2 Essential Characteristics of an LMS in 2013

arrow_r8_c3This is a big year in the realm of elearning, especially with the rapid growth of MOOCs and new technology hitting the scene. As such, we can reasonably expect some shifts in the learning space paradigm across many areas. One of the biggest driving forces behind this eventual shift is the formal introduction of TinCan API. After a few years of planning and development, this new learning standard is set to reach version 1.0 this month. What is most exciting about its formal release is that many of the rapid elearning development tools available will finally be able to feel comfortable with including TinCan as a publish option in their software. Some already have incorporated it, such as Articulate Storyline, but this was version .90, so certain aspects were still “shifting”.

TinCan opens the doors to many new avenues, but it also closes the door on a few other things – well, hopefully closes the door. Specifically, TinCan is a driver behind the two modern LMS characteristics below:

1. SCORM support should be limited, if at all. This one is a hot topic today, particularly because of the new eLearning standard TinCan API (or “Experience API”, depending on who you talk to). As with anything, some degree of support for the legacy learning protocols is helpful, particularly during transition periods. The potential issue is if your company relies heavily upon the dated technology. It would be as if a musician only produced their music on CDs and ignored the MP3 market – they both enable fans to listen to the music, but one just does it better. SCORM technology is a lot like the CD – it is good to a point, but it is limiting. For instance, consider that TinCan API recognizes that learning takes place anywhere, and then can record this learning in real time. The API itself doesn’t even need an LMS, in the traditional sense, essentially re-defining what we can call an LMS in the first place. Again, the less limits, the better.

2. User experience is everything. From websites to software, people are demanding more out of their user experience. Your LMS should make sense to a user, from the aesthetics to the navigation. The entire interaction should be pleasant, consistent, and engaging – all of which can lend itself to improved learning retention. Customizing the look and feel of your LMS is just as important as the nuts and bolts holding it together. Stay away from boxy, inflexible systems that do not allow you to easily create an image that is in line with your organizational culture.

Over time we will discover additional ways that this new technology is shaping the LMS offering, and the learning industry as a whole. As people become more familiar with the capabilities now available because of TinCan, expect to see new offerings, businesses, and tools emerge. It is an exciting time!

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About the Author:

Justin Ferriman is the co-founder and CEO of LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by the world's leading organizations, such as the University of Michigan, Digital Marketer, WPEngine, and Infusionsoft. Justin has made a career as an elearning consultant where he has implemented large-scale training programs for Fortune 500 companies. Twitter | LinkedIn

One Comment
  1. No issue with the second part.
    The first, however, well…may be prescient in a couple years, but for now SCORM is the only real game in town. The base of applications and content isn’t going to disappear all that quickly. Anyone looking to adopt TinCan/xAPI would surely be better served with an LMS/LRS combination.

    One advantage the more restrictive SCORM specification has over TinCan/xAPI is reporting – everything is defined, so reporting can quickly be robust. Reporting on LRS data is going to be a challenge
    (i.e. I want to see everyone who learned something…but ‘completed’ can be reported as ‘took’, ‘finished’, ‘done’, ‘completed’, ‘passed’, and ‘acheived’ depending on the content they went through – how can I create a report on those terms?)

    Overall, agreed that SCORM “is good to a point, but it is limiting.” I don’t think we’ll see TinCan supplant it this year though, especially in areas where SCORM is working out just fine.

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