What next with the LMS? A conversation with Phill Hill, continued

What will the learning management system (LMS) become?  Yesterday the Future Trends Forum met with Phil Hill of E-literate and Mindwires to explore this question, based on Phil’s extensive expertise.

Discussion began at an energetic clip and built rapidly from there.  You can check out our Twitter discussion, Storified , or listen to an audio recording of the whole session, thanks to Roxanne Riskin:

Yet maybe the conversation won’t stop there, at 3:05 pm EDT on June 29th.  Because when we broke we had more than thirty (!) unanswered questions remaining from the Forum community.  I’d like to share those now, so that Phil can respond, but also so that anyone can dive in, whether or not you participated yesterday.

As you can see, the questions are rich and diverse.

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 I’ve retained questioner names when possible.  They appear as follows, with only a trace of editing:

Did you say Blackboard is 2nd in North America ?

What drove such wide adoption in Europe and other regions for Moodle over the years?

Competitiveness – Is the lack of competitiveness due to a lack of innovation or because IT decision makers are looking for consistency/ease of support?  (Julie Uranis)

What are your thoughts about competency-based education (CBE)?  In particular, with Elliucian leaving the space, do you see a market for a CBE-targeted LMS?  And, which products do you see as leaders?  or potential leaders?  (Bob Tousignant)

CBE – You’ve brought up CBE a few times.  Do you feel there is slower than expected growth for colleges/univ for CBE.

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Hence, the sun setting of Ellucian’s platform.  Or, perhaps,  are they force fitting the current LMS to be their CBE LMS? 

from Twitter:

Do you think BlackBoard will keep on eye out to purchase more smaller LMS’s? (Roxann)

Usage – Do you have data on LMS by usage such as for-credit vs not for credit?  What LMS is popular for not for credit?

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(by 4 year public) (Tom)

The OPEN education movement is gaining ground. How do you see this affecting the LMS market?  Do you feel that the LMS and OPEN can exist together or even work together? (michael)

Is the US military still a primary customer for Blackboard?

Forum: Phil Hill and Keesa

Which LMS has the most flexibility to adopt LTI, etc. to allow an insitution to organize a custom menu of features? (Gloria Doherty) 

Do you have thoughts about the most under-appreciated LMS? Or one that folks should be looking at more closely? (Trisha Dionne)

open edx – how do you see the current position of this lms? perspectives? (Sergiy)

Student Success – Does the LMS improve learning? (Gisele Larose)

Does Microsoft have an LMS? (Roxann) 

Forum screenshot: Phil Hill plus Mike Berman Q

K-12 – following up on Schoology and google classroom, what force is K-12 going to be in the future of higher ed LMS? can the teaching energy and innovation of K-12 energize higher ed teaching…? 

Question – What are the next gen features that customers are looking for from an LMS. The market and customer needs have evolved and so have expectation so what are the new things schools look for? (John Francis) 

What’s happening with Sakai? If it’s losing market share, why? (Nate Angell)

interoperability – with LTI and other standards for interoperability, does which LMS you use matter? (Joe)

Have you seen any trends in terms of schools with more than one LMS – are places consolidating or fracturing? (always surprised by number of institutions that have more than one) (Tony Sindelar) 

hosted vs. not hosted – For those LMSs that aren’t open source, do you have any thoughts on how institutions are managing systems – are they choosing to host themselves or are they choosing to use vendor hosting (or other options)? (Heidi Olson) 

Forum screenshot: Phil Hill and a question from Fred Beshears

Efficacy – What is the point of an LMS from a pedagogical perspective? I understand the logistical and time-displacement advantages but how does it actually augment teaching?

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And how does this question impact the longterm future of the concept?

Adaptive learning and analytics – Who is the market leader in Adaptive learning and analytics driven learning (sriram) 

K12 – What is the best LMS that  K12 content provider should use for each of use by K12 school districts ? (Shari Pobjecky)

are shindig sessions recorded? So disappointed i need to leave this session but would love to review it when i have time. – (ross)

(Answer: yes.  All recordings are on YouTube.  I’ll upload this one shortly, bandwidth permitting. -Bryan)

There were also some comments and requests other than questions:

Comment not question – I very much appreciate Phil’s approaches and totally support everything on his soapbox.  Thank you, Phil. (Gary Bartanus)

Please have a part 2 (Roxann)

part 2 could include Michael 😉 – (Nate Angell)

Have at it, friends!

EDITED TO ADD: Edumio has a rich post addressing some of these questions.

PS: two more reflections.

