If you have ever been in the market for a learning management system (LMS), then you are well aware of the breadth of options available. In fact, there seems to be an LMS for nearly every situation.
- Want franchise training? There’s an LMS for that.
- Need to roll-out employee onboarding? There’s an LMS for that.
- Learners are looking for an easy-to-access course marketplace? There’s an LMS for that.
Each solution contains a set of features that the target audience would value. However, despite these industry-specific solutions, there is a core set of features that any modern LMS should support. Three of the more popular modern LMS features include gamification, theming, and third-party integrations.
Gamification is everywhere today, and with good reason: it is effective when implemented properly.
Typical gamification methods include badges and points. Badges are awarded and stored by the LMS, usually integrating with an open API such as Mozilla OpenBadges. In a world that is becoming increasingly dependent on digital education, virtual badges are becoming highly sought after by learners and organizations alike.
Companies issue internal badges to their employees based on courses they complete, and third-party training organizations award them for successfully meeting certain criteria. Social platforms like LinkedIn have even created a way for professionals to share their earned badges through the OpenBadge system. Likewise, formal educational programs held at universities are beginning to issue virtual badges via MOOC (massive open online course) services like Coursera.
Any LMS lacking this fundamental component to online learning is showing its age.
There is something to be said about utility, but user experience (UX) should not suffer at the hands of it. Indeed, we are exposed daily to beautiful websites, applications, and various virtual environments that provide a healthy blend aesthetics with functionality. This is beyond a nice-to-have feature when it comes to learning management, it is a must-have feature.
Courses that are sitting on an LMS with dated user interface are subject to be guilty-by-association. If the LMS looks old, then the course content can suffer the same perception (even if unfounded).
Theming also is important to an organization’s overall mission. It isn’t uncommon today for organizations to invest heavily into brand presentation and consistency. This includes such assets as its website, Twitter, Facebook, intranet, printed materials, and so forth.
The modern LMS understands the importance of consistent messaging. As such, you will find relevant theming features that make it possible to have this uniformity across all channels.
At one time, every piece of software was proprietary. Consequently, when you bought an LMS, you also bought into its ecosystem that had been created for it. Today, this approach isn’t acceptable. There are hundreds of applications out there with the ability to “speak” to one another, it only makes sense that your LMS does too.
Cross-application communication is in such high demand, services like Zapier have seen tremendous growth. This is because our daily lives include a mix of various apps and devices. Our lives become much easier when these various platforms can interact. By way of example, there are many software platforms available that allow you to sign-up (or log-in) using your Facebook account eliminating the need to create yet another username and password.
When you are searching for your ideal LMS, make sure that they have integrations with other popular services, such as Google Docs, Evernote, DropBox, OpenBadges, and so forth. Even if you don’t plan on using any of these programs, having them available is validation that the provider is thinking outside of their own immediate technical environment. It is an indication that the LMS you are choosing has a user-first mindset.
The first iteration of all LMS offerings had a focus on functionality. The primary objective was to get the LMS to do what we wanted it to do in terms of course delivery (is it delivered) and reporting (does it track participation). The modern LMS continues this original goal, but there is now more emphasis on the user experience. Gamification, theming, and third-party integrations are just three examples of desired feature sets that have come out of this end-user focus shift.
The trend is continuing this direction as we see innovations around accessibility and platform compatibility. LMS providers that don’t take the necessary steps now to transform their offerings are at serious risk of becoming obsolete, while those that embrace this evolution in the market will certainly be around for years to come.