Top 10 LMS Forecasts for 2015

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Welcome to the new year, which means a lot of people telling you, “Happy New Year”, so rather, I will say, “Greetings and salutations. This is going to be an awesome new year for e-learning.”

Okay, with that out of the way, let’s get right down to the forecasts for 2015.


For this year’s forecasts, I reviewed and analyzed the data – not only for 2014, but 2013 too. I looked at trends, both positive and negative and re-analyzed the entire market.  Additionally, I assessed the consumer marketplace (which does play a role in any accurate forecast) and re-read various observations I had made over the past year at various shows and events, as well as observations on various items I was seeing across the entire landscape.

The Forecasts

One of the most interesting items which presents to me an unknown variable is CMI-5, a compliance standard (formally with AICC) now headed up by ADL.  Rather than go into a whole diatribe about CMI-5, I recommend you read this info on CMI-5 (put together in part from vendor RISC).

I agree it will be the next generation of a compliance standard, but I do not see it having major impact in 2015. Standard adoption takes time (as we can see with xAPI), so if you are concerned or worried about having to go with CMI-5, etc. – don’t.  At least not for 2015.

#1 xAPI

I as many folks constantly referred to xAPI as Tin Can, but recently say in the past month, I found out that Tin Can was a trademarked name by Rustici Software.  Thus by saying Tin Can repeatedly, I was doing you an injustice, since in essence I was putting out a brand name by one vendor.  But on the other side, so were (and currently are) many vendors in the entire e-learning industry, and they have the right to do so.

For me, though, I will no longer.  As such, I will go with the proper term of xAPI (now and going forward).

In 2015, I do expect to see an increase in the number of vendors implementing xAPI. The “unknown” if you will are the number of vendors who decided to do their own thing and not use xAPI – but still do everything that xAPI can do.  

That said, everything is showing an increase into the usage of xAPI among LMS vendors, especially those with mobile that goes beyond just viewing via the net through your mobile web browser.

#2 On/Off Synch and Responsive

Both of these tie directly to m-learning.  In order to have on/off synch, you really need a self-contained native or HTML5 app. The overwhemingly majority who are pushing out apps are doing so as native – which means that app is designed specifically for that operating system. 

Thus, a native app for iOS, is an app specifically for iPad, iPhone, iWhatever and will not work with you using say a Droid device (Android).

On/Off synch works this way.  Fred is taking his courses online but decides to walk to the park (it’s a nice day).  Fred then decides to continue taking his course.  The next day, Fred comes back into the office and is now re-connected with the internet.

Upon connection – his data gets pushed into the LMS.  Granted it is much more technical, but this is the general idea.

Responsive means that the course, the LMS screens, whatever you are viewing, will change to the appropriate screen size of your device without you having to scrunch it with your fingers (pinch) or without you trying to guess what is not visible because the screen size has changed.

Basically, you want responsive and on/off synch and the data backs it up.

I expect an increase in the number of LMS vendors to have responsive. In fact, I expect huge growth for 2015.  On/Off synch will also grow substantially, but it will not be a mass level.  What is next then you might ask?

Well I do see an increase in vendors who already have a native app going to include features for instructors, managers and even some admin functionality.

#3 Mobile App with instructor/manager features

Right now if you are lucky, you have a self-contained native app (on/off synch).  If you are extra lucky it already offers some instructor and manager capabilities.  However, more than not, those who have a native app, usually have the basics, ability to take a course, read some docs, maybe have a QR Code *Yippee – NOT”, take a survey and/or an assessment.  You might get to chat with others.

However, what I foresee is an increase in instructor (on-site) functionality, manager (on-site/on the floor too) feature sets too.  I also believe that you will see some admin functionality, which for the most part is extremely rare (as in 2014).

Thus, expect solid growth for instructor/manager functionality with a native app and mild growth with admin functionality. 

Lastly, I expect to see more learner functionality including social, gamification with a touch of video in 2015.

#4 Game Elements

Here he comes. Here comes Speed Racer. He’s a demon on wheels. Go Speed Racer! Go! (you can do the theme yourself).

While I do not expect any game courses in the form or level of Speed Racer (even his 70’s version), I do expect to see a boost in gaming elements in the LMS space for 2015.


