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Death of the LMS? Don't believe it!

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October’s Chief Learning Magazine featured an article "Is the LMS Dead?". With the rise of Web 2.0 social media technologies the words "dead" and "extinct" or similar musings  have become trendy when speaking about LMS. Articles heralding the death of LMS systems are nothing new. If you’ve been in the business for awhile, you’ve seen it all before. Remember all the hype about web conferencing?

Here are some facts about the LMS market and the future of e-Learning:

  • LMS Sales and Acquisitions are Predicted to Increase
    LMS vendors are noting higher product inquiries and sales (some claim increases in prospects as high as 60% year over year). And, there is no denying that the acquisition of Learn.com by Taleo (and interests expressed by other Talent Management systems in acquiring LMS systems) demonstrates the significance of an LMS as a highly valued and a strategic component in Human Capital Management.

    The Primary Reasons for LMS Purchase are Increasing
    LMS systems are primarily purchased for recording training for legal and compliance purposes. Over my 15 years in the industry, I've witnessed how major "need to be tracked" initiatives spike LMS deployments (OSHA, Sexual Harassment, HIPPA, and Sarbanes-Oxley to name a few). It is nothing compared to the current regulatory environment, which is creating more stringent regulations and more robust reporting requirements. This is true in all industries, but particularly Pharmaceutical, Healthcare, and Financial Services.

    Additionally, the demand for corporate accountability with high profile issues such as the training shortfall in BP oil spill as well as litigation brought against organizations commonly citing "improper training" has most companies taking serious action to protect their assets by clear records on proper training and employee capability.

    Data Requirements for Human Capital are Increasing
    Human Capital is the primary driver of value in most organizations. Executives need data on their workforce capability. Human Resource Information Systems contains some of this data, but in general, HRIS systems do not natively have tools to deploy and track training, competencies, workforce development, or item-level analysis on skills assessments (hence, Talent Management software companies expressing interest in LMS acquisition). LMSs are able to provide significant amounts of data about the current workforce capability, development tracks for increasing capabilities in strategic areas, and providing status reports on the progress in developing new capabilities.


Social/Informal Learning Systems are being oversold.  Many in the industry are citing the merits of agile community-generated content, as well as how informal collaborative learning is the most significant amount of learning done during work, and represents learning in it’s most natural, and therefore, effective state. I agree on the merits of informal learning pointed out by my colleagues.

However, my pragmatic and realistic nature kicks in.

Social learning systems do not have robust tracking.  This is required to address many of situations noted above (and many more if you work in highly regulated environments). In fact, most social learning systems were developed expressly with the intent of keeping strong formal/required/structured training and explicit tracking out of the equation. It is expected that an organization properly prepares its employees for their role and provide the necessary training. Just provide those collaborative systems and hope the community brings that worker along and provides the right information? Hope the worker has clarity on their responsibilities knows how to find that information and can determine how to apply it properly? Outsourcing too much of the training to chance collaboration poses serious risks to business: its employees; its customers; its industry; and the economy.

Both informal and formal components of learning are needed. The mix of these elements should be balanced according to the unique needs of your organization - not from a generic formula or an expert’s opinion that is not familiar with your company. Instead, let your business requirements be the driver and reevaluate over time. It’s more like sailing a boat than assembling a bike. It is more productive to work with what you’ve got and to be adaptive than to follow a one size fits all game plan.

Like other articles touting the death of LMS systems, the end of the CLO article concludes that it’s not dying but going through a rebirth - this time with social technologies. Some colleagues went a bit too far (in my opinion) with their demand for companies to trade in their LMS for a collaboration system. However, they did perform a valuable service; they made all vendors take a critical look at this gap in their offering. It was a wake up call this industry needed and reminded us that we are one part of a larger ecosystem to foster workforce development.

Most leading platforms were built over a decade ago.  Their core engines were not designed with integration and expansion in mind (as anyone paying for integrations can attest to). These vendors cannot recast the core engine to address the current demands for more open and agile platforms. Instead they have bolted on one social learning widget or another (clumsily in many cases) to provide informal learning features.

The Accord LMS offers the best of both worlds. It was designed with adaptability and extensibility from the ground up. The Accord has an impressive feature set AND it installs as a module set into DotNetNuke (DNN), an open source portal framework. Hundreds of third party modules (with more available every day) can be installed into the DNN framework - allowing the LMS to be part of a larger web ecosystem that includes content management, file management, image/video galleries, social networking and so on. The Accord LMS provides seamless integration with these modules and remote content as well, so you are not held hostage to Accord LMS’s social media tools and can avoid a discontinuous, or “bolted on”, suite of tools that is common from other vendors. In addition, DNN provides native support for child portals with private branding. Now you can build your web and training presence in accordance with your business needs today and tomorrow.

The LMS isn’t dying. Users have demanded that LMS vendors adapt as business and culture changes. Embracing social media was a significant shift that many industry observers noted as a ‘death” and “rebirth”. Many more shifts will be coming at an accelerated pace. Do you want an LMS that has to be retooled or bolted onto with every new paradigm or an LMS with an extensible architecture built on an open platform?


| Categories: eLearning

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