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LMS design for 21st century learning

Ben Long

March 15th, 2022

8 min read

Written by

Ben Long


World of WYSIWYG

With a growing emphasis on 21st century skills in education, we need to make sure our learning management systems (LMSs) assist teachers in achieving their 21st century education goals and practices. If you’re designing and building LMS software, it’s vital to keep this front of mind.

Several learning management systems already provide useful tools for teachers and students. But the best are yet to come. The best will incorporate 21st century teaching practices, making it easier for teachers to apply them in the classroom to benefit all students.

Product managers and developers need to know how teachers adopt classroom practices, and incorporate this knowledge into their LMS design

Many teachers adopt classroom practices without the use of eLearning tools and technology; however, as technology continues to show more benefits in all sectors, the education sector needs to keep up – especially when it comes to the use of ICT in the classroom. In turn, product managers and developers need to know how teachers adopt classroom practices, and incorporate this knowledge into their LMS design.

We, at Tiny, feel proud to be a crucial building block in so many of these LMSs already, but we’re also excited to see what new innovations are seen over the coming years.

TinyMCE helps product managers and the wider eLearning community build new solutions with our world-class rich text editor, TinyMCE.

LMSs meet 21st century skills

21st century students require 21st century learning.The world is changing rapidly, and we need to prepare the next generation of life-long learners with the skills to not only survive in society, but to also contribute positively to it.

Several 21st century skills have been identified as being the most critical for students at present, spanning three main domains – learning, literacy, and life. The particular skills receiving most of the attention, and deemed most important for students, are known as the four Cs – critical thinking, creative thinking, communication, and collaboration  (1). eLearning tools in the 21st century must incorporate these four pillars of learning.

If you haven’t already, investigate your LMS design requirements for the four pillars of learning. Design your LMS around these pillars for improved eLearning tools.

Assessment for learning definition

Assessment for learning is an approach to teaching, where teachers constantly assess students’ knowledge and understanding throughout lessons. This is not done for reporting purposes, but for the purpose of increasing the value of their teaching on the fly. One might compare it with the review phase in the agile development process.

For example, by asking a specific question, a student might reveal a misunderstanding or a gap in their knowledge, and the teacher can subsequently tweak the lesson to ensure it is clarified for all students. Indeed, it’s been found that attention to this kind of regular assessment is likely to have the biggest impact on student outcomes (2). Therfore it is important to incorporate the ability for ongoing assessment into your LMS design.

There are several pedagogical strategies and tools that teachers can use to conduct these formative assessments and, done effectively, these strategies encourage 21st century skills in the classroom. Teachers need to be able to conduct these pedagogical practices using online tools because the use of ICT facilitates more inclusive classrooms for 21st century learners (3).

The following four assessment for learning strategies assist teachers significantly – they should be included in every learning management system to facilitate 21st century learning.

Assessment for learning strategies 

1. Gallery walk

A gallery walk is a pedagogical practice used by teachers whereby students showcase their work to their peers (4). In the non-digital world, this is typically done by having students post their work on the walls of the classroom for other students to see, or by having students walk between desks to observe.

A gallery walk enables students to provide feedback on each other’s work, to ask each other questions, and to learn from each other’s successes and challenges. Essentially, this practice activates learners as instructional learners for one another, facilitating 21st century skills such as communication and collaboration, and increasing motivation and social cohesion, among other benefits (2).

The best LMSs facilitate gallery walks by providing students with the ability to upload media, such as documents and images, to a common place where all students in the class can then view and provide feedback on each other’s work.

Tiny Drive running inside TinyMCE

TinyMCE image upload with Tiny Drive.

2. Questions

Questions are used by teachers to discover what students know, do not know, or misunderstand (2). However, there is an art to asking good questions – the most effective questions are carefully planned ahead of a lesson in order to reveal the most useful information about students’ thinking. At the very least, good questions are typically divergent (or open) questions, encouraging higher levels of critical thinking (5). Teachers should also encourage students to ask questions, facilitating an inquiry-based learning approach that helps engage students in their own learning (6).

LMSs should allow teachers to pepper online lessons with questions that reveal students’ thinking. Teachers should be able to access responses during class time and adjust their lesson to clear up common questions and misunderstandings.

For instance, in one classroom (Dr B. Long, personal communication, October, 2021):

  1. Students were asked (via an LMS) “What questions do you have about the HTML code?”
  2. Multiple students asked questions about what the alt and src tags mean in the HTML code.
  3. This prompted the teacher to provide a mini lecture about the purpose of these particular tags.

