How many years old is your Learning Management System? Older than 5 years? Then it may be time to look to the future. A lot has happened in recent years. Today’s cloud platforms are much more easy to use and engaging for users with social learning features, gamification,large amounts of external courses (e.g. through MOOCs) at the same time as they are being integrated into intranets and with other HR processes.

According to an article in Forbes, the LMS market has radically changed in recent years. Therefore, it may be time to review your system. Here’s a description of what to expect from a modern cloud platform.

Support for informal and Social Learning

A few years ago, we had to build on social functions outside our learning platforms with, for example, Yammer, Jive, or SharePoint. Today this is part of most systems. You can create your own profiles and post posts in your blog or activity stream as on LinkedIn. You can follow experts and their posts, discuss in forums, etc.The course evaluation is now supplemented with stars, comments and discussions.

Ett modernt LMS

We know that formal learning, in classrooms or eLearning, is only 10-15% of all learning. We learn at work, by others, by searching, reading documents, seeing videos, etc. Many modern LMS make it easier than ever to integrate external learning resources and organize learning into Communities or portals for different audiences.

CSOD social-learning-screen

Modern user experience with gamification

The table-based interface still lives on in many of the systems. Today´s trend is moving towards simplified interfaces with an engaging user experience.


Gamification is increasingly used to drive motivation and use of IT systems. Examples of features are levels. The employee get points, not only to attend courses, but to read articles, participate on webinar, follow experts, post, etc. For example, you can reach gold level in answering questions in a forum, or within a certain area of knowledge. You can also collect badges after reaching certain goals. Research has shown that game elements drive engagement and motivation. Many LMS now use gamification to drive use and continuous learning.


MOOC and thousands of courses

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) has been around for a while and been a way for universities to reach out with courses. Today, thousands of courses are available completely free online. Udemy alone has over 25,000 courses and 6 million students. Coursera collaborates with 350 of the best universities worldwide. It is a popular format, according to a report by Bersin (Redefining MOOCs for Corporate Learning), the 5 largest players combined have 26 million users, most of whom (80%) already have a degree and a job. The format of a MOOC is a mix of video, virtual classrooms with integrated social features and tasks with social assessment. It has been shown through giving companies a platform to easily reach out with regular classroom lessons to the entire organization. One example is IBM, which today systematically films classroom training to convert to the MOOC format and quickly reach its 430,000 employees.

Below are some of over 200 sales courses at Udemy.


In addition to fast and large reach with MOOC, the main point is access to content. Many LMS (e.g. SumTotal Maestro, Saba Marketplace, Docebo and others) can integrate content from MOOCs and thus make large amounts of courses available. It is also common for the system to offer external courses as part of a monthly cost. One such example is BizLibrary which includes “thousands of courses, Netflix style”.

Skillbased learning

According to Craig Weiss, Assiociation for Talent Development,(LMS Trends 2015) Skill management is “hot” this year. Skill management is certainly nothing new, but gets easier with the frequent integration with learning, features to suggest learning activities, gamification to justify efforts, social functions for“peer ratings”( peer rating) etc.

Skill assessments become an active part in the development of the employee’s ability, instead of the course catalogue which you enter 1-2 times a year to book a course. The development plan contains so much more than just courses; coaching, job shading, challenging assignments, conferences, links to websites, knowledge sharing, etc.

Another problem addressed is that employees in many organizations where I have completed a measurement do not find the training relevant to their needs. Only 15-20% think the training is entirely relevant. With clear skill requirements and learning that are targeted precisely for specific roles and skills we are accessing that problem.


Examples of LMS showing goals and skills on the website. By choosing “close gap”, the employee receives suggestions for specific development/learning activities.

Intelligent suggestions (type Amazon or Spotify)

The development has gone even further than getting a recommendation based on the level we want to achieve in a special skill. xAPI (TinCan) named the successor to SCORM and gives us new opportunity to follow up on how our employees learn and create a better picture of their ability and interest. A modern LMS collects lots of data, in addition to role and skill level, e.g. what other courses we have taken, documents we read, what we thought of them, what experts we follow, where in the organization we work, what is popular, etc. Based on that information, then suggests system courses or other learning activities that it believes suits us according to the same technology as Amazon (“you would also like…”) and Spotify (“discover…”).


