Welcoming Coursekit to the LMS Industry

There’s a new kid on the LMS block, and it was created by…kids. Well, UPenn students to be more precise. The Coursekit team claims, “We forgot what we knew about clunky university software and built something that is completely state of the art” (http://coursekit.com/about).

The start to that forgetfulness is a clean, friendly user interface that allows instructors to setup a course quickly.  Coursekit is banking on its easy to use interface trumping the complexity of other learning management systems, like Blackboard, in order to persuade individual faculty to use it instead. Coursekit is free and doesn’t require institutional cooperation for instructors to use it with their courses, meaning instructors can choose to use it without encountering any institutional barriers.  To start, instructors create a new course, create an account, and send invitations to their students through email.

screenshot of the page for creating a new Coursekit

Creating a Coursekit site is quick and easy.

After creating a new Coursekit site, instructors can set up meeting times for their courses, upload syllabi, create assignments, and provide information about supplemental and required course resources. The site is definitely inspired by the Facebook news feed, as the “Stream” view creates a timeline of comments, questions, and links posted by both the instructors and students.

screenshot of answer to a question posted in Coursekit

A variety of methods of interaction between students and instructors are available in Coursekit, including assignments, questions, links, and blog entries.

While teaching faculty will most likely represent the majority of users creating Coursekit sites, I do see an opportunity for libraries without for-credit information literacy courses to take advantage of a LMS like this as well. Because Coursekit is not tied to an institution’s profile, it allows individuals to create non-credit, self-paced courses (fake courses, some might say) for their users. Libraries could use this system to not only structure their information literacy program in a meaningful, incremental fashion throughout a student’s college career, but they could create the learning blocks that coincide with those steps in a self-paced course using Coursekit.

Perhaps library Coursekits could be set up for each year of a typical individuals academic career (e.g. LIB100, LIB200, LIB300, and LIB400). Assignments, tutorials, and resources that represent the important content at each stage of learning could be added to the site. Librarians could monitor new students posts and “assignment” submissions and give feedback to students. Will all students follow the course from beginning to end? Probably not, but the research skills would be presented incrementally and students could be pointed to particular materials within the site for help with certain concepts. Coursekit could be a good tool for planning how to stage info lit concepts throughout a student’s college career.

So take a look at Coursekit, explore its features, recommend it to faculty who are unimpressed with their current LMS choices, but most of all, consider how your library can use it to extend and stage your IL instruction efforts.

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