In addition to providing teachers with the ability to ask questions, taking this idea to the next level, an LMS could prompt teachers with suggestions such as “This appears to be a closed question; consider starting with Why…”.

TinyMCE configuration for questions

TinyMCE configured with a placeholder question used in a year 7 technologies class.

3. Popsicle sticks

Teachers use popsicle sticks with students’ names to randomly select students to answer questions. This is a good practice because if teachers always choose students with their hands up, the students who are engaged with their learning continue to improve while the students who are disengaged from learning are inclined to remain so (2). Use of popsicle sticks actively encourages all students’ participation and critical thinking skills.

So what are the design implications for this? An LMS should provide a way for teachers to randomly select students from the class.

As the students who are present may change a little from day to day, the list of available students could be edited manually using a checklist or it could be updated automatically based on the class roll. The following image is an example of such an eLearning tool: an online name picker taken from a website called

Note for your LMS design, the random selection core concept: each student has an equal chance of being selected when the selection action (spinning the wheel!) is activated.

Random name selection working

4. Collaborative learning

Collaborative learning is beneficial to students as it can increase learner motivation and information retention levels, and enhance critical thinking through peer discussion (7). Previously, collaboration was conducted around tables with sheets of butchers paper and thick, coloured markers. These types of physical materials are still invaluable for certain purposes; however, real-time collaboration software like Google Docs are also useful online tools directly promoting 21st century skills such as communication and collaboration.

The best LMSs incorporate the ability for students to collaborate on group projects simultaneously, allowing students to learn from each other and provide feedback to one another as they create.

Collaboration in an LMS takes many forms – select the collaboration that best fits your audience:

  • Comments
  • Virtual sticky notes
  • Shared whiteboard space

TinyMCE as a collaborative workspace

A collaborative workspace built with TinyMCE’s real-time collaboration.

LMS rich text editing and TinyMCE

In order to provide potent pedagogical practices online such as these required for 21st century learning (plus many more not covered here), LMSs need a powerful rich text editor that’s seamlessly integrated – so that teachers and students can interact with these applications with ease.

A powerful rich text editor provides all the content editing features users have come to expect from modern applications, as well as new cutting-edge functionality. Teachers and students need to be able to format text with different styles and colors. They need to insert links, use emojis, add tables, use spelling, check accessibility, add images, and work collaboratively.

TinyMCE is the world’s most popular WYSIWYG HTML editor, and is used as the text entry component in millions of applications worldwide, including LMSs. Read more about these solutions in our article about best LMS platforms and view the full list of TinyMCE features.

Where to find more on LMS solutions

Reach out to our support team to find out how to build your new and innovative learning management system with TinyMCE or to integrate it with your existing solution.

Try out TinyMCE with a FREE API key, and try the TinyMCE premium plugins to see which plugins align closely with your LMS design.

LMS solutions with TinyMCE


(Presented in alphabetical order by authors)

  • (6) Chu, S. (2017). 21st century skills development through inquiry-based learning: From theory to practice. Springer.
  • (7) Docherty, M. (2020). Collaborative learning: The group is greater than the sum of its parts. In M. E. Auer & T. Tsiatsos (Eds.), The challenges of the digital transformation in education (pp. 26–33). Springer.
  • (3) Gargiulo, R. M., & Metcalf, D. (2017). Teaching in today’s inclusive classrooms: A universal design for learning approach (3rd ed.). Cengage Learning.
  • (4) Keeley, P., & Tobey, C. R. (2017). Mathematics formative assessment. Volume 2, 50 more practical strategies for linking assessment, instruction, and learning. Corwin.
  • (1) Koul, R. B., Sheffield, R., & McIlvenny, L. (2021). The essential twenty-first-century skill set—Transversal competencies. In R. B. Koul, R. Sheffield, & L. McIlvenny (Eds.), Teaching 21st Century Skills (pp. 69–76). Springer.
  • (5) Pagliaro, M. M. (2017). Questioning, instructional strategies, and classroom management : A compendium of criteria for best teaching practices. Rowman & Littlefield.
  • (2) Wiliam, D. (2018). Embedded formative assessment (Second edition.). Solution Tree Press.
LMSTinyMCEProduct ManagementProduct Development
byBen Long

Computer scientist, storyteller, teacher, and an advocate of TinyMCE. Reminisces about programming on the MicroBee. Writes picture books for kids. Also the wearer of rad shoes. “Science isn’t finished until you share the story.”

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