Dispelling the LMS Myth

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Last week I came across an interesting obit:

A Mr. L.M. System had passed away. He was recognized throughout the e-learning and learning communities. Apparently he was loved by millions and hated by thousands. He tended to wear different colors and apparently wore logos – I surmise they were on t-shirts.

He was online quite a bit and provided a wealth of information to his clients.  LMS as his friends called him was known for being a workaholic.

There was something about him becoming formal and informal, which I took to mean he enjoyed going to the opera and such affairs or just chilling by the pool with his friends.

The obit was written by a Ms. T.M. System which must be a distant cousin.

Survival of the Fittest

I read and constantly research all the time. I live it, perhaps too much, yet the other day I came across a learning blog informing its readers that in order for the LMS to survive:

  • Must become modular
  • Must adapt to the new way of doing business
  • Must evolve as technology evolves

Funny thing is that it the LMS market has been doing that for more than a decade.


Go back a decade or more and check out the number of systems that offered modules you could add to your system. Just as it was back then and is today – they are extra as in $$$.

Just as it was back then, most modules were actually in the system but turned off. When you bought the module it was turned on.

What Modules are being seen today as they were back in the early 200os?

  • Talent and performance mgt
  • Web conferencing or chat rooms – I know it might come as a shock but WebEx was alive and in full mode in 2000 and so was Centra – remember them?
  • Forums and discussion boards
  • E-Commerce
  • Customized skinning – albeit in today’s market there are some vendors who charge for skins – disgusting!

Modules in 2012

Excluding the above, there are vendors out there who charge extra for

  • Social learning – in many cases it is a more robust than your standard chat, discussion, etc.
  • More robust talent management – for some clients succession planning, 360 feedback and learning development will not do – they need more -it is interesting to note that rarely do you see extensive HRIS or OD analytics as part of that additional services
  • Widgets or Gadgets (as a module)
  • Web conferencing module
  • HRIS module
  • Compensation, payroll management module
  • Benefits module

Meeting the new ways of doing business

When a vendor offers the ability to add APIs, offer personalization, increases multilingual capabilities and provides

  • Built-in marketing tools
  • Invoice generating and billing functions
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization) including affiliate linking
  • Multi-tenent with different skins and logo
  • eBook platforms
  • TinCan with online/offline synchronization or something similar with online/offline synchronization
  • Lower pricing
  • Compliance and regulatory
  • Mobile with tablets
  • HTML5
  • Native self contained apps
  • iCal – which synchs scheduling of events to your Outlook, G-mail accounts
  • OpenID
  • SIS integration (Student Information Systems)
  • ERP integration (has always been available – as in over a decade)
  • Crisp, clean and modern interface

I’d say they are clearly meeting the demands of today’s business and educational needs (for those systems targeting that market).  Even those who offer a pure open source system are meeting the needs of some businesses and educational institutions.

I’d go further and say that those systems who are targeting K-12 are clearly meeting the demand out there in the marketplace, more so that higher education (which also exists, but for many folks they focus not on community/junior colleges rather on 4 year).

Please explain to me, how systems today are not meeting those needs?

I mean sure there are plenty who are not doing a darn thing and if they are it is so minimal it is a joke (ahem – you know who you are), but overall the market is meeting the minimal needs of their target audiences.

Yeah, there are those who are doing more and they should get a major KUDOS for going beyond the minimum requirements.

As Technology Evolves

Again, without repeating the above, there are plenty of vendors who are doing just that and have been doing it over the past several years – i.e. keeping up with the technology and expanding their capabilities. 

Myth Building

I see many reasons for why such myths are out there and why so many people buy it as fact. After all, you see it everyday in your life.  Advertising and Politics are leaders of perpetuating myths to their audiences  (and no, I’m not talking about e-learning or learning).

In our e-learning slice of life, the myth builders and those who expand it are similar in nature to those folks hundreds and even thousands of years ago, who grabbed one idea and spread it as fact with each new audience adding a bit more to create a new reality.

The myth builders that exist in our space include:

  • People who espouse views and terms that are better suited for MENSA than the general audience.

I am happy you know multi-syllable words, but honestly when did monolithic become part of the e-learning vernacular? (look a big word!)

  • People who are ill informed.

They read Linkedin groups, various blogs and even newspaper/magazine articles, with folks who have no real life experience with e-learning, let alone a LMS, but have zero problem griping about it and its impact often negatively with learning.

  • Some misguided vendors whose products are heavily geared toward something other than learning and who want people to believe that end of the LMS is near, so why use it?
  • People who perceive online learning as doomsday to learning, especially classroom based.

I get it, you love instructor led, but come on read the research, read the data – of course, if you really dislike it – you can see dozens upon dozens of real facts and still see it as false. Can we say moon landing? (you would be surprised at the number of people who believe it was created at an Arizona movie stage)

Bottom Line

Let’s be real clear here

  • Learning management systems are growing at a huge rate. In my latest LMS directory (to be published later this week), over 500 are listed.  My estimate is that close to 600 are in play, not including those who build custom systems as part of their consulting business.
  • If the market was dying why are vendors paying huge sums of money to purchase other LMS vendors – whether in the same market or someone new to the LMS space?
  • Why are many LMS vendors breaking sales records?
  • Why are many LMS vendors who do not offer any talent/performance management features or functionality increasing their user base exponentially?
  • Why are so many new customers entering the space and purchasing their first LMS?
  • Why are attendees at trade shows geared to e-learning and LMSs showing up in greater numbers than ever before?

I’ll tell you why.

The LMS is not dead. It is not dying. It is not requiring an extensive set of variables in order for it grow.

It is not requiring talent/performance management to be an essential feature. It is not becoming a human capital management system.

It is becoming something people need and want.

And that is a fact, not a myth.

E-Learning 24/7




  1. Well said Craig! Far from any deathbed, the LMS has been constantly rejuvenated with each response to the demands of the market. As one of those consultancies that you refer to in your estimate of LMS providers, we have seen our specifications and user experience change significantly over the last 5 years, evolving our platform into a niche LMS capability that focuses on the integration of the virtual classroom. Certainly no doomsday to classroom based learning in our book. Thank you for your always excellent blog.

  2. Craig, like you I have been following the evolution of the LMS since I managed the build of the IBM LMS. I think what is really happening is that the LCMS is dying since many of the features – functions- capabilities are morphing into various fully-loaded LMS. So the LMS is alive and well and actually growing up and out, while the LCMS – originally developed to meet the need for an organization’s content developers to create original, proprietary and specialized content – is going away as that authoring element becomes part of more than 40% of the LMS in the market today. What do you think about the death of the LCMS?

    1. Yeah, I see the LCMS market on its death bed. More LMS vendors are providing the RLO capability, which is part of the big thing of the LCMS, not per se the authoring tool. The ones that are pure LCMS are just a small segment and thus if the buyer is focused only on such a product line, they will have only a few choices.

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