  • Ability to build games or some “game version” within the LMS – either via a built-in authoring tool or as a standalone feature
  • Ability to add “games” to a current course, assessment, whatever

#5 Gamification

I expect to see an increase in what you can do with Gamification.  Right now it is mainly focused on courses, content and assessments.  However, what I see are the following

  • Gamification capabilities tied to various social features and functionality
  • Gamification tied to some type of learning mastery or the G-D forsaken “To do list”
  • Badge Libraries – which means the system comes with badges (on a side note – this is the next tier of gamification)

To me the big bang with be tied to social and to a mid degree with some other functions in the system.  For vendors who have built-in authoring tools, I do believe you will see a slight increase of vendors adding a gamification component to it (which is different than a gaming element).

#6 Integrations

While many of you as consumers probably won’t notice it, everything points to huge growth in the integration side for vendors. This means more integration capabilities than ever before, with signs pointing to vendors having an “integration store”, if you will, where you can go and see what integrations (APIs) they already have for you to use.  In other words for them to add that API there is no cost.  And better yet, it is done quickly.

Some vendors will have it “integration” capability within their LMS, so you would be on the admin side and go to an area in the system where you can add your own integrations or connectors if you will.

The key will be how to add in terms of getting them running.  The options that exist from a user side is via your own user name and password or via a webhook (allows the app (API) to provide other apps/applications with real time information and data).

An Example is in order:

You use PayPal. But you want the ability so that every time someone buys an item, the data automatically goes into Quickbooks.  Thus you have one app (PayPal) talking to another app (Quickbooks) and automatically posting the information into Quickbooks, without you having to go into Quickbooks and do it yourself.

To get a sense of what is doable, check out Zapier (just to see examples of what various integrations can do).  I’m a big fan of them and I use the product.

For me, it is all about ease of use and eliminating calls to tech support for help.  That said, I do see vendors struggling to decide which route to go – either user name/password that you enter, the webhook you add/enter or a combination of the two.

I should note that a “webhook” for you the consumer, is a webhook URL.

The challenge with a webhook is a)knowing what it is and locating it b)remembering to copy and paste that URL code.

At this point I cannot state which I see as more of one versus another.  If it was me, I would go with the user name/password of the app, and then whalla you are done and live, because the LMS provider would have it all set to run and you do not have to deal with locating the webhook URL.  But as you know, nothing is ever that simple.

Anyway, getting back to the whole integrations angle, it will be BIG.

#7 No Courses for You – Wait, yes, yes, free courses for you*

*Have to buy our LMS

 As I had noted in a past forecast, I believe there would be big growth in a LMS ecosystem, and which did come to pass.  I also noted that the goal of an ecosystem is to be a “one stop shop” in a manner of speaking for the consumer (client).  Well, when you think about it, what is one way to make sure you don’t go elsewhere?  Why giving you some free courses with that deal.

There are already some vendors doing this – eLogic Learning includes close to 130 courses, when you buy their system, Docebo includes some courses with their platform, SumTotal does too (since being acquired by Skillsoft), and there are others as well.

The quality of the content varies. Some is high, some is quite low – just depends on the vendor giving you the content (i.e. courses).  

I see an increase in giving you (the client) free courses as part of the LMS.  There are a lot of benefits for doing this from the vendor’s perspective, especially when many people do not have any courses to start with or ready built. 

Huge growth? No. But solid growth. 

Speaking of courses..

#8 Built-in Authoring Tools

They are back and hot once again.  I see continued growth for LMS vendors having a built-in authoring tool. Again, why? Hello LMS Ecosystem (I should mention that an ecosystem does not mean the system has a PM/TM component, and in fact, the overwhelmingly majority of ecosystems in the LMS space do not).

I admit I have seen only a few built-in authoring tools that I could see as a true authoring tool that could be sold as a standalone third party authoring tool.  So, if you are expecting something to match say Storyline, forget about it.

But as listed above, there are some vendors who have really strong built-in authoring tools.  A few vendors have struck deals with 3rd party authoring tool vendors, such as dominKnow Claro to have it in their system.  However, that is not common.

