How to Get Parents Bought in to Using Your LMS
Consider the parents and advisors of the students striving in learning institutions today. These adults may barely recognize methods and strategies used by instructors, but most will recognize, and respond viscerally to, the technology you use in your classroom.
Many parents and advisors of students are expected to use innovative technologies in their workplaces, often with too little training to work confidently. They also see how technologies permeate more and more aspects of their children's lives, widening the gap between their memories of childhood and the current reality.
It's not uncommon for parents to extend their own technological jitters to edtech. Given that, it's vital for the success of any technology initiative—our focus will be on the learning management system (LMS)—that institutions educate resistant parents and guardians, turning them into advocates rather than roadblocks.
Educate Parents About Your LMS, Too
Many instructors prefer to plan only for the audience in the classroom. This is admirable as far as it goes—since pedagogical decisions should always center on the student (Crumly, Cari, Pamela Dietz, and Sarah D'Angelo, 2014)—but for every child in the classroom, at least one parent or guardian is behind the scenes.
Buy-in for your LMS increases when you acknowledge and honor the parents, stepparents, foster parents, or advisors who support the children you see everyday.
Reach Out to Parents Via Multiple Channels
The more communication channels you use to communicate , the more effective your message will be. Encourage LMS use and effectiveness by exploiting traditional channels, such as:
- Letters home
- Back-to-school night
- Progress reports and report cards
- Parent conferences
- Friday folders
- PTA or PTO meetings
Continue these methods as you add a few more:
- Email—Acknowledging the usual precautions about unreadable tone and intent, email is an excellent, asynchronous way to stay connected, especially if you provide vital weekly updates through a Listserv (Cordova, Amado, Kirsten M. Keller, Lance Menthe, and Carl Rhodes, 2013).
- Blog—Be constantly mindful of privacy here, but invite parents to exchange ideas and add thoughts to your message.
- Voicemail—This is especially good at receiving input from your students' parents and advisors; be sure to preserve these until you can transcribe them or note them in a communication log.
- Webpage—Your educational institution may already provide one for you; update it with learning links and educational games.
Consider envelope-stretching methods of keeping parents informed, like webinars or vlogs (Brownstein, Erica, and Robert Klein, 2006).
Encourage Parents to Use Your LMS's Parent Portal
Many LMS parent portals provide parents with access to announcements from teachers, school and district-wide updates, and student grades and scores. One of the most beneficial features is the direct line of communication to both you and you their children’s other teachers.
In order to increase LMS usage among parents, make your LMS your preferred contact method. Invite parents to message you, view assignments, and set appointments all through the LMS. Once parents get over the potential learning curve, they are likely to find great value in the parent portal of your LMS.
Clarify Your Purpose for Using an LMS
Make sure your message is clear and concise. Focus not on the technology but the goal, however you define it:
- Improve at-home reading time by 10 percent
- Increase homework completion by 5 percent
- Improve assessment performance by 20 percent
- Quicken multiplication fact fluency by one minute per 60 facts reviewed
An LMS is not an end unto itself, so as soon as parents and advisors realize your goal is to enhance their children’s learning and not simply use the technology for its own sake, the faster they will embrace the LMS.
Ease Parent Concerns About Gamification in the Classroom
Gamified learning can be helpful in LMS success. While many parents are immediately hesitant to take game-based learning seriously, students respond positively to it. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest game-based learning can increase student performance and engagement.
Getting parents to see that the assigned "game" their children are playing is actually teaching them, say, the parts of an atom, they are more likely to allow the LMS to be used in other ways, such as assessment, group projects, and essay writing.
Your acknowledgment of parental and guardian concerns—that, as Education Dive puts it, the games only give "mental stimulation they want without the mental nutrition"—means a lot to a parent who does not want to see a child staring at screens for hours on end. The "play" needs to be seen by the parent as genuinely useful education, or work.
Luckily, your LMS makes it easy to compile a variety of data showing student growth and performance. Whether you're sharing that with parents or they're accessing it themselves, the data often speaks for itself.
Acknowledge the Technological Learning Curves of Parents
Many adults must scramble to absorb technological change at work. Those same parents and advisors may view your LMS as suspiciously similar to off-putting tools they use professionally.
Honor those possibly harsh life experiences and let them know the LMS you are using to help their children is not a tool for cranking out widgets to sell; you are educating minds, building skills students will rely on later, and meeting the students where they are.
An LMS is Designed to Benefit Everyone Who Uses It
Key reasons educators use LMSs is to decrease time spent grading, deliver formative and summative assessments, and better visualize student data. If your LMS's test or quiz tools allow learners to re-take assessments, exploit this flexibility and make sure parents and guardians understand your methodology and goals. It will not be immediately clear to them that a formative assessment doesn't affect their child's grade, that it's meant to inform your interventions rather than shape their child's future.
Equipped with a clear understanding of your methodology, parents may soon realize another benefit to using an LMS—the system can automate grading and provide them with realtime results. Taking the time and effort to be transparent, and provide an unprecedented transparency via your LMS, allows parents to be active participants in their child's learning, something many of them will appreciate.
Instructors will find parents quickly supporting their LMS if they remember to communicate openly and widely with parents and advisors. Follow through with clear messages and intents, while acknowledging the negative experiences adults may have toward technology. If you are able to empower students and show their parents or guardians the effect technology has on their child's performance, attitude, and opportunities, you'll have a coalition of passionate people all working towards the same goal—student success.