We're in the Midst of an LMS Revolution

We're in the Midst of an LMS Revolution


Richard Nantel


Last week, while browsing Facebook’s barrage of selfies, videos of cats that stole dogs beds, photos of what people cooked for dinner, and hyper-emotional political rants, I came across a celebratory post that the end is near for learning management systems (LMS).

Since this was shared by a respected learning professional who I admire greatly, is as smart as a whip, and who makes me laugh out loud daily, I took a moment to read the post and the dozens of comments by her hundreds of followers. The overall theme was that people hated their LMS. One of them even posted a screen capture of the DOS-based system that was in use until late 2016 (for those of you born after 1980, you can read up on what DOS is here).

Some of the themes of this discussion that stood out included:

  • Many of the participants were using an older LMS system with outdated functionsthat had failed to keep up with changing needs of learners.
  • Some participants complained about their learning management system cost, which they believed was “in the millions.”
  • Many equated an LMS with a very rigid, top-down approach to learning and development, where an HR or learning department would spend hours creating 'e-learning' courses and assign them to learners. They believed that this approach to learning is outdated, replaced with a new learner-driven model.

I don’t think learning management systems will be extinct anytime soon. The data simply doesn't support this prediction.

“The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” –Mark Twain

The Rise of Competition

There are many hundreds of learning management systemson the market, with new ones appearing each year. Before wearing my current hat, I was a learning analyst and wrote many reports about the explosive growth of LMS. The first report I wrote with Bryan Chapman back in 2001 covered about 20 systems, a pretty decent chunk of the systems available back then. Capterra now estimates the number of systems at 500+. If the market for learning management systems was contracting, many LMS vendors would be closing shop, and few new systems would be coming to market, which simply isn’t happening.

Subsiding User Cost

The cost of LMS has dropped significantly over the years, making the technology available to smaller organizations. This price drop has also created an explosion of entrepreneurialism, enabling many new courseware providers to sell their courses and learning management administrative services.

Increase in Client-Driven Demand

The expo floors of the two conferences I’ve attended so far this year, Learning Technologies in London, England, and Solutions RH Ressource Humaines in Paris, were jam-packed with people shopping for LMS and learning content. Providing non-stop demos to prospective clients, LMS vendors rarely had a chance to relax.

Adaptation of LMS Functionality

The needs for a learning management system have increased, not decreased. Now, more than ever, business leaders need to be nimble and have their team members and clients up-to-speed on new products and services quickly. Most importantly, they want to see measurable results from their learning initiatives. If you want to measure something, you pretty much need an efficient way to capture data - a key functionality of LMS.

Regarding the original Facebook post, I do agree that workplace learning and development is undergoing revolutionary changes:

  • Rather than creating all content from scratch, learning professionals are more and more acting as curators, leveraging existing materials by embedding content from sources such as YouTube, Wikipedia, shared documents, etc.
  • Rather than being force-fed content, learners are being provided with more choices. A learning path, for instance, may contain three versions of the same content (document, video, instructor-led course) and the learner may be given the opportunity to select modality he or she prefers.
  • The ability for learners to have discussions with other learners, or ask a subject matter expert questions, has become much more important.

The best learning management systems are embracing these changes. Others may ignore them and struggle to remain relevant.

The future of LMS isn’t extinction; it’s adaptation to the evolving needs of learners and their workplaces. See what functions Absorb LMS can offer you by trying Absorb for yourself.

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