I’ve written about the death of the Learning Management System, or LMS, in the past, and I’ve read others discussing the death of the LMS. I’ve been a firm…um…disliker (I know it’s not a word)…of LMSs for most of my career. That is until 2007 when I first saw Litmos.com. Now it seems a bit ironic that I would be working for and promoting an LMS company. But the LMS of old is already gone. The first generation LMS born in the ’80s was well into retirement as we entered the 21st century. Many of the old systems still exist, and much of their still needed functionality has been reborn in newer systems. But the LMS of old no longer exists. It didn’t die. It evolved, and is still evolving, into something better.
What the Evolution of the LMS Looked Like to Me
At the end of 2011 I was looking back in much the same way I am now. I, not so boldly, announced 2012 – The Year of the LMS. As the internet was evolving from what it was in the ’80s to what we use today, the eLearning industry was trying to keep up. Some of the old systems did their best to bolt on new functionality. Other new companies were launched and created new products…but they didn’t include some of the still needed basic functionality of an LMS. I watched many attempts by vendors to keep up with the new internet. Some were interesting and others were gimmicky. Everyone was searching for something new that would somehow make corporate training cool for the first time since…well…ever.
Yes, social collaboration is an important part of learning. And yes, making learning fun is important as well. But I think we’ve all now experienced an implementation, or 2, of enterprise social tools with high expectations falling into the realm of total disappointment. And until we truly understand what “fun” is (please read “A Theory of Fun“) corporate training will fall considerably short of a good time. Your internal social enterprise system will never be “Facebook inside the company”. And corporate training will never be addictive fun, like Flappy Bird. So what happened?
The LMS: Beautiful Design, Ease of Use, Flexible and Extensible
After so many years of being angry at the LMSs in my life, it’s really nice to finally see all those words connected to the letters L – M – S.
The real success stories of Web2.0, or whatever you want to call the internet’s evolution, had a few things in common. The most important commonality, in my opinion, was the almost universal shift from “more is better” to “less is more”. The reality finally hit that there was too much unnecessary functionality in tools like MS Office. And that a better office suite could be successful if it focused overwhelmingly on making the few functions required by the major of users incredibly simple…and FUN to use. And similar stories are playing out across the entire tech industry. But it doesn’t mean that these tools are weak and limited. No. Exactly the opposite. Besides beautiful design, and ease of use, new internet tools are flexible, extensible, and connect seamlessly with other tools.
We learned a lot from the first generation of LMSs but it’s taken the industry a while to understand what the rest of the tech world knows. Tools that make work easier are delightful to use.
Litmos.com is a delightful product. Before I joined the team I was a delighted customer. And before I was a delighted customer, I was a delighted fan boy seeing Litmos for the first time. I have very high expectations of the technologies in my life, and while I’m still delighted, I’m even more excited about the future of the LMS than ever before…okay, ever. Period.
The term Learning Management System still exists and it’s not going away. It’s not dying. The tool and it’s most common functionality is still needed in the enterprise, and in SMBs around the globe. But the LMS has DEFINITELY evolved into something better, and I can assure you that the evolution will continue.