First, despite its status as ed tech’s minivan, the LMS clearly nestles at the heart of so, so many questions and issues in technology and education.  This may prove a very useful avenue for futures discussion.

Second, speaking of discussion, I’m fascinated to see this kind of collective or collaborative exploration of the future of education continue to grow.  It’s one thing for some of us to share our own, individual thoughts through books, articles, podcasts, interviews, blog posts, etc.  It’s a very different thing to see a sprawling, diverse, and growing network do futures work.  This is a vital distinction to make, and an important development to witness.  I’ll return to the topic shortly.

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17 Responses to What next with the LMS? A conversation with Phill Hill, continued

  1. What a rich set of questions! I look forward to hearing this conversation continued.

  2. Bryan and Phil,

    Thanks for putting on yesterday’s Future Trends Forum. Most of the attendees seemed focused on near term future trends, which is very useful and understandable, especially if you’re a campus decision maker.

    Phil, thank you for addressing my question(s) regarding massive student info profiles. Your point that this issue is often thought of in connection with competency based education (CBE) is spot on.

    Furthermore, your observation that CBE has not caught on in higher education is useful information for me, and a bit disheartening.

    One point that I might add is this: to the extent that current LMS support IMS LTI addons, it might be possible to phase in CBE through these addons.

    Ideally, the LMS (and/or the student record system) would be able to handle massive student information profiles to facilitate the use of LTI-based CBE addons.

    Further, the LTI/CBE developer could provide information (through a controlled vocabulary, one would hope) on the competency the addon teaches and the assessment that indicates that said competency has been learned. This would make it easier for traditional institutions to gradually adopt CBE by gradually letting faculty adopt LTI addons for their courses.

    Of course, to rigorously define competencies etc. some standards/specification setting body such as IMS would need to provide a controlled vocabulary for them.

    In any event, here are the questions I asked. I’ve also included a link to one of my blog posts that deals with lifetime virtual tutors and digital personal assistants.


    1. Are the current LMS able to manage massive student learner info profiles?

    2. Or, has this been passed off to student record systems?

    3. Are student record systems able to handle massive learner info profiles?

    By massive, I mean storing student data across courses, not just within a given course.

    4. Can we look forward to lifetime virtual tutors and lifetime digital personal assistants that use massive learner info profiles (and personality profiles)?

    From Mass to Personalized Communications: Change in the Learning and Persuasion Industries


    • One further note on what I mean by massive. We need to store records for many students. So, the size of the database would be very large. But also, each student record would be very complex, and its complexity would grow over time as we add new features to record different aspects of each student’s record. In other words, the meta-data required to define the database schema of student records would also be massive.

  3. Dan McGuire says:

    I’ll take a stab a some of the questions as someone who’s been working at the intersection of teaching and learning management systems for a few years. A lot of these questions have been answered either directly or indirectly in previous posts at http://developingprofessionalstaff-mpls.blogspot.com/ or https://sabier.wordpress.com/ In general, we see the future of LMSs being about how they are used and how teachers and faculty are encouraged and supported in using them. It’s not a matter of new devices or software solving some current problem so much as it is in large and diverse groups of people learning how to use the tools that already exist, and then continuing to include new tools as they come on line.

    As to Fred’s question about data storage for CBE at either K12 or higher ed, again, the biggest issue is faculty professional development and institutional focus and not one of technical capacity. We can store lots of data if we choose to do that.

    As to why Moodle has such a large presence around the globe – it’s free and open source and very likely to continue being that way. That’s important to governments and private enterprise alike.
    We see the convergence of OER and CBE (and other trends, too) making LMSs increasingly more relevant. https://sabier.wordpress.com/2017/03/11/customized-personalized-individualized-competency-based-project-based-etc/

    • Dan McGuire says:

      Here’s a guest post I did for Scott McLeod a few years back that doesn’t show up in either of the blogs above http://dangerouslyirrelevant.org/2010/09/writing-the-elephant-in-the-living-room.html The way to get more higher ed faculty using learning management systems as a part of effective teaching and learning is to do it first in K12.

      • Dan, thank you for writing and for sharing those links. I’m so glad for your experience here.

        What do you think will encourage instructors to go beyond using the LMS as a document hub?

    • Dan,

      Thanks for addressing my question.

      You are quite right when you say that massive data storage capacity isn’t a problem.

      However, the student data needs to be structured in some standardized way as well.

      I worked with IMS as the Berkeley rep for a number of years (I was co-chair of their tech board for two years), but sadly my knowledge is out-of-date. Nevertheless, I do know that they have a Learner Information Profile spec that might be a good starting point. As I recall, they also have made a stab at defining competencies with a controlled vocabulary.

