NextGen LMS Features (Now and Later)

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Earlier this week I presented a webinar on LMSs of tomorrow.  The session covered in essence the next generation LMSs.  These are systems that are out there today. Yes, right now.  Some are extremely new, others have been around for years. 

NextGen LMSs – What makes them different

Right out of the gate, they think differently.  The meet the minimum 16 standards you need for an LMS (to be defined IMO), and on top of that hit the next generation current set of features (includes some aspects of social, gamification, general items, UI/UX – i.e. user experience).  

On top of that, they are hitting in stride the next tier of next-generation feature sets, some nearly have all, others are moving at a good clip – by having various capabilities on the map by the end of 17 or early Q1 2018.

Lastly, there are “future as in 2018” feature sets, that I see as “NexGen”.  No one has all of them, but you should keep a lookout.

The current stage of next generation systems

Anyone can pitch themselves as “next generation”, “non-traditional”, and other yada yada terms, but from my perspective a next-generation system really is special.  Unique is the better word and still strong across the board, capabilities wise.  They “get it”. 

Everyone in the industry will tell you they have a modern user interface.  After all, if someone says, “we have antiquated dirt,” well, you say to yourself, “I have to buy it” of course not. 

Thus, just saying modern UI and adding, as a result, a great user experience is thoughtful, but seriously, how many times have you seen a product that looks cool, but whose user experience stinks?  I mean, remember those iOT fridges?  Yeah, me neither. 

The same applies to the LMS (and respective subsets) too.   Some “swish”, others toss “bricks” (hoops reference).

As we say, just because you know how to shoot a basket, doesn’t mean you know how to score. (I’m talking to you NBA player who averages one point a game).

Next Generation Standards

  1. Has a modern UI for the learner  (I’ll get to the admin shortly)
  2. Modern user experience for the learner – You see I noted modern user experience and not just a wonderful user experience.  As I say, you can have the greatest system in the world, but if the learner can’t navigate around easily, then it is worthless.
  3. Modern user experience includes a “home learner dashboard”.  This is the main stop here. They login and zammo – home learner dashboard.  High level, but from here they can launch their courses. They see their learning path (if applicable). Leaderboard for gamification. Point totals (if applicable). Calendar. Messages/Announcements (if applicable).  Have an inbox – yeah it is right there. Want to see the course catalog, click and it goes right to it.  But there is an identification of “course catalog”. 
  4. Personalized/localization of the learner home page.  If you offer multilingual them it should be available for each learner.  In other words, some systems have multilingual but it is universal so that everyone including the administrator sees the system in that language.  A personalized learner experience is where each learner can select their own language, even if the system is in another language.  For example, Corey speaks Spanish, Aaron speaks English and the system itself is in French.  Corey sees the system in Spanish.  Aaron in English, because each selected their own native language.  The content/courses have to be available in other languages – which is built by you (not the LMS), but everything else is in their native language.
  5. Gamification – Leaderboard, Points, Badges. 
  6. Mobile – Native app, available in iTunes, Google Play (Android), ability to view and take courses, content, assessments and whatever else you choose
  7. Social – Create a community across the system, create communities tied to each group, create community tied to each course.   Social Profiles. Ability to tie in Social APIs, regardless if it is Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Nextdoor (cool, but no one is doing it) and so forth. 

If you have a discussion board whereas people can leave audio notes instead of just typing, then yeah, stick that baby into next generation.  

8.  General items include custom domains (included at no charge), AES 256 bit for security,  Multi-tenant (aka extended enterprise, should be at no charge, but some vendors charge for the children or to go multi-tenant), and API integration.

9. API integration – yep, either the vendor has open APIs or they can accept any API – and have it work with their system (usually a fee, but that is beside the point).  For those who want to find APIs, check out programmable web, which has over 4,000 of them.  Including mashups (two or more APIs).

10.  Filters to be used with reports.  This refers to the ability to add filters/use filters when building your custom reports.  To make this work, you need ad-hoc functionality.

11. Notepad or note-taking ability in the corporate LMS.  It has been around for years in the HE/edu systems, but not in Corporate.  The change is now.

NextGen features for 2017-19

Here are the next generation features an LMS should either have or be striving towards to slide into the next gen category (on top of what is listed in the standards). 

a. Deep Learning – The term “machine learning” is used in the consumer marketplace, but for e-learning, the appropriate term is “deep learning”.  In essence, DL utilizes an early stage of AI (artificial intelligence).  It is early, so don’t think this is like you having an in-depth conversation like Watson or Jeeves (ask, ask anyone?).

I’ve gone into a lot of detail with what covers DL, so please refer to previous posts on that. 

b.  Video.  This is beyond just adding a video inside a course.  Rather, under video you can: Convert the video into a SCORM, AICC or SCORM 1.2 course; video streaming, video analytical data, ability to upload video from mobile devices, ability to retain any filters, special effects, etc. on the video prior to upload, convert video to highest quality possible (but readily admit that if the video is poor, no amount of conversion will make the quality look good – j/k – well, about admitting it), Video editor – either as an inline video editor, or one in of itself, with video effects, and tracks included. 

