The Next, Next Generation of the Learning Management System

Tier 1 NexGen LMSs are already here. What will tier 2 look like?

By Craig Weiss, CEO and Lead Analyst for The Craig Weiss Group, LLC.

I am a firm believer that the trendline for LMSs are pointing heavily towards a Smart LMS by 2020. But focusing on 2018 and 2019, there are trends pointing towards the next tier of NexGen LMSs.

In the first tier LMS, functionality included:

  • deep learning
  • the early state of video management
  • modern UI/UX
  • content curation
  • early stage of ask an expert/coaching
  • mobile on/off synchronization
  • and a LRS (Learning Record Store)

 

For the second tier of NexGen LMSs and learning systems, here are the items that are must-haves:

 

  • Multiple learner themes

Each learner truly has a personalized experience and the ability to change their “theme” from the default theme.  The administrator can turn off this feature, but by allowing it to “stay on”, they are saying that they recognize that each learner is unique and has varying likes.   The change of theme would not be just on the home page, but across the system for that learner.

The second component of this will be the ability to add or remove any home widgets or blocks they choose (again, with administrator options to accept or decline).

 

  • A Complete Ecosystem

This means that the system comes with free and paid content via a course marketplace within the system itself.  Free should not only be outside links or the ability to embed YouTube or similar sites, or add TED talks and similar, but also from the vendor themselves – either through their own development or via adding content thru a channel partner.

On the paid side, this is achieved thru partnerships with other course/content providers, who offer courses and content and require a fee to be paid by the client (i.e. the customer, which can be an individual learner, a business in the form of B2B, or the client themselves who in turn their learners “buy for free”).   There should be multiple content options in this tier, which appear in the marketplace.

It’s not so much about quantity of content, although a minimum of five partners should exist, it’s about quality. But be aware, that there is not one content provider whose content is 100% fantastic.

An ecosystem also includes an app or API store, depending on your vernacular. This is where you – the customer – can select various APIs that the vendor already has or can get (at no additional cost). These are added to your LMS with a simple click.

Then on the administrator side, you simply add your user name and password and are ready to go.  If you need to include a webhook or API key, the vendor shows how to find the API key and/or webhook either via a popup or by downloadable materials.  IT must be easy to use with clearly understand instructions.

A second-tier app store contains at least 15 APIs, including those that are popular, but not just by vendor standards.  Ideally it should be broken out by categories and have a search function, especially if the app store or exchange or whatever the vendor wishes to call it, has more than 30 APIs.

 

  • Advanced video management 

This includes a video editor with a possible addition of overlays, which include anything from hotspots to assessments to even changing the video to 360 (achieved via stitching – which would be more advanced than from a basic editor).

Screen and web cam recording built into the system is a must and should work on a mobile device.

The ability to upload video direct to the learner’s social profile is another function (with admin options of accept/decline).

360 video can be uploaded and used.  360 is one version of VR, and for most folks highly prevalent.

Coaching/Ask an Expert dual recording.  As of today, you can record yourself – i.e. the learner and then the coach responds via text.  In tier two, both parties can record themselves, view and respond either via text – the standard today, or real time video conferencing.

 

  • Acceptance of VR and AR content

AR (augmented reality) is gaining more traction in the consumer marketplace and therefore should exist in any NexGen LMS.   VR (virtual reality) is a plus, but the challenge still exists where someone has to access the system with non-VR, then put on their VR headset to view the content. Not an easy task.  Thus, AR should come first.

 

  • Advanced built-in authoring tool

This will have extensive capabilities, where the tool can provide not only features for a beginner, but also an instructional designer/e-learning developer or even someone who has expanded their skill sets to build a more interactive course with adaptive learning functionality.

 

  • Voice capabilities within the system

An Alexa or similar smart home assistant or voice activated like Siri experience or simply having someone use voice beyond mouse clicks.  Speech to text is included.  The voice capabilities for tier two are tied to coaching/ask and expert.

 

  • Deep Learning with an open algorithm

First, what is Deep Learning? It’s a machine learning technique that teaches computers to learn by example.  In the case of learning management systems, its primary value is helping to deliver better and more focused content for the learner.

The administrator can decide if they want the algorithm to weigh and score evenly those who do not complete a course with those who do, and any other attributes or variables the administrator decides.

It puts the controls back in the of the client (the way to should be), rather than having the LMS vendor pursue what they believe should be the appropriate method (which is always erroneous when a vendor has a closed algorithm).  It should be noted this is not about getting access to the code, but about the weights and points on the back-end of the system.

 

Some bonus NexGen LMS features:

  • Bookmarklet or extensions can be added to any browser to enable the learner to select text on a page, or a link to the page. Once it’s selected, it will automatically appear in the LMS, via content curation or on the learner’s page where they can share with any other learner.
  • Data visualization via an LRS. An LRS has to be in place.  Vendors should allow the administrator/client to decide whether to turn on the spigot to get more data or have the default, where the vendor selects which data is visible to the administrator.
  • Advanced administration functionality including instant drag and drop from files, content to users, and even quick creation of learning paths
  • Expanded help within a system to include popup or opening of new tabs of videos related to various functions. This could include tips on how to use various tools and additional things to “show me, let me do it” on the administration side to start, with expansion on the learner side.
  • Fully automated tagging
  • Instant integration with Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, One Drive, Office365 and Google Suite.
  • Advanced e-commerce to include virtual wallets, VAT, subscription bundling (both on the learner and administrator side) and “credits” to be stored and used by learners to “buy content”. The credits are pre-paid by the client and placed into a virtual wallet.

 

If a vendor wants to identify themselves as a NexGen platform, then they should have all of tier one next generation of functionality in place.  If they want to say, we are an advanced NexGen system…

Well, advanced hits tier two and keeps on rolling. And I expect multiple NexGen vendors in 2018 and more to hit that mark by late 2019.

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