At some time during my last trip to London I happened to find myself in a park, right next to a bench that had a quote on its backrest. The quote belongs to Samuel Johnson and it says:
When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.
I’m sure everyone living in the English metropolis still agrees with Mr. Johnson.
My first thought, however, was that if I ever got famous enough for a park bench to hold a quote of mine for years after I’m gone, the words would be:
Whoever is tired of learning, is tired of life.
Learning is a personal and ongoing process. We all learn, all the time. We learn and we help others to learn as well. Many associate learning with the schooling period, but professional adults still do it. And learning technologies nowadays plays an ever increasing role in this process.
The LMS of today
Years ago the e-learning industry and the learning management systems were rather different from today. LMSs were a lot about management of learning and less about the actual learning. They provided a great way to administer learning. Business trainers and L&D managers found them very useful. The opinion of the many—the learners—was not really heard, or taken into account.
Slowly at first, faster after a while, things have started to change. The many must be heard, and their learning needs must be taken into account.
Features like gamification, collaboration tools, virtual social networking, integrations with third party productivity tools, along with mobile apps and responsive design, are more common in today’s LMSs than they were in the past. And we should thank learners for this, be they new hires or employees focusing on professional development.
Learning management systems are currently riding the wave of learner empowerment.
The LMS of the future
But where is this whole online learning thing going? What should we expect from tomorrow’s LMS? While I don’t have a magic ball and I can’t know for sure how the future will look like with respect to learning management systems, I think I can make some predictions. Two, to be more precise. I may be biased in my reasoning, but I believe both of them will become as real as that bench in the London park, in the not so distant future.
LMSs will be even more learner-centered
The learner empowerment wave that I mentioned has already gained momentum. There’s a lot of buzz about how LMSs should better respond to learners’ needs, and I’m sure this is far from ending. Learning platforms must all be tailored to the needs of learners and provide individualized instruction.
True personalized learning can only happen if technology is involved. No face-to-face course can reach the same number of learners and at the same depth as online courses, thanks to the use and application of big data.
More and more LMSs will enable instructors to create courses that are linked to each other on a personalized learning path for each and every one of their learners. Each learning module will be able to adapt to the already available knowledge of the learner, their learning styles, personal interests, and professional learning goals. Learners will be able to access specialized content, visualize rich multimedia without any technical glitches, and generally have even more control over their learning process than they have now.
Learners already expect a great user experience whenever they log in to an LMS — a simple navigation, clean design, a logical organization of course information — no matter what device they are using. With growing numbers of LMSs embracing responsive design and enabling mobile learning, I’m sure LMS users of the near future will be able to access learning materials literally anytime, anywhere.
The perfect learning management system delivers the right piece of learning content, in the right format, at the right time, to the right learner. The LMS of the future will get closer and closer to being perfect.
LMSs will use even smarter technologies
Technology advancements today happen at such a rapid pace that a lot of organizations have a hard time keeping up. From the moment a management team decides to adopt a new software to improve productivity to the actual implementation, the developers of the said software release a new version of it, for an even more improved productivity.
OK, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. But L&D software doesn’t stop advancing. And the LMS of tomorrow will only be successful if it’s adaptive enough with the new technologies.
Take xAPI for example. Now only a handful of LMS vendors provide xAPI integration. Learning does not happen just in formal situations. Whether we think about employees in a workplace setting, or kids in a classroom talking about a new lesson, people need both social interaction and some solitary work in order to successfully learn everything from a formal course. xAPI makes it possible to measure all types of learning experiences, and it can do so within an LMS.
The amount of data gathered through xAPI is incredibly useful for instructional designers and educators wanting to respond to the specific needs of each learner and create personalized instruction. I honestly think that it’s only a matter of time until xAPI integration becomes a standard for all learning management systems.
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I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for the future to come. And when it will, I’ll be ready. I have a plan: I’ll keep learning. This way, I know I’ll be able to stay on top of the learner empowerment wave of LMSs.