Year in Review: Top LMS Developments of 2015
ELMS Learning Network project 是一个开源的学习平台，它可以在创建课程过程中自动嵌套不同的学习工具来支持特定的用户体验或者在线教学方法。ELMLN今年得到发展，它的工作是关于将课程内容存储在github上，在LMS之外共享和更新版本。
Beyond LMS 提供了工具和框架来摆脱LMS，但保留了一些相同的功能来允许新的教学方法和教学实践。该项目的互联学习分析工具包收集和聚集学习分析来自各种使用体验API（XAPI）的非LMS系统。
The Flipped LMS 是一个教师的尝试，用来创建一个“由教师和学生控制的开放平台，做为学院LMS的替代前端”。作为一个例子，这里是Canvas的一个UI层。
Cornerstone OnDemand (一个企业培训 LMS) 宣布一个专业学习设置里的 新的产品特性 即 “允许点对点的知识获取和讨论来延长TED演讲的学习效果” 。
EDUCAUSE的下一代数字学习环境 (NGDLE) project，并不是一个特定的产品，而是试图建立未来的最佳在线学习环境的标志性特征。
OpenEdX 从MOOC平台开始，但是正在成为一个新的更现代的开源LMS 。 OpenEdX 对于我们很方便，因为它有一种新颖的插件框架，并包括一个健壮的课程创作工具作为其解决方案的一部分。
TEx 是“独一无二的移动学习平台，提供高度个性化的教育体验。这不仅使学生获得在iPad上访问所有课程内容的能力，也可以让教师和教练来实时跟踪学生的进度 。“目前得克萨斯州里奥格兰德河谷大学在使用这个平台。
New entrants and indirect competition
Schoology has set its sights on using a recent round of funding to expand into higher ed. While most dominant LMSs started in higher ed and expanded into K12, Schoology could become the first major player to get its start in K12 and then evolve to meet higher ed-specific needs.
LinkedIn acquired Lynda this year which, given its previous acquisition of SlideShare in 2012, raises speculation in our minds of their longer-term intentions. Could LinkedIn one day expand to add LMS capabilities and support lifelong learning and skills mastery (and tie these to verified credentials and a professional portfolio)?
Workday also launched a LMS this year. While many speculate that it will (initially) be focused on corporate learning, Workday has also been expanding more aggressively into higher ed for its administrative software products.
A growing realization that course design is more important than the LMS
While last year the conversation seemed to change from debating specific technology choices to how to use specific technology products more effectively, this year the conversation seemed to evolve from how to use technology more effectively to how toevolve pedagogy and practice to better support new online learning approaches. This is encouraging and shows continued maturation in the space. In our opinion, instructional and functional needs should inform and drive technology design, not the other way around.
At the same time as we realize that course design and pedagogy are more important than the LMS used, other schools are finding that home-grown LMSs do not offer as significant a competitive advantage as was once thought and are switching to commercial off the shelf solutions. Apollo Group, the large operator of several for-profit universities, abandoned its efforts to build the ultimate home-grown LMS this year. The University of Auckland is also moving from a home-grown LMS to Canvas. And when a more custom or tailored LMS solution is desired, similar to SNHU’s decision to spin off Motivis Learning last year as a separate company to build its LMS, other schools are actively exploring new models for collaborating with software companies to achieve this goal.
Moodle maneuver mania
With the acquisitions of Remote Learner UK, X-Ray Analytics, and Nivel Siete, Blackboard established itself as the largest single commercial Moodle powerhouse this year. Because Moodle development is funded through partner revenue streams, these acquisitions in combination with Blackboard’s previous ones of Moodlerooms and NetSpot have prompted growing concern over the risk related to this continued concentration.
Also in the commercial Moodle space Totara, a LMS built on top of Moodle, announced this year that is has decided to fork its product to give the organization more flexibility over future direction without the constraint of having to remain in lock-step with the Moodle organization. Remote Learner US and Canada also decided to leave the Moodle Partner program this year.
In an attempt to diversify from its historical reliance on partners for revenue, theMoodle Users Association was founded this year to accept resources (ie: mainly financial contributions) from schools, departments, individuals, and non-partner organizations who want to influence and contribute to ongoing and future Moodle development efforts.
Instructure continues its positive momentum
In addition to significant sustained growth in new US clients , Instructure also went publicthis year on the NYSE. The company continues to exhibit exemplary decision-makingabilities with how it manages its client relationships and product expectations.
