PART 4: Future Shift

The next generation of LMSs will not be based on the obsessive of pursuit of marketing novelties in the guise of features.

If you’ve been following this series of articles, you may recall that the first installment, “Shifting from the Traditional LMS” (Training, November/December 2014), set the foundation for a critical look at the learning management system (LMS) domain.

My subsequent articles, “Desperately Seeking a Mind Shift” (Training, January/February 2015) and “A Whole New LMS World” (Training, March/April 2015), explored the current state of the LMS industry as I observed why things are in need of change.

It’s been a fun and challenging exercise, and I think I’ve sparked some good conversations. Since this is the last installment, I would like to conclude this series by looking ahead and describing what I think the future of the LMS domain will look like.

If you already have an LMS, then roughly a quarter of you will be using something different by 2018. From what I’ve read recently:

  • 20 percent of academic institutions plan to replace their LMS in the next three years, according to results from a survey titled Study of Students and Information Technology 2014 conducted by Educause Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR).
  • 35 percent of corporate, government, and nonprofit sectors plan to change or replace their LMS in the next two years, according to results from an eLearning! and Government eLearning! Survey.

There are several factors driving the need to change or replace systems, and demographics play a big part. This brings me to my next point.

By now, it should be fairly common knowledge that there are not enough people to fill the gaps left by older workers exiting the workplace, and the demand for skilled workforces will continue to intensify. As such, learning organizations will be looking to deliver training and education in a way that will scale and empower skills development.

More precisely, what will stimulate shifting loyalties (and usher in the next generation of LMSs) will be the need for solutions that are tightly connected to concrete workforce requirements and can enable learners to demonstrate competency and capability.

This may be more of a hope than a prediction, but the next generation of LMSs will not be based on the obsessive of pursuit of marketing novelties in the guise of features, but grounded in actual learning and workforce requirements as I describe above.

Also, the days of using different LMSs to do different things in isolation soon will be gone forever. Next-generation learning platforms will be designed with consolidation and integration in mind. The new standard will be open, multitenant architecture—essentially systems that play well with others. Now that’s progress.

My final comments looking ahead are based on the assertion that many brand-name LMS vendors we know today will be gone tomorrow. From an innovation perspective, other LMS vendors will disappear because they fail to keep pace with the new generation of skills development solutions. They will attempt to offer more responsive tools, but by the time they get that right, the industry will have shifted again. From a purely financial perspective, the balance sheets for many of these companies are a mess. Investor relations can only go so far promoting such unsustainable business models.

Now that sounds like an interesting topic for another series of articles…

Don Keller is the former vice president of Global Education and Marketing at SCC Soft Computer, a member of the Training Top 10 Hall of Fame.