      Learner Info Profiles could also be enhanced by adding personality profile information. I know that William Sims Bainbridge has written about massive personality profiles that have on the order of 140,000 questions. No one would fill one of these things out, but you could use Facebook posts, emails, and other data (from an LMS) to approximate how someone might fill one out.

      For more on massive personality profiles, see:

      Chapter Summaries of Personality Capture and Emulation by William Sims Bainbridge

      Virtual Lifetime Tutors and Digital Personal Assistants

  4. Joe,

    As for your question about interoperability:

    interoperability – with LTI and other standards for interoperability, does which LMS you use matter? (Joe)

    The simple answer for the IMS specs is no. The IMS specs, which include LTI, are not intended to ‘commodify’ the Learning Management Systems that conform to one or more of the specs. So, it does matter which LMS you use.

    Now, here’s the long answer.

    The specifications set by IMS are not intended to prevent LMS vendors (and other edtech software development groups) from creating applications with features that go beyond the various IMS specifications.

    Also, the IMS LTI specification is just one of many specifications developed by IMS. And, some IMS specifications receive more vendor support than others.

    The intention of most IMS specs is to make different vendor applications interoperable so data created by one application can be transferred to another in a standardized format (which can be expressed with different bindings such as XML or JSON). So, if a vendor conforms to one of these data interoperability specs, that vendor’s application may be capable of producing certain kinds of data that go beyond the IMS standard being supported.

    The old IMS enterprise spec that I worked on years ago would fit this definition. It had to do with getting enrollment data from a Student Information System to the LMS at the beginning of a semester. And then, at the end of the semester, the LMS could send grade data back to the Student Information system. The LMS and the Student Information System could be developed by different vendors, but they could use the IMS enterprise spec to send data back and forth in a standardized way.

    The old Enterprise spec can still be found on the IMS website at:

    However, it has been superseded by the Learning Information Services spec, which I believe also fits this definition of IMS specs I’ve given above. For more see:

    The LTI specification is different. It still has to do with transferring data between a tool consumer and a tool provider. But, it also has to do with launching or accessing on premises tools (i.e. tools created by an LTI Tool Provider) in a standardized way, or accessing an off premises service that is hosted outside the LTI Consumer. The LTI Consumer is typically an LMS.

    According to the Wikipedia page for the LTI spec:
    Its primary purpose is to connect learning systems such as a learning management system (LMS) with external service tools in a standard way across learning systems. The standard describes the connecting system as an LTI Tool Consumer and the connected tool as an LTI Tool Provider.

    LTI Consumer: This is the service that is consuming the tool. Typically this is a Learning Management System (LMS) or user portal. The LTI Consumer provides user information and context to the LTI Tool Provider. Additionally the LTI Consumer provides authentication vouching for the user to the LTI Tool Provider.[2]

    LTI Tool Provider: This is the service providing the service to the LTI Consumer. This can be on-premises software or a service that is hosted outside the LTI Consumer

    According to the IMS website:
    “The basic use case behind the development of the LTI specification is to allow the seamless connection of web-based, externally hosted applications and content, or tools (from simple communication applications like chat, to domain-specific learning environments for complex subjects like math or science) to platforms that present them to users. In other words, if you have an interactive assessment application or virtual chemistry lab, it can be securely connected to an educational platform in a standard way without having to develop and maintain custom integrations for each platform.”

  5. Pingback: Follow-Up From Future Trends Forum Discussion On Learning Platforms | EDUMIO.com

  6. Phil Hill says:

    I addressed some of these questions in an e-Literate blog post:

    Great discussion here around Fred’s questions.

  7. Pingback: Follow-Up From Future Trends Forum Discussion On Learning Platforms

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  11. Jon K. says:

    A couple of responses:

    Does Microsoft have an LMS? (Roxann)

    Yes, if you think of Lynda/LinkedIn Learning as an LMS, or the Office 365 system as an LMS. In some ways, they have 2/3rds of a competitive LMS, but it’s distributed across it’s several products.

  12. Mitch says:

    I’m surprised no one here is talking about augmented reality and virtual for next-generation LMS’s. I know it’s gaining ground in hard skill areas (like within factories and warehouses, etc), but I can’t see a future where either technology is not more prevalent than that. I would argue we’re probably a decade away from AR/VR being ubiquitous for LMS usage, but I can’t wait for that day to come! Does anyone here know of any exciting initial applications in place today?

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