on, course creation and, ease of use. We considered solving those technical issues to be a given. Our focus was on the ability of a LMS to support our learning pedagogy, which is “teaching by engagement”, in our 1 to 1 (student to faculty) model.  Two of our key considerations, perhaps “the” considerations were 1) Diverse Content Options and 2) Diverse Communication Options.

Diverse Content Options were important to us because, we wanted students and faculty, to be able to engage with content visually, verbally, through reading/writing and interacting with content. Diverse Communication Options were important because we wanted student and faculty to be able to communicate in the modalities they preferred: two-way video, chats, phone, email, discussion boards and web presentations. We also wanted to provide easy access to our library and learning resources and social media, with both synchronous and asynchronous options.  We insisted that these options be available on mobile devices as well.

That framework led us to NCUOne, an LMS that supports graduate learning in a 1 to 1 model, with 100% doctoral faculty, weekly course starts and a pedagogy based on, teaching by engagement. NCUOne leverages the foundation of Desire2Learn’s BrightSpace platform, and was customized to meet our high expectations and unique learning model.

To read more about the author and NCU, see our 2019 Viewbook.