Categories: Highlights, News, Our Product

2021 brings some major improvements to the itslearning platform


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image of lars jacob hove

Lars-Jacob Hove, Head of Product

After a year on the job, I think it’s time to introduce myself. My name is Lars-Jacob Hove and I am the Head of Product at itslearning. I’m taking this opportunity to also tell you a little bit about the major improvements being made to the itslearning LMS this year.

I’ve been with itslearning for almost 12 years now. I started out as an ‘Architect/designer’ but have since held different positions within the Product Team, enjoying every bit of my journey at itslearning.

I joined itslearning straight from the University of Bergen, after finishing a PhD in Information Science. The idea of using a Learning Management System was still something very new in education when I started working, so I was very excited to be part of a cutting-edge company, right here in my hometown, that was working on solutions to empower teachers and students everywhere.

What I have most liked about being part of the Product Team at itslearning is being able to go out and meet people like you, who use itslearning every day. Teachers and students. Getting the opportunity to interact and bounce ideas off you. Because our goal has always been to build a product that you will love to use. A customizable LMS that fits your way of teaching and learning.

image shows template for designing blended learning

User input, such as this chart from a school on what they needed for blended learning, is instrumental when developing solutions that improve teaching and learning.

When developing or updating our platform, we begin by collecting real user data. This is so we can be certain that our updates or new features are based on actual user needs. Our local offices across Europe help us collect this data – through surveys, reviews and meetings.

This past year we haven’t been able to get out there to the schools, but we’ve still been in touch with our users through video conferencing. Whenever possible, we meet face-to-face in small, safely distanced workgroups. Meeting users like this is key for what we’re doing.

It’s important for us to get your feedback on the work we’re doing to fine-tune our designs before making them available. It’s just as important for us to understand what we should be focusing on. While we, of course, have a lot of ideas about what to build, our primary aim has always been to make teaching and learning easier, so who better to tell us what features are needed in today’s classrooms and lecture halls than educators like you?

Once we have that collective feedback from you, we build a prototype, rigorously test it internally, then share it with our user testing group to get their input. If they are happy, this new development is added to our platform. If they are not, it’s back to the drawing board for us.

“We are making our platform even easier to use so learning becomes meaningful and fun.”

Your feedback and suggestions, both from workgroup meetings and through our Ideas Portal, have been very useful as we have refined our development priorities for 2021. You can see our priorities on our Product Roadmap, which explains what we are focusing on in the immediate future – to fulfil your needs in the ever-changing education arena. Usability is our main guiding principle, because frankly, we all love software that is easy to use, intuitive and does exactly what it says it will do. Our focus, right from Day 1 at itslearning back in 1999, has been to streamline routine teaching tasks so that teachers have more time to teach. Whenever we develop a new tool or feature, we put usability at the center of the design framework so that our learning platform remains easy to use for teachers and students. This trend of designing around usability will continue at itslearning.

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the big improvements for 2021.

Plans for classroom success

Plans is the tool that many teachers use to plan their lessons. It helps teachers give structure, sequence and scope to their students. But, some teachers also say that it can be hard to get started. Like riding a bicycle. It’s a piece of cake once you get over the first hurdle. So, we are now removing that first hurdle and updating Plans. Several groups of teachers in different teaching environments – from schools to universities – have been very helpful in testing the prototype. They tell us that it’s much easier to get started with the updated version, as the design has been simplified and there’s even a guide that ‘walks’ users through the process of setting up a plan for maximum success.

For students, it provides a simple to follow, logical order of their learning and tasks. They can also look forward to features such as progress indicators and better overviews.

Pictures tell a thousand words

Visualization is a valuable tool for learning. It can make reading more engaging, which in turn boosts knowledge retention. So, we looked at how we could make the use of images in itslearning easier and better. You’ll soon find that it’s easier to work with images and embed content. The rich text editor will be updated too. Better support for pasting images, shortcuts for creating lists and embedding content like YouTube videos are all on the radar.

Quicker and easier assessment

The fastest and surest way to gauge understanding is through assessment. You will have more options for giving feedback to students on their assignments. You can even engage your students by drawing and annotating directly in their assignment answers. There’s a ‘red pen’ to provide quick feedback – and if you prefer something other than the color red, just pick another color from the menu.

screenshot

Tests will become much faster and easier to set. You can share, manage, easily tweak and reuse tests. It will also become simpler for students to take their tests or surveys on the go on their mobile phones or tablets.

There’re a lot more features and tools in our roadmap for 2021, too many to list in a blog post. If you want to see all the projects that we are working on, click on our Product Roadmap to see the latest updates. And, we welcome feedback from teachers, so if you have any suggestions for what you would like to see in the itslearning of the future, just log your tips on our Ideas Portal.

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