A first institution publicly commits to Blackboard Learn SaaS/Ultra
While Blackboard has been talking about it’s SaaS/Ultra solution for a while, it wasn’t until very recently that we knew of even one institution that was openly committed to using it. We now know that University of Phoenix (of the for-profit Apollo Group) plans to move from a home-grown LMS to Blackboard’s newest solution.
From Blackboard’s perspective, this is a huge and significant win – both financially and psychologically. From Apollo’s perspective, they are moving from their risky strategy of building their own LMS to the risky strategy of choosing a new and unproven technology, but at least they will likely gain significant, early influence over the product roadmap.
Early productization of CBE LMSs
Institutions continue to struggle to define exactly how Competency Based Education will work, but it is clear that the impact of CBE is going to affect not only the LMS but many other systems, processes, and practices as well.
Ellucian acquired Helix, a CBE LMS, early in the year and then launched Brainstorm as its CBE-capable LMS later in the year. They are smart to realize that the success of CBE programs will rely heavily on advancements not only to the LMS but also to SIS functions including financial/billing systems, registration, financial aid, and transcripts.
Cengage acquired Learning Objects this year. Learning Objects has received early traction with their Difference Engine CBE-capable learning platform.
Motivis Learning also continues to make progress with its CBE-capable learning platform as well. Built on top of Salesforce, the solution differentiates itself primarily with how it supports Learning Relationship Management, borrowing concepts from Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to improve student outcomes.
Keep in mind that there is still a lot of non-LMS-related modernization that needs to occur in higher education to make productization of CBE in the LMS a reality. Though many vendors are making claims that their products support CBE, LMS technology is only part of the solution.
Continued LMS consolidation
The spread of LMSs that institutions actively use in production continues to narrowsuggesting a consolidation in the marketplace. Most institutions are standardizing on 6 major LMS platforms: Blackboard Learn 9.1, D2L Brightspace, Instructure Canvas, Moodle, Pearson’s Learning Studio, and Sakai – and fewer large schools are using “other” or alternative LMSs. With a dominant design now generally agreed upon, we believe that 2016 will see even more new takes on what a LMS should be.
Analytics and the LMS
Though version 1.0 of the Experience API was released in 2013 and is in use by over 140 adopters, it continues to be most popular in the corporate learning space. In higher education, another learning analytics standard launched in 2015 – IMS Caliper.
D2L was the first to announce support for Caliper in its Insights product that complements its Brightspace LMS in June. Two days later, Instructure mentions Caliper support in their announcement for the Canvas Data product. Blackboard, however, a month later claimed to be the first LMS to comply with the specification (but only in its new SaaS product, not its Learn 9.1 product). Strangely, neither Instructure nor D2L appear on the official IMS Caliper certification chart (as of Dec 6). And no one is known to be using Blackboard’s new Learn SaaS product in production.
In our opinion, the increasing adoption of learning analytics will spur the creation of specialized data warehouse-like products that capture data for further analysis outside of the LMS. With the Experience API, this solution is referred to as a Learning Record Store(LRS). Caliper, however, “does not formally include an open, standards based event store/LRS in its initial scope.”
Increasing pain of plugged-in learning tools and “courseware vs LMS”
While standards like LTI have enabled massive improvements to technical interoperability, many schools are beginning to struggle with the management and policy of implementing new learning tools both piecemeal and at scale. Most apparently, plugging multiple tools into a LMS impacts usability. Different learning tools when linked from the uniform UI of a LMS look visibly different. The student and faculty experience across courses and across tools can often appear disjointed using different colors, terminology, navigation structures, and menu options. Faculty are often left to support these integrations independently as they are assumed by external vendors and internal IT support to “just work.”
There is also continued debate as to which open standards LMSs should support and how they should do so. Says Jon Dron, “we just have to be really careful about what we standardize and where we celebrate diversity” while avoiding standardizing at the wrong level – or mandating “standards built for horses and carriages when we have already invented helicopters.”
The way in which learning tools plug into the LMS also opens up licensing questions about digital content and courseware such as – is the plugin a technology purchase or a content purchase (which often have very different academic freedom and procurement implications) and who pays (the individual student, faculty member, department, or institution)? The LMS may not be at fault for these items, but it is certainly easy to blame. 2016 will be the year to get ahead of these challenges.
While there will always be challenges, we look forward to the solutions and new opportunities that 2016 brings. Wishing everyone a happy and restful end of the year.