10 years back, when the discussions on the survival of the LMS were rife (and the Great Recession was threatening sustenance of all companies), I put together a Quick SWOT Analysis of the LMS. Written from the standpoint of analyzing the future (and existence!) of Learning Management Systems, including UpsideLMS, the post went to garner eyeballs from L&D practitioners, learn-tech enthusiasts, LMS analysts, learning platform users across the world. It communicated to the world, in clear, definable bullet points, why and how the LMS was here to stay.
And stayed it has. The Learning Management System after a decade has only grown stronger, more competent and more comprehensive. It is no longer a piece of tech that demand ‘geeky’ discussions with the IT and Technology teams, but an extension of the learners’ lives – intertwining with their flow of work, skilling and developing them continuously.
Here’s my 2020 AI Update on LMS SWOT Analysis.
- 2010: Around for quite some time now and is well accepted.
Now: From their early days, as clunky systems used only in big-budget Enterprise organizations, Learning Management Systems have come a long way in not just been accepted but becoming a backbone of employee L&D in businesses of all sizes and types. By 2020, 98% of small businesses are planning to use LMS to fulfill their learning requirements. The growing demand for LMS software is creating a boom in the eLearning industry and it is predicted that by 2022, the LMS market will balloon to $19.05 billion, based on a forecast 5-year 24% CAGR and by 2023, $22.4 billion.
- 2010: Provide a central and manageable system for both online and offline training.
Now: Learning Management Systems in 2020 are more than enablers of online and offline (classroom/ ILT) training. Along with support for Mobile Learning (mLearning), Social Learning and Microlearning, they encompass true offline learning by enabling access to training without internet connection (a la Youtube Offline mode). An Offline LMS is a major step in learner empowerment as it eliminates the dependency on internet access at all times, which is sometimes tricky due to internet stability/ penetration/ permission in certain areas (example: flights, mining rigs).
- 2010: Capable of integrating with the workflow.
Now: According to Josh Bersin, (Unlike other engagement tools in the consumer world for networking or sharing or streaming) “In learning the problem is different. We don’t want people to be “addicted” to the learning platform, we want them to learn something, apply it, and then go back to work.” Couple this with the fact that “Getting employees to make more time for learning” was the #1 challenge in LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report, and among the learners who responded, below is how they were split:
This is where the concept and the application of learning in the flow of work comes in. By embedding the training intervention into a learner’s regular, day-to-day life – through nudges/ milestone triggers/ access or search history, short learning nuggets, in the form of microlearning videos or courses, the learner is equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to perform his/ her task and close the competency gap.
- 2010: Capable of integrating with other existing HRMS/IS.
Now: Not just HRMS and HRIS, but the LMS in 2020 is capable of integration with a host of (popular) software and tools to not only reduce admin overload by automating tedious and time-intensive manual tasks but, to the learners, provide a seamless journey within and between different systems.
- 2010: Exhaustive MIS reporting.
Now: Gone are the days when a bunch of standard LMS reports sufficed the L&D team’s need for ROI measurement. Today, due to technology evolution and complexity of user behavior, tracking and analyzing every bit of data on the learning platform – from content access to completion to user analytics – is key for intelligent decision making. Modern LMSesare equipped with analytical tools for deep analysis, data slicing and dicing, and business intelligence.
- 2010: Works excellent for course management, delivery and tracking of formal learning.
Now: The emergence of xAPI, short for Experience API (released on April 27, 2013), an eLearning specification that makes it possible to collect data from the wide range of experiences a person has within online “and offline” training activities, has not only broken the proverbial glass ceiling but has made for seamless data sharing between multiple systems. Today’s learning platforms render well for formal and informal (social) learning, and everything in between.
- 2010: Some LMS systems are capable of managing more than only eLearning – competency and talent management (though limited).
Now: LMSes today not only have a comprehensive Competency Management features, but most also include dedicated modules for Compliance Training and Continuing Professional Development. Taking Competency and Talent Management to the next step are the integration capabilities of the LMS with online content marketplaces/ ready-to-use off-the-shelf course libraries that connect the dots between skill gaps and required training with relevant and engaging content.
- 2010: Focused on control and managing more than learner experience.
Now: This is as passé as typewriters in 2020! The Learning Management Systems of today are learner-centric – with their UI and UX aligned to the popular systems, often as the Netflix of eLearning, an AI-recommendation engine as the backbone, Gamification and R&R tools for engagement, Social Learning & Knowledge Collaboration tools for UGC and informal learning. The verdict is out – Learner is in the driver’s seat. The role of a training admin is no longer assigning training as per learner groups/ learner roles, but curating quality content, analyzing the impact of the same on performance/ objectives set through Analytics and Reporting and leveraging that intelligence to further refine the learner journey.
- 2010: Most LMS systems not ready for Web 2.0 experience and still offer outdated way of course access.
Now: Web 2.0, a series of concepts and ideas that redefine the web as a platform where the individual users control their own data, is the use of new technology to enhance the user’s online experience. This ties into the previous point of the learner being in control of his/ her learning journey and defines his/ her learning path based on the series of choices made. Here’s how our LMS unleashed its X factor.
