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Current Learning Management System Market Status: Shifting Towards A Newer LMS Generation

In the time that I've been in the e-learning industry, I've learned how important it is to listen to clients. Understanding what makes people happy or frustrated –and why– is what tunes me into emerging e-learning trends and helps me brainstorm as to how those needs can be met.

From the customer’s standpoint, it’s also a good idea to understand the contextual reasons for where the e-learning industry is at currently – and why. Not only will it help you cut through the multitude of systems shouting for your attention, it will also provide a framework that will help pinpoint you towards the right solution.

If you are just beginning your journey of shopping for a Learning Management System (LMS), you might have noticed the overwhelming number of solutions that are out there. Blackboard, Moodle, Canvas, Schoology, Edx are just a few of the big brands that come to mind when we think of LMSs. With 500+ platforms on the market today, it can be confusing to know how to sort through everything.

So in the midst of all your research and product reviews, it’s important to have answers to the following questions.

Why Are There So Many Learning Management Systems? 

So what’s with all of the LMS solutions out there? Why so many? While there are numerous answers to this question, one of the underlying reasons is the need for customization.

Let me explain.

e-learning providers encounter a myriad of requirements that pertain to each individual client. For instance, one client may need to reinvent their corporate training into microlearning for their newer workforce. Another client may need a solution that helps their employees learn on their feet while in their work environment. The list could go on and on according to each industry and school.

Basically, nearly every school and company has specific requirements when it comes to online learning and training – which means the LMS they select must be equipped with the just the right tools that will provide students and employees with a specific learning experience. That is why customization is a must-have service that e-learning platforms provide.

Customization usually entails options for rich multimedia contents – whether it be gamification, badges, leaderboard, or personalized learning plans. In most cases, schools and companies hire consultants and vendors to help them define their e-learning needs and subsequently implement a solution. Afterwards, consultants and vendors will often take the systems they’ve built for their clients and market them as an LMS.

Why Do We Need So Many Learning Management Systems? 

Is it really necessary for there to be a LMS for each vertical market segment?

Absolutely.

Think about it this way – let’s say you needed to create a corporate training program for the employees working at your restaurant. Would you select a LMS that was created to train software developers? Probably not. Instead, you’ll likely select a solution that caters to your industry.

Having said that, you don’t necessarily have to look for an LMS that only markets to your industry. Keep in mind that the majority of learning platforms share most of the same features.

For instance, a typical LMS will include tools to manage your students, organize content, and generate quiz activities. While each system has their own unique means of presenting these features, the operation is still fundamentally the same.

This is why when my team and I launched our e-learning system, we knew the fundamental features customers would need. At the same time, we also wanted to keep the platform flexible enough for diverse business types and levels of educational systems to use our platform.

What About Open Source? 

Open source LMSs are attractive because there are no licensing fees and the systems are customizable. However, what people often underestimate is the amount of time and money involved with personalizing the system.

Let’s consider Moodle, for example.

Unless you have coding experience, you’ll need to hire Moodle developers to help you modify the platform, make updates, and host the system. Figuring out how to fix security patches will often end up being a complex issue as well.

Doing all of this won’t really be an issues if you already have a large development team. But if you don’t, you may need to reconsider the open source option. As long as schools and companies continue to rely on third party applications to build and maintain their e-learning solution, we will remain to see many different systems on the LMS market.

The Future? Self-Publishing  

10 years ago people were hiring third party vendors to build their websites. But the emerging trend is the DIY approach, where people build their own websites using products such as Vix, Square, and WordPress.

I can see the same transition happening to the e-learning industry – a shift more towards to self-publishing. For instance, just as domain registration companies provide an automated service for website design and self-publishing, I believe something similar will take place where we'll eventually see a consolidated LMS market.

As more LMSs begin to automate the setup process, users will be able to create and market their e-learning courses themselves.

Final Thoughts 

While there are many factors to consider when looking for an LMS, here are some key aspects to keep as priorities.

  1. Pick a Learning Management System that is flexible and scalable.
  2. Make sure the LMS has quality customer support.

While reviewing a product is a good idea, I would strongly advise to get to know the IT support and determine whether they provide quality support. If you are going to make changes to the product, you want to make sure you can rely on a company that will do their part in helping you meet all of your requirements.

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