How to Choose a Learning Management System to Deliver Courses
The world of online education and learning tools have come a long way. In terms of market size alone, the e-learning space has grown significantly. And, if trends are anything to go by, it’s not only academics and online entrepreneurs that are taking advantage of this learning delivery revolution.
In fact, corporations and business overtook the e-learning solutions space, in terms of revenue generated, in 2016.
But academia is not far behind. Higher education sits at about 5.6 billion dollars of revenue and the lion’s share of that revenue belongs to vendors like BbLearn and Moodle.
According to a study called, “Global E-Learning Market Outlook” published by PR Newswire, the market for digital learning, which was at 165 million in 2014, is poised to grow to 250 million by 2022.
As the space has evolved and matured, so too have the skills of instructional designers and the technologies and practices for e-learning grown alongside the market. This projected growth in revenue may have a lot to do with five specific trends in LMS course delivery. When you are searching for the right learning management system, these are the important trends you want to look for.
Mobile Learning First
Successful LMS’s will make sure that course delivery is just one part of an educational experience. Course builders across industries are choosing a learning management system today that will do much more than simply support different learning styles or content types.
The first aspect of finding the right LMS is often a question of whether there is mobile or smartphone capabilities built into the platform. Point of access is as important for course takers as it is for course creators.
Today, there are more students than ever that are opting to stream course content on multiple devices. This means that each LMS needs to deliver course content that can be watched or read, with ease, on smartphones.
This table by the Centre for Educational Innovation at the University of Buffalo compares the most popular features of four different types of LMS. As you can see, the presence of a “mobile application” is present in all, though two list this as a paid option.
Multi-device online learning is important as the expectations of students grow and evolve. Choosing an LMS to deliver courses has to take into account the fact that smartphone adoption is growing rapidly around the world. This is simply the reality of the learning landscape.
Consider this: While it is still just a “mobile-first” and not a “mobile-only” environment, an LMS that promises easy mobile access is in a better position to adapt to the moment where e-learning and LMSs become mobile-only.
Building Student “Personas”
Like the consumer experience, self-directed, digital learning platforms are adapting course delivery to suit various kinds of learners and a specific set of “users”. In other words, they are building “student” or “learner personas”.
These personas help instructional designers and content creators understand not just the style of learning but, also, the specific situations or contexts under which someone might choose a particular course.
This goes beyond basic demographic information and spans contextual data like what their needs are, what their goals might be, what they believe about themselves, their study behaviours, their workdays, their life habits and more.
This “data forecasting” approach helps course creators, not only tailor the overall course content, but also choose an LMS to deliver the course based on these learner personas.
After all, online course creation brings together several larger disciplines. Think of this intersection as the “Apple effect”, so-called for its purposeful integration. Every LMS stands at the heart of instructional design, information management, software programming, database design, business analysis, IT, user interaction (UI/UX), behavioural psychology and sales.
More importantly, says a study by the University of Berkeley in user experience design, the entire point of creating these personas is not to place “existing” processes into an LMS. Rather, it is to learn and improve processes, based on user interaction and feedback.
This means, there is an element of data collection and active data analysis that must be going on behind the scenes to get at the core of these personas with greater precision.
Choosing Platforms with Integrations
When instructional designers are planning to launch small but expect to grow in time, just like their users, they expect an LMS that can fully integrate with other key apps and software.
API Integrations are a huge benefit and feature-draw for many new SaaS platforms and companies that seek to provide an integrated experience for their users as well as extend their own platforms’ usability.
An LMS with integrations tells course creators two things: firstly, that the LMS design anticipates certain “workflows” native to the kind of users they’re targeting or expecting. And, secondly, that they understand their users and the purpose of their LMS very well.
As an example, while an e-learning platform intended for post-secondary students may reflect an integration with their email service for fast peer-to-peer or student-to-professor contact, an LMS focused on delivering content to business owners and corporate training programs would include integrations with standard software like Excel.
Integrations in LMS’s help users to create useful workflows that can be used to automate certain processes. This takes us back, not only to the previous trend of first needing to narrow down on a “learner persona,” but also to the idea of iterative design based on user feedback.
This gives the sense that the LMS is constantly taking stock of how well its users are not only learning but also anticipating where technology might be able to automate certain repetitive functions, like saving survey answers as a spreadsheet.
Casual, business, government and even higher education LMS platforms are focusing on gamification to not only enhance the learning process but to actually create an incentive for learning.
Do adults really need to be incentivised? Actually, adults might be even worse than children with the tendencies for procrastination.
“Gamification” is more than the simple test-and-reward gimmick. It relies on specific elements of video game design built into the learning environment. This can be based on the content itself — arranging hidden clues or “Easter eggs” for example — or features like competition, badges, “side quests” and more.
Repetition and innovation during the learning process help concepts stick in a more organic, intuitive way. Gamification can be the “online learning solution” to having to teach someone else or taking something apart and putting it back together — both proven methods of successful learning.
From courses at the New England College of Business and Finance to more informal learning solutions like Khan Academy, gamification is slowly becoming an important aspect of LMS’s. It may be because the population of new course learners are younger in age and are more open to newer learning methods. Or, it could be that gamification triggers pleasurable points, as video games do, in our brains.
Perhaps most revealing about why gamification works is the concept of instant feedback. If competing against other people for a badge or against a timer, or working to solve a side problem for extra points, gamification gives students the “instant gratification” of a right or wrong answer without having to wait for a teacher to mark their work.
This seems to work well in the instant gratification age of social media.
Without the ability to track student progress and improve a course for the next round of enrolment, both user experience and online learning experience would be affected.
Course creators and administrators are looking for LMS platforms that have analytics built right into the functionality. This means that they can also track opens on a course and drop-offs in specific subjects.
An abandoned module, like an abandoned cart during online shopping, can indicate either a one-time anomaly or, if it occurs consistently, an issue with the online learning course design.
Measuring training can also answer very important questions like:
- Did this course achieve the objectives of the learning?
- What are some long-term positive impacts that students experience after taking this course?
- Can we see a direct correlation between a module’s training and a team’s performance?
With an LMS, training directors and course creators can focus on measuring one more thing that might otherwise seem elusive in “regular” school systems: “Engagement”. Is the student motivated to complete the course? Does anyone need some extra coaching?
Traditional methods say that the best way to evaluate both students and teachers is via test scores. But, LMS analytics simply ages out that argument. Because learning systems are now expected to track a student’s interaction with the software, the way a web designer might track a visitor to the site through Google Analytics.
LMS delivery for courses is, more and more, mimicking our overall behaviour on the web. As learners, we’re expecting the same highly tailored and personalised experience we might expect when we head to online retailers like Amazon or our social networks like Facebook.
These five trends are simply playing “catch-up” to 0ur behaviours.