The (lack of) evolution of the LMS and how it caused its downfall

November 20, 2020
June 26, 2023
Learning And Development

Who do we want to make life easier for, the administrators or our learners? During the rise of the LMS, it was easy to say the former. Today, we know we’ll get the most benefit from prioritising the learner. And failing to recognise and keep up with this change is probably why the rise of the LMS really peaked at that point.

Our CEO and Co-Founder Nelson Sivalingam joined Rustica Lamb on her Learning 3.0 podcast to discuss this issue in detail, as well as a number of other issues. It’s well worth a listen, but we’re summarising this key issue for you right here.

The bad old days of learning

Too harsh? The reality is that there’s not much need for nostalgia or rose-tinted spectacles when we look back at the way learning was. The rise of the LMS owed a lot to the fact that people wanted to digitise all their offline content, get it online and keep a record of who’d completed that course. It was seen as a means to administer mandatory compliance training and keep a digital record of it. It met these limited requirements admirably, but that’s what they are – limited.

Historically, businesses reserved the LMS for all this tick-box style training but for anything ‘serious’ they’d turn to the face-to-face classroom, and some leaders and L&D professionals still have this mindset. Sadly for them, times are changing. In fact, they’ve already changed and these people are being left behind.

A better way to look at your learning needs

What sobered a lot of companies up to their changing learning needs was the rise, influence and disruption driven by technology. Those that were hung up on the old way were left feeling a little hungover as new startups and scaleups entered their industry, disrupted their lock-in and started kicking out the locals.

But before their last orders were called, they asked themselves what could be done to futureproof their organisation against disruption? How could they ensure their people had the knowledge, tools and mindset needed to keep the business going and growing?

A lot of people realised they needed more continuous learning, had a look at their existing technology or platforms and realised it just wasn’t designed for this. It was still set up for this admin-focussed, tick box and compliance approach, but not for the new purpose of continuous learning.

And so we’re in this interesting moment where the needs of business are at an intersection of where technology is. That’s why we’re seeing this new wave of technology that’s designed to replace the LMS, or at least build on it.

Where the LMS got it wrong and others got it right

Imagine you move into a one-bedroom bungalow, and it’s perfect for you at the time. But then your family gets bigger, and you start tacking on rooms here, there and everywhere. That’s the wrong foundation for what you need, the floorplan would be a nightmare, and you probably wouldn’t get planning permission either.

That little bungalow is the LMS, because it started tacking on more and more features as people’s needs changed. Like our not-so-dream property, that meant that learners came across weird layouts that are tricky to navigate, and a lot of companies have ended up with something that if they showed it to their L&D planners for the first time today, they wouldn’t get permission either.

To take it back a step, the LMS was great at making the admin side easier and helping them track completion rates. But even that was limited by the fact they didn’t give you a comprehensive view of all the learning that was taking place or every learning activity of any one person. Today, these are basic requirements, and people are searching for solutions that offer a single place for all their knowledge and one front door for finding, sharing and capturing it.

So, why do people still use the term LMS so often?

Honestly, it’s the acronym that’s stuck. It’s often just a synonym for learning at work or the technology that helps you achieve that. Even when people tell you they’re looking for an LMS, if you look at their requirements, they’re actually searching for something more akin to a learning platform or knowledge base.

Your best bet when you’re searching for a solution is to forget all the acronyms. Instead of trying to preempt the features you need, focus on the HR and L&D problems you need solving – that’s what you’re the expert in. If you spec all of those out properly, you’ll get the right providers coming to you.

Speaking of which, if you’re at this point right now or you think you might have outgrown your current LMS or platform, why not tell us all your problems? We’ll get back in touch and let you know if and how we can help you solve them.

Check out our other learning management system (LMS) resources