Why Higher Ed Institutions Have a Next-Generation LMS on Their Radar


In a previous post, we discussed the evolution of learning management systems (LMSs) in higher education. These systems are used to administer, document, track and report on online coursework and measure student performance. An LMS makes it easier to reuse and update learning materials, simplifies the distribution and accessibility of online content, encourages collaboration, and allows instructors to seamlessly blend in-person and online learning.

According to a 2015 white paper by Educause, 85 percent of faculty and 83 percent of students use an LMS. Despite the widespread adoption and popularity of LMSs, the report indicated the need to shift from a course-focused to a learner-focused approach.

Many colleges and universities have already begun to investigate next-generation LMSs. In fact, a recent Technavio report, the Global Next-Gen LMS Market for Higher Education, predicts 31.7 percent annual growth in the next-generation LMS market between 2017 and 2021.

The next-generation LMS, also called the next-generation digital learning environment (NGDLE), is compatible with other tools and capable of being customized to suit an institution’s needs. Unlike the traditional LMS, the next-generation LMS is an ecosystem of products and services, not a single application. Today’s student populations and learning models are too diverse to be supported by a single application. The next-generation LMS would allow the school to mix and match products, which would provide greater flexibility and support ongoing innovation.

Educause has identified five core functions for the NGDLE:

  • Interoperability and integration. Tools should be able to integrate and share content and learning data.
  • Configurations of learning environments and pathways should be customized at various levels, from the individual to the institution.
  • Analytics, advising and learning assessment. Learner data and context should be measured, collected, analyzed and reported for optimization, while integrated planning and advising provides data and services that support the student’s journey to degree completion.
  • Collaboration and movement between private and public environments should be supported. These environments should be defined by the learning community.
  • Accessibility and universal design. Following a universal design framework, the digital learning environment should be accessible to students as both recipients and creators of content.

These core functions require new architectures that follow an open standards-based confederation of IT systems. The architecture should support and prioritize personalization and user experience rather than uniformity. Using a cloud-like environment, users should be able to organize their own content and apps as they would on their smartphones. Content from multiple sources would be used to create each new service. The next-generation LMS or NGDLE could include everything from robust social features to an internal recruitment platform to a gamified reward system for content creation.

The convergence of collaboration tools, content management, social learning and gamification in higher education learning is driving the growth of the next-generation LMS market. Schools are under pressure to include as many of these elements as possible in their LMSs so they can effectively curate content, personalize the learning process, and implement more sophisticated assessment methods.

Your existing LMS application can only take you so far. The next-generation LMS, or NGDLE, is the wave of the future – one that incorporates new learning models and emphasizes personalization and collaboration.