LMS Life Support: Is the LMS Dead or Dying?

The short answer to the question posed in the title of this article is an emphatic NO, but it’s important to understand why there are those who keep signaling the demise of the LMS as we know it today. There is merit to their analysis, but only for what I argue is a very small group of corporations. And it’s also possible that your company is so dissatisfied with its current learning management system that you might feel as if you need some serious LMS life support.

If your company feels like its LMS needs life support, it may not have the right learning management system.

Why Josh Bersin Thinks It’s Time to Pull the Plug on LMS Life Support

One of the primary thought leaders who has predicted the demise of the LMS as we know it today is Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte. In a Forbes article from 2017 he wrote, “Companies are starting to move away from their Learning Management Systems (LMS), buy all sorts of new tools for digital learning, and rebuild a whole new infrastructure to help employees learn” (source). More recently, in a Chief Learning Officer article, he wrote, “I was at an industry meeting recently with about 50 different companies. Attendees talked about their new learning experience platforms and said they would be ‘shutting off’ their LMSs in the next few years” (source). The main developments in learning that will supposedly render the LMS obsolete are described by Alexander Salas, a Learning Experience Designer at Dell:

If you have ever experienced any eLearning or web-based learning content, it was probably delivered through your company’s LMS. These systems have three main purposes: storage, distribution and tracking of learning content. Most of them that have been in existence over 10 years or more are archaic and only capable to track completions and test scores using the outdated Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM). VR, AR and MR experiences require a higher level of analytics and web analytics with specialized application programming interfaces (APIs) such as the experience API or xAPI are ideal for these learning experiences. There’s a chance that LMS vendors will try to adapt their systems for this purpose, but it’s highly impractical. Full adoption of web analytics and xAPI is all organizations need to track learning efforts. This is great news for many organizations paying $10-$20 per employee a year in LMS licenses. The tens of thousands of dollars spent on an archaic library can now be dedicated to a web based learning platform outside of the corporate grid, SCORM and all other constraining environments (source).

I think both Bersin and Salas are technically correct in their predictions, but I also believe what they’re saying only applies to a very elite set of corporations. The “ah-hah” moment for me was seeing how Salas referred to companies spending “tens of thousands” of dollars on their learning management systems. My question to you is this: Is your company spending that much on its LMS? I’m guessing the answer is “no.” I believe the analysis provided by Bersin and Salas only applies to the very largest corporations – the ones with the resources available to be on the cutting edge of the learning developments they mention. But there are many, many more small and medium-sized businesses (SMBEs) who will continue to use the traditional LMS because it still delivers real value to them, even if their current system needs a little LMS life support. I also think the LMS vendors will be much savvier in adapting their offerings than Salas or Bersin think as they figure out ways to incorporate elements of the latest learning technology innovations.

In the United States, there are about 40,000 businesses with 500 or more employees. These are the companies that are considered “large” – and the companies that I think are the only ones who might be able to afford to pull the plug on LMS life support. By contrast, there are 5.9+ million small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) with fewer than 500 employees. These are the companies that will continue to use the “traditional” LMS as we know it. They simply do not have the resources to be on the cutting edge, nor do they need to be on the cutting edge to succeed.

If Your Company Needs LMS Life Support…

As mentioned earlier, many companies are certainly dissatisfied with their current LMS for a wide variety of reasons and want to pull the plug on their LMS life support – not because they don’t need an LMS but because the one they have isn’t meeting their needs. If that’s true for your company, all it means is that you need to find the right LMS to fit your needs. I’ve written a detailed series of articles about how to do this right:

Do you need some LMS life support? If your company is one of the nearly six million SMEs who would benefit from having the right LMS to help meet your learning and training needs, I invite you to take a closer look at the eLeaP LMS solution. With its “try before you buy” 30-day free trial, robust library of training courses, and affordable monthly pricing, you’ll be surprised by how powerful it is while at the same time being very easy to use.

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