- 2010: Still focused on formal learning to be pushed to learners. Course-centric workflows and approach is inherent.
Now: “Of course, the LMS’s ability to track formal instruction is still important to many organizations, especially in areas such as compliance, safety, onboarding, and baseline skill development. But traditionally, LMS products have not been very useful in managing learning that happens in the workplace through activities such as coaching, knowledge sharing, professional networking, work assignments, and other work experiences”, says Steve Foreman in his 2013 article ‘The xAPI and the LMS: What Does the Future Hold?’ But since thenLMSeshave evolved and how! They now include everything from formal to informal and offline learning. This is further supported by xAPI. The Experience API is significantly different from SCORM. Unlike SCORM, the xAPI is not limited to eLearning courses or learning management systems per se. It enabled tracking of activities that people do using computers such as performing work tasks, producing work outputs, interacting with others using social media, achieving milestones in games and simulations, and just about any other activity that one can observe or record.
- 2010: Apart from Interoperability standards – no real standards govern LMS development.
Now: Basics first – Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) is a standard developed by IMS Global Learning Consortium, which specifies a method for a learning system to invoke and to communicate with external systems. Popularly done using OAuth2, OpenID Connect, and JSON Web Tokens, Interoperability standards have evolved and now comprise Single Sign On (SSO) as a means to allow a user to log in with a single ID and password to any of several related, yet independent, external software systems.
- 2010: Varied and fragmented suppliers pool with differing technical and functional capabilities. Overall customer experience with LMS is not consistent.
Now: While the number of providers in the LMS space is on the rise, what with the low entry barrier to eLearning and learn-tech, the technical and functional capabilities are now uniform across the landscape. This is primarily due to evolution of technology itself but more than that the change in user behavior, which demands for a host of features to be in-built as a hygiene requirement. The key differentiators between suppliers (and their LMSes) are nuances corresponding to the human-angle – like customer service, tech support, training, consulting and solutioning, the innovation piece – like AI/ ML/ Chatbot, and the price point.
- 2010: Social and Informal learning trends. A real opportunity for LMS to create learner-centric environments rather than centralized course delivery system. By not only providing the tools but also revamping the whole learner experience is required.
Now: The rise of Communities of Practice (CoP) in the corporate world has led to embracing of social and informal learning trends within the LMS. The Learning Platform of 2020 is learner-centric as it enables capturing of tacit and explicit knowledge that resides with SMEs and experienced personnel in an organization. Most LMSes now have an in-built social learning module, complete with Discussion Boards, Communities, Conversations, Facebook-type Friend/Follow features, which allow learners to collaborate across the board and learn from each other.
- 2010: Talent management. Given the core strength of the LMS and its capability to link with other systems, being able to offer talent management functionality in the context of both formal and informal learning is an excellent opportunity for the LMS to become and remain relevant for the HR/training function.
Now: A sustainable talent pipeline that consistently identifies and prepares talent for open positions is a critical priority for the success and growth of any organization. Learning platforms today are equipped with Competency Management or Talent Management features that helps L&D in identifying and understanding the core competencies of their employees, conducting skills-gap analysis, succession planning, as well as competency analysis and profiling. While relevant and engaging content, engagement features (like Gamification and AI-recommendation engine), multiple modalities and personalized approached continuous learning and learning stickiness.
- 2010: Slow to respond to changing learner needs.
Now: No longer, no longer! When video games gained popularity, eLearning took a cue and introduced Game-based Learning and Gamification in the LMS. When Facebook and Twitter reached new levels of trendiness, LMS embraced Social Learning. Ditto happened when Netflix made chilling the new black. The world jumped upon the ‘Netflix’ bandwagon, LMS included, as it borrowed the familiar UI/UX for learners and thereby talking their talk. The LMS of 2020 is not just swift to respond to changing learner needs but is future-looking as it strives to bring in new features, functionalities and UI elements that learners need tomorrow!
- 2010: Fragmented market. With the suppliers fragmented across verticals, focus areas, technical capabilities only a few LMS systems respond to the changing dynamics of the market. More LMS systems out of tune to the market demands will create a higher level of dissonance with the LMS as a whole in terms of its relevance and usefulness.
Now: As with the rising consistency of features and functionalities in LMSes across the board, there is a defragmentation of the LMS market as most suppliers now operate in an industry/ vertical agnostic way. This is largely due to the influx of SaaS model in LMS deployment and AGILE methodology in development and design.
- 2010: Social networking tools. Tools focused on providing a networked environment to learners and allowing them to share content, opinions and information with each other could extend to take over some of the LMS functionality posing a new competition (already are) to LMS.
Now: While some Learning Management Systems did ride on the social networking wave (around 2011-2013), the demand did not however match the expectations as consumer/ user behavior evolved dramatically between 2014 – 2018. LMSes that had positioned themselves on their social capabilities alone had to relook at their product (and communication) strategy and instead, embrace holistic learning and development through Mobile Learning, AI-recommendation, Integration with Enterprise software and tools for Workplace Communication/ Project Management, Virtual Instructor Led Training (VILT) and, of course, Informal Learning.