Platforms are a dime a dozen-your time isn’t

A reader has asked that I explore the various CMS platforms and share some recommendations. I plan to do that in just a moment, but I want to first take a moment to share my personal philosophy on getting any project done.  I have quoted this one before, so forgive me if you heard this.  


Good project management is often determined in the planning stages.  Taking the time to really ask some experts so that you can get detailed high quality answers to the basic platform structure you will need is essential.  Generally these can be organized into 3 questions.  The answers from these three will usually generate more questions than answers and you should take the time to follow them as well.

  1. What do you want?
  2. How much do you want?
  3. When do you need it?

Some people add a #4 here — Cost.  Personally I tend to fold that right in with 1 and 2.  

Why bring this up in a discussion of CMS/LMS functionality? Because there are a ton of really good platforms out of there.  Having good detailed answered to these 3 questions can make or break whether you choose one which you perceive as successful, or if you create more headache than it was worth.

Some examples

If what you want is a simple to use platform to organize some files and links and share them with students then a CMS may be all that you need.  CMS’s have great potential for the do-it-yourself blended teacher and are way less complicated than an LMS to learn.

If you want a system that will provide you data about how, when and where your students are going in their learning path LMS’s are your friend.  They can often  provide click by click data as well as scoring, numbers of attempts and visits, personalized learning pathways which are triggered by both remediation need or opportunities to go further.  The increase in functionality is typically accompanied by an increase in either cost or teacher/developer time, sometimes both.  So be certain that you both need and have a plan for how to use all of that data which you are paying so dearly for.  The LMS teacher/developer is more likely to be creating long term persistent reusable content as a result.

You don’t necessarily have to choose.  Many LMS’s use a CMS in tandem.  Some add an additional system called an SIS.  The thing about this is that its all infinitely scalable, so the true concern needs to be choosing systems which play nicely together.  

So now the part you have been waiting for-my recommendations: 

WordPress is honestly impressive for its simplicity and mobile friendly blog based use case. Just getting started? This tool has nice wizards and a pretty decent free product. Embeds of media are often cumbersome and require $

Sophia is honestly one of my favorites. It takes the Kahn academy model and puts it on steroids. They have prebuilt learning paths from content experts which can seamlessly be woven within personal and class specific pathways designed by you. There are native quizzing and gamfication strategies. And hey-free t-shirt for taking the free instructor certification

Joomla and Droupal I lump together in a category I call-more work that they are worth. From the teacher perspective, unless you have programming and api developer skills or an endless budget I would avoid both.

D2L eportfolio. This baby is high end but for the price you also get extensibility and a nice work product post graduation hub. It’s not as tough to set up as the full lms, but it can seamlessly marry to the LMS now called Brightspace is your organization’s need grow to the full lms. It also quite awesomely is about as easy to use for students and instructors as it gets. So if budgets are available I highly recommend.

Wiggio is another part of the D2L suite, and it’s the go to for a quick easy seamless collaborative learning CMS. It’s about as social as social learning gets and it’s pricepoint for the standalone is FREE

So that’s it my CMS review. Hope it meets your needs, and feel free to ask me other questions in the future.


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