The way I see it, if you can get an app in the iTunes store that does video editing including effects for $2.99, a vendor should be able to build something decent in their LMS.

Ability for end user to upload mobile video/video directly to their profile in the social and/or into a personal repository (rather than the full repository that everyone shares), P2P for video (that means peer to peer sharing of video),  video capture button in the system for screen capturing and recording.  Can also capture someone talking/appearing on a web cam too.  Video recording button in the LMS or a separate mobile app. 

c. Content Curation – This isn’t about getting links and pointing to stuff.  Rather this is about the ability build content blocks – maybe Manager shoots some video on how to drive a Forklift. Then Steve says, “Hey, I can show another safe way to drive it,” and uploads their video (maybe via the usage of GoPro, or whatever).  Then Joe says, “hey I have developed some best practices on a PDF,” and they upload it to the same area as the first two videos.  Now, you are in the on-going process of content curation. 

And yeah, also creating micro courses with content if you think in that fashion.  

It is building blocks of content, whatever type of content that happens to be.  (And yes, the admin has to have the ability to screen/remove/accept/deny options, but honestly to be the most effective, “accept all” and go it in that fashion.  You can always have a popup that folks have to agree to, before they use the system that will protect you.)

Other cool capabilities – include social bookmarking into your system.  But push it with the use of a browser extension. 

Then the user simply clicks the extension and the site auto appears in the social area and content area.  

Add the ability to have a “web clipper”. You might have seen these, but if not, they can clip parts of a web page – paragraphs, images, sections and so forth.  Push that back into the content curation part.  I surmise that you will see some vendors touch into the extension space by Q1 2018.

d. P2P – Content (docs, PDF, audio, video, etc.) with any other learner.  This isn’t the “only my followers or friends get it,” rather I can share with anyone who accepts P2P, regardless if they are my BFF or just the person who I steal their food out of the workplace fridge and then deny it. 

e. Coaching/Ask an Expert – I’ve noted this in the past, and cover it more in depth in the presentation above. 

f. General/Security too – HTTPS:// (should be free), virus and malware checker on every upload into the LMS, continuous updates (many vendors still follow the two times a year or quarterly updates, even though the systems are in the cloud), Security Pins (rather than passwords)

g. Mobile – On/Off synchronization, usage of a Pin, rather than remember a password, mobile app with a manager and instructor functionality too (beyond just taking courses/tests) ,  then ideally an app for social, with gamification intertwined in some fashion and then other mobile apps for whatever else. 

Some folks shove everything into their mobile app and that does place them into a stage of NexGen, but if you want to go one further step, multiple apps way to go.  I should note that there are vendors going web apps instead, which would still slide them into next gen for the mobile feature set.  App available in Kindle store.

h. Apps. Yes, you offer a set/series of apps (really APIs) that can into your LMS, without having the customer go and find them.  Equally, you have your app in other online locations too. 

I’ve seen an LMS vendor whose app is in the Shopify store, many have them in the Salesforce store/exchange, as I recall, someone had one in the Quickbooks exchange at one time.   On the apps side on the vendor side – there should be one for Shopify, Salesforce, SurveyMonkey at the minimum.  Zapier should be a given.  

i. Exchanges. I’ll discuss this in a future post on my Linkedin group. 

j. VR courses/content.  Right now there are a couple of systems whereas they say you can view and play VR content.  The issue is that their LMS is not in VR, so you have to get to the course then use your VR headset. 

Of course, if you have a VR headset with Chrome WebVR you can still zing over to it, but the LMS isn’t going to magically change to a VR design.  

At some point there will be VR courses and I am aware of one company who is building a VR LMS (yes, 100% VR).    At a later point, you will see AR options – but this is down the road, I would be surprised to see anyone really smack into it on the LMS platform side by end of 17 – but could happen, and MR = which is the future as noted, as it relates to VR/AR/MR.    Analytical data tied to this next type of content/courses is a must.

k. Social – Tied to gamification.  Usage of some types of social experience – since vendors love to copy things, an Instagram capability or boards or Snapchat would be one step into Nextgen from social standpoint.  Over 200 sites of social out there, let’s go beyond the standard four.   Integrate with multiple social makes sense.

l. Gamification.  Built-in badge library. Reward Center/Store. Can compare one learner to another learner, manager to manager, team to team, and so on. 

Creation of actual game based courses, not just learning journeys or something that reminds you of text-based computer games (the worst).

m.  Administrator modern UI with drag n drop, link into box, Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, Outlook 365 (surprisingly many systems do not).  User experience including admin dashboard and admin add-ons too.  There are others here as well, but that is for another time.

Bottom Line

The items listed above will push your system into the NextGen world.  I left out plenty more, including future tech such as audio direction – “Take Excel Course” with your voice and the system launches the course. “Go to chapter five” – course goes to chapter five.  All voice enabled.

That is a future nextgen feature. 

NextGen systems are forward driven.

They are pro-active.

They aren’t visionary.


For the millennial, for the Gen Z, for me, for you and anyone else who realizes

We are not living in the past.

We are driving towards

The future.

E-Learning 24/7





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