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What Would Big LMS News Look Like?
July 21, 2014 - 9:00pm

Did you attend the D2L, Blackboard or Instructure conferences this year?  (Sorry of not including Moodle or Sakai - what are the big events for these platforms?).

There seems to be some debate if any big news came out of the LMS world this year.

Carl Straumsheim’s analysis is that the LMS is evolving towards a learning ecosystem, one that will easily integrate with best-of-breed single purpose apps while offering a more seamless learning experience.

Michael Feldstein argues that this was indeed a big year for Blackboard, with some exciting things happening on the UX front and a totally re-designed synchronous learning platform with Collaborate. 

What sort of LMS news would make you stop and take notice?

Is there anything that any of the major LMS vendors could do that would push you to consider making (yet another) campus platform switch?

My 3 LMS stop the presses announcement would be:

1. Full Integration Between Learning Management and Media Management Systems:

The big mess at the intersection of education and technology is not the LMS. At this point, the LMS (no matter the provider) works pretty well. Sure, we ‘d like to see better analytics and dashboards and reports. But the platforms work pretty well.

The big mess is in curricular media. We have exponential growth in the amount of curricular media that is being created. I’m talking about everything from classroom capture to laptop capture. The biggest growth is the media created by students. We are seeing a move towards student authored screencasts, group video assignments, and media projects created with mobile devices.   

The curricular media creation and management landscape is all over the place. Naming just the first few vendors and platforms that come to mind shows how many players are in this market. Echo360, Kaltura, ShareStream, Panopto, Adobe, TechSmith, MediaSite, MediaSilo, Ensemble, Crestron - the list goes on and on.  

A fully integrated platform built specifically for learning, one that includes media capture and editing and publishing in addition to traditional LMS functionality, would be big news. I understand that we are moving towards tighter integration across different platforms with LTI, and that is great. But integration can also add complexity. I’m thinking of simple, purpose-build platforms that include media functionality built into the core LMS.

2. A Mobile First LMS Design:

What would an LMS look like that was designed first for mobile?  One that had a Web option, but that was really designed to work best on a smart phone or tablet?

The Web option would have to be simple and clean. Mobile-first design means making very hard choices about what to leave off the table.

Is a mobile-first design one built as a web app, designed to run through the mobile browser? Or is it built as an iOS and Android app?

The smartest thing that the LMS incumbents could do would to spin-off a mobile-first subsidiary. A separate division that would compete with the main browser-first (and existing mobile) options. Incumbents should try to cannibalize themselves, as if they don’t someone will leapfrog the current offerings into a mobile first world.

I’d probably locate this division outside of the U.S. India might be a good bet. Maybe in Africa. Somewhere where the mobile computing has made the jump past PC based computing.  

The primary market for this mobile-first LMS may not even be existing customers. The real growth in higher ed in the next 30 years will be in the emerging economies, countries that can’t possibly build enough brick-and-mortar schools to keep up with the demand of a fast growing middle class.  

3. A Different LMS Business Model:

I’m still looking for that amazing but free LMS. I’ve never quite understood why Google or Microsoft never brought the LMS under the Apps for Education or Office365 umbrellas.  

For relatively little money (compared to what it costs to buy into social media or mobile or gaming etc.), these giant companies could offer real value to resource constrained postsecondary institutions.  

Would a student be more likely to buy a Chromebook or a Surface if the hardware and software utilized for learning worked together seamlessly?

You might hate the idea of getting your LMS from Google or Microsoft. (Even if it was free).  

Are there other players out there with deep enough pockets and strong enough tech expertise to move the LMS into the free category?  

What are big dollars for individual colleges or universities to pay for an LMS license may be relatively small dollars for a big tech or publishing company.  The brand awareness and connections to students may be valuable enough to justify the provisioning of a free (or really low cost) service.

What would it take for the costs of an LMS for each school to really come down? When will the LMS follow the pattern of other platforms, from e-mail to storage, and start to dramatically fall in price?

What do you think would constitute big LMS news?

 

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