For many years learning management systems would include a wide array of features. If a feature was used by a subset of their customers then they would wrap it into the core.
Today this approach is generally frowned upon as providers now seek to find a balance between providing enough built-in functionality versus too many built-in features.
For LearnDash this means including some features into the core and others as add-ons (both free and paid).
Other services may have recurring-fee upgrades. This is particularly true when using a software as a service LMS where you have monthly payments.
While this is the direction most reputable learning management systems are taking, it’s not always preferred by every single person using an LMS.
The argument against this approach is that LMS customers start to feel like every piece of functionality requires another investment.
Or, if the add-on is free they get the impression that their elearning’s performance will be impacted (and in the event the LMS is self-hosted, this could be true if the hosting plan is rather basic).
Why The Modern LMS Uses Paid Add-Ons
Add-ons can come with a price for a variety of reasons, but two of the biggest reasons include:
- The add-on was created by a third-party vendor
- The add-on is complex and will require additional support
The first one is pretty self explanatory. If a third-party vendor decides that they want to create an add-on and sell it then that’s certainly their prerogative.
The second bit of reasoning can be more difficult to understand.
Perhaps it helps to think about it this way: in the event that the LMS you are using is cost-effective, then charging for an add-on helps that company provide better support as they can use the additional revenue for bringing on more support resources.
I personally think most people understand this reasoning but opinions on this arrangement can be mixed depending on a variety of factors (customer expectations, personal budgets, etc.).
Overall though the shift to add-ons in the learning management industry is a good one for the long-term. Having every-single-feature be proprietary to the LMS is quickly becoming a thing of the past.
When you think about it, including all features in the LMS implies that the LMS is the “best” provider for all functionality you would ever want – but this can never be true.
For example, let’s say there is a built-in badge and point system in the LMS you’re using.
It may perform adequately, but is going to be better than a service provider that specializes in this area?
More often than not the answer to this is “no”.
This is precisely the reason why we integrate with services like BadgeOS. Our users benefit in that BadgeOS is continuously updated and refined by gamification experts.
Also, since it’s not built into LearnDash, people who don’t need this functionality don’t experience software bloat. It’s win-win.
In the future we can likely expect enhancements in the LMS add-on industry – particularly with performance and ease of integration. This process has already started with the emergence and growth of services like Zapier.