The four horsemen of UPLB LMS

As an incoming freshie back then, I always had the “freshie energy”. 

I was always curious about the things that we would be doing in the university but with the current pandemic situation brought about by COVID-19, I can’t help but ask, “how would we be educated if we are still in lockdown?” I wonder how the university will conduct the activities we would otherwise be doing normally in face-to-face setup. Knowing that the university that I was about to enter was considered as one of the “top” universities in the country, I had high expectations for the Learning Management System (LMS) we would use to study remotely, given that we would be engaging in synchronous and asynchronous learning methods.

I knew about Google Classroom and Edmodo back then because we had used them once back in high school for our computer class. Back then, it was not much of a hassle for everyone because our main mode of submission was always directly to our teachers in the physical classroom—Google Classroom and Edmodo were just used for special activities which were required to be done in our homes.

In the first semester, I got lucky. A lot of upperclass students and other freshies would tell me their experiences because all my classes required the use of Google Classroom as the LMS. At first, I found it weird. After all, it wasn’t at all practical for me to require the use of multiple LMSs because (1) it would be very confusing for students to keep track of their classes because they are not in one place, (2) the experience would be very awful because students would have to get used to another LMS every time they make the switch, and (3) announcements would most likely be hard to keep track of. As it turns out, there weren’t just two LMS’s being used by the whole university, not three, but four of them.

I recently made an informal poll for the freshies in Facebook groups about what LMS: Google Classroom, Canvas, eLBI (Moodle), and Edmodo, do they consider as the best and the results are as follows; Google Classroom (96 responses), Canvas (4 responses), eLBI (Moodle) (2 responses), and Edmodo (1 response). It shows that out of the four LMSs that the university uses, freshies, at least, prefer using Google Classroom the most.

Google Classroom features a “class stream” which is more of a “news feed” like the one that we see on Facebook. It displays materials and announcements posted by the professors with the latest posts being at the “top of the stream”. Google Drive is built-in which makes it easy for students to submit files that are already in their Google Drive. There’s also integration of Google Forms (GForms) in the LMS as a medium for quizzes and exams. It doesn’t have a timer built-in so some professors resort to external GForms plugins like Quilgo which fixes a timer right into the Google Form. The notifications are very helpful because a notification is always sent whenever a professor posts something and whenever the deadline of the activity or assignment is near. The interface is very easy to memorize. Some freshies new to the LMS are even using Google Classroom as if they already know how to use it beforehand. That’s how user-friendly the platform is.

Canvas is pretty straightforward as an LMS. So far, there are no announcement posts within Canvas, at least in one of my classes, and we’re forced to use Facebook Messenger group chats to receive announcements from our professor. Modules are practically laid out in the classroom, waiting to be downloaded by students. Canvas has a built-in “quiz tool” which gives more flexibility over quizzes and exams made in Google Forms, with the inclusion of a timer built right into the tool without the need for external plugins. Though only if it weren’t for its subpar interface, it would’ve also been easily liked by many. The notifications are also horrendous because not only do the notifications come hours late at best, but specific notifications must also be toggled individually in the settings before a notification even arrives which is very counterintuitive for an LMS app.

Edmodo boasts a fairly modern design, giving the LMS a familiar “Facebook look”—complete with a “news feed” style home page, a personal profile, and a notifications tab—while maintaining the features geared towards online learning. Classes are organized using “subgroups” which makes it easier for students to navigate in each class. It also features a dashboard that contains a list of activities with their corresponding deadlines. The dashboard also shows the upcoming activities for the class. Overall, Edmodo is an LMS that is relatively likable to most students.

eLBI, the in-house LMS of UPLB based on Moodle, is the LMS that nearly everybody seemed to dislike. The interface is very reminiscent of the old 2009-era Philippine forums and the website looks obsolete by today’s standards. Students using the LMS using their computers or laptops are already having a hard time even navigating their way through the website and using a phone doesn’t help either because there is no official mobile app for eLBI, unlike UP Diliman’s uVLE, an LMS with a better UI which is also based on Moodle. The students also have a hard time tracking updates in the LMS because students are not notified whenever a professor posts something in the class. This makes the eLBI the least liked, or even easily the most hated, by freshies and upperclassmen alike.

With a year completed as a freshman, I could say that UPLB could do better in its current remote learning situation. The mere presence of the four different LMS’s spread across different colleges and institutes is unbearable. Not only is it a hassle for students in such a way that it is annoying, but it also actually makes the experience horrible for us to the point that it pushes us to be counterproductive. Surviving during the pandemic alone is already a struggle for most Iskolar ng Bayan, and the digital divide, combined with the use of multiple different LMSs, is just making things worse. This goes to show how untrue the university is with regards to online classes, contrary to the admin’s claims that they are ready, have already sorted things out, and how the set-up will be better than last year. The situation calls for a unified LMS to be used by the university. [P]

The UPLB Perspective is accepting opinion articles that touch on relevant issues concerning news, politics, culture, and personal experiences. Send your articles or queries to opinion.uplbperspective@gmail.com

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