By Marieke Bjørgung

Marieke Bjørgung is a Key Account Manager, working to ensure that Motimate is meeting the evolving learning needs of 21st century organizations and the people who make them work. Here, Marieke takes a look at how the LMS has evolved over time, what the expectations are of an all-star LMS system today, and what features truly engage users.

When it hit the scene in the early nineties, the LMS was a revolutionary technology. It wasn’t until we were well into the 2000s that we realised our learning systems were no longer fulfilling the needs of learners and their managers. This was due, in large part, to the arrival of the mobile phone and the new capabilities that it unlocked.

The First LMS – A Contentious Issue

There are many definitions of the LMS, causing some disagreement on when the first one was invented. However, it is generally agreed upon that the first fully featured, internet enabled, Learning Management System (LMS) was released by Norway’s NKI Distance Education Network in 1991. Named EKKO, it was designed to enable distance learning.

The purpose of the LMS, in its various guises, is to enable e-learning – aggregation of training materials, automated delivery of training programs, tracking and reporting.

The early LMS meant that learners could, for the first time, sit at their computers and complete training modules based on quizzes and multiple-choice questions. From the very beginning, an LMS could track basic information, such as course completion and competence. This made it a useful tool for managers to keep track of how learners were doing.

Enter the Mobile Disruption

In the nineties the LMS was about providing a web-based solution that supported on-demand learning. By the time the 2010s arrived, needs had evolved, expectations had changed and the LMS needed to keep up. It became about enabling learning anytime, anywhere.

The impact of the mobile phone on learner behaviour was revolutionary. People were suddenly talking to each other more regularly and more often. Information was being shared at a rate never before achieved and this, of course, had a significant impact on outcomes.

The Smartphone – Things Will Never Be the Same Again

Once the smartphone was introduced, giving us the gift of mobile internet, things sped up even more. Work began to spill over into travel time and home time until, suddenly, you didn’t need to be in the office at all, or even static. The speed of information exchange and so had our expectations of being able to learn, execute and deliver at a rate never before imagined.

Over time, behaviours shifted. Attention spans shortened with information being parcelled up in increasingly bite-sized chunks. Content became more colourful, more interactive, more fun. We became arguably more social – sharing information continuously between friends, family and colleagues. Constant information flow and communication made it possible for more people to do things that once may have seemed out of their reach. A basic level of competency became the norm.

In the last decade the LMS has become far more sophisticated. An LMS can now integrate with CRM and HRM systems and collect and analyze data in real-time. It offers more complete insight and a far richer learning experience than its predecessors could.

The Old Versus the New LMS

In the last decade we have seen the introduction of new capabilities and features such as real-time communication, new forms of mixed content based on audio, videos, images, gamification and more. Many of these have been enabled by the smartphone which has also been the catalyst for truly mobile, anytime, anywhere access to learning.

An analysis of how the LMS has changed over time highlights the following areas:

The Future of Learning is Personalization

The traditional LMS improved learner management. For the first time managers could see what courses had been completed and by whom. They could see their scores and suggest additional modules to candidates. They were able to track knowledge retention over time, using quiz-based tests. But the training was generic, and users often found themselves learning things they had no need to apply.

So, the future of learning has become about personalization in five key areas:

  1. Customisation

Internally, an organization should be able to apply its own stamp on its LMS, making it part of its culture. This helps build internal culture and communications. Personalization of the system helps people feel ownership and that it is a part of their corporate identity.

  1. Timing – Flexible and The Real-Time

A truly flexible LMS can be accessed by users anytime and anywhere. Mobile-based LMS’ offer autonomy, allowing people to be masters of their own schedules and learn on-the-go whether on the train, at home, or in the field. This flexibility means that they can apply the training in real-time if they need to, reinforcing the learning before they have a chance to forget it. They can also feedback and ask questions in real-time, providing an immediacy of learning that’s fit for the 21st century.

  1. Personalized Learning Pathways

Today, LMS’ use intelligent algorithms to make automated recommendations for courses based on a user’s skill profile. It can also extract meta-data from learning materials in order to make such recommendations even more accurate. As a result, the learning becomes more targeted and relevant to the individual. No-two learners have exactly the same experience and no time is wasted on training that is not relevant to the individual. LMS’ have often been accused of being impersonal, but this level of individualistic learning, I would argue, could not be more personal.

  1. Content-Enabled Alternative Learning Modes

We know that people absorb knowledge differently, showing natural aptitudes for oral, visual or kinesthetic learning. The modern LMS offers a content-rich learning environment capable of catering to different learning styles through traditional formats as well as with live content, internet video and gamification. We can’t yet truly personalise every aspect of digital learning for every single individual, but we are getting a lot closer.

  1. Incentivisation & Feedback

Everybody needs encouragement. Countless studies have told us that feedback and incentives are key to engagement and growth. Recognition systems integrated into your LMS help you unlock the potential of essential engagement tools. Based on LMS data, these tools facilitate leaderboards for peer benchmarking, reward systems based on badges or points, and prompts for managers to offer prizes, if warranted.

Talk to one of our experts

To unlock the capabilities of a fully conversant, mobile-based, 21st century LMS, contact Marieke at the Motimate team for a live demonstration.