If you are wondering whether you could still use a 3rd party authoring tool in systems that have a built-in one – the answer is YES. 

#9  Video Courses and Video Functionality

Video is hot and while many people are fine with just having videos or links to YouTube or Vimeo, there are plenty more who want a true video course – as in the video has chapters, bookmarking capability, SCORM compliance which would result in more than just seeing how many times the video was watched.

And there are people who want to say, okay, this is good, but I also want the ability to have auto transcription (so you can see what the person is saying in the form of text, below the video player and not in it as close caption per se), and they want the keyword search within the video, so the learner can go to the specific area for that keyword, rather than having to watch the video and find it.

So, what’s on the horizon.

I see some growth with video courses as in the ability to not only have tracking beyond how many times they viewed it and how long it was viewed, but also specific chapters if you will. 

I do want to stress that when I say a video course, it does not mean the video is wrapped within a course wrapper via an authoring tool (which already exists). Rather the video is converted into a SCORM video or some other type of compliance standard video.

As for the other video tidbits

  • Expect to see more vendors offering the ability to upload video via a mobile device
  • I do see small growth with vendors and auto transcription more than vendors with keyword search, but I do believe you will see more than several vendors who are not a VLP (video learning platform) include some advanced video functionality toward the latter part of 2015 – thus, slow, slow for most of the year
  • Video conversion will continue to grow, this means that when you upload your video, behind the scenes the video is being converted to its highest quality possible (at least from the vendor perspective) – there are vendors out there doing it today (but for the most part, not mentioning it). 

#10  Predictive Analysis or LMS AI (Artificial Intelligence)

I know you might be saying to yourself right now, “Wow, this is how Terminator began”, but don’t worry, well maybe..

If your LMS isn’t doing any predictive analysis, don’t fret about it, because I see real growth in this in 2015. 

The key will be to what level. 

Right now, there are vendors out there who have some form of predictive analysis with their LMS. 

These vendors include ExpertusOne and Saba (and there are other vendors out there too).  While, each vendor may have a different way in terms of collection of information to do their predictive output the premise follows as such:

  • The system will recommend courses, content, docs, etc. – based on what the learner has either completed or is currently taking
  • It may push out items or specific areas, content for reinforcement or for mastery
  • By having predictive, you could in the long run, have the ability to “think, if you will”, ahead of time and push out that information (in the form of courses, videos, files, whatever)

In the case of Saba for example, their predictive includes the ability for the learner to add their own skills, which in theory would make that predictive better attuned for that specific learner.  Rather than just looking at the past few courses and saying, this is ABC.

The challenge I find with predictive is that for some vendors who offer it, they refer to it as being like Amazon’s recommendation engine. 

But honestly, that is not what you want.

I mean, there are items Amazon pops up in my recommendation that I wouldn’t buy in 500 years and appears to have no correlation to what I am looking it.   I’m sure there is quantitative logic for pushing that out, but to say that your predictive analysis is like Amazon, is a huge mistake on your part.

Unless of course, you want people to buy that toaster after taking two courses on cooking, then its okay.

Anyway, I do see more predictive analysis in 2015.

Bottom Line

Forecasts at the end of the day or year, will either hit or miss the mark – that is the reality of any such prediction.  But if we have learned anything from the past, being able to truly ascertain what is going to happen takes research, and not just tossing something into the wind to see if it will fly.

  • “Remote shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop.” – Time Magazine, 1966
  • “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” – Thomas Watson, President of IBM, 1943
  • “Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and weigh only 1.5 tons.” – Popular Mechanics, 1949

“Almost all of the many predictions now being made about 1996 hinge on the Internet’s continuing exponential growth. But I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.” – Robert Metcalfe, founder of 3com, 1995

Speaking of which, Wilbur Wright did you say something?

“Man will not fly for fifty years.”

It’s a good thing Wilbur was better at flying than forecasting.

A very good thing, indeed.

E-Learning 24/7

BTW, thank you to all my readers for enabling me to become the number one most influential person in the world for e-learning (2015).  I am quite honored and very appreciative.  So, thank you. Thank you.

*Quotes from and Karl Shaw, The Mammoth Book of Losers, 2014