Mobile platforms

According to idg projections, 260 million personal computers were sold this year, but 350 million tablets and 2,000 million mobiles. It is increasingly clear that the mobile/tablet is what we use to retrieve information, read, collaborate and learn. How does your LMS work on a mobile platform? Today’s systems are mobile and able to recongnise the size of screen and automatically adapt (adaptive learning).

You as a user should expect to not only be able to start videos or learning activities, but also have access to social functions and administrative functions in your system. You should also be able to learn offline and sync later when there is connectivity.


LMS integrated (in the business)

A problem with many systems is that employees are rarely there. An employee attend an average of 4 course days per year, so often it is in connection with the annual development call that the employee or in some cases the manager loggs in and book a course. In some of the organizations I’ve worked with, employees simply don’t find their way there.

The solution is to offer the training where the employees are located; on the intranet, the product portal, in the sales system, etc. Today it is easy to integrate an LMS with other systems, e.g. HR system for retrieving data, but also to provide access to courses, e.g. through the intranet. Small and large systems can now be integrated in common intranet platforms. The next step is integration with business systems and sales systems. For example, Cornerstone OnDemand has for example an integration with SalesForce where small learning modules can pop up in different situations in the seller’s everyday life. In the photo below, the seller gets a tip to watch a video about the difference between negotiations in the US and Europe. It pops up when the seller puts in a new lead from Europe.


A few years ago, integration with other systems was somewhat difficult and that cost a lot of time and resources. Modern systems offer API and autointegration with most important HR, ERP, CRM and other systems. In some cases, the employee can self-integrate with other systems by just dragging and releasing the desired system as per the picture below.

saba integration

Naturally integrated into HR processes

Most major LMS are today called Talent Management Systems and include all HR processes, from recruitment to succession, with skill management and learning as a central part. Learning becomes a natural part of the organization’s work in recruiting and developing employees. Personally, I find it difficult to see goal management, skill management and learning as separate parts. They’re closely connected. The revolution in usability, agility, continuous assessment, social functions that I described above also exist within other HR processes. Table-based administrative systems are also replaced by systems that are more focused on creating commitment and continuous development among employees.


Support for the organisation’s network (eHandel)

Yesterday’s LMS has been closed and are only for internal employees. A modern system also offers learning for the external network. It’s easy to sign in with, for example, your Google, Facebook or Microsoft account. Several offer opportunities to build community and social capabilities to collaborate with customers and suppliers.

extended network

For many organizations it is important to be able to sell one’s knowledge, not least for educational organisations and for consultants like me. Marketing, customer portals, eCommerce and statistics features make it easy to sell knowledge.

CSOD _ eCommerce

Operation and costs

Today’s LMS are moving towards becoming purely cloud-based, i.e. that only one version of the product is maintained. Instead of customizations, each organization configures the system for its own needs. My view is that costs have been reduced considerably. Commonly there is an annual fee based on the number of users including operation, upgrades and support. In cases where I have been able to make comparisons, investment in a new system could have been paid for in a few years. Expect costs around $10-15 per user per year for the “large” systems and $2-5 per user per year for simpler systems.

What to do?

As you can see, a lot has happened, over only a few years, really. An LMS today encourage a completely different approach to learning, which takes place continuously, informally and socially. The change in how we learn is fast. Today, employees expect to have access to learning that is more social and more just-in-time. New generations of employees also have high demands on the organization’s learning capabilities and expect to use new technologies. Read more in my post “How to raise thelevel in a learning organization“. Perhaps it might be time to consider what goals you have for your business? As a step, there may be more reason to look at how your current LMS actually encourage where you are going and what it costs.

You can also listen to my webinar on May 21 about innovations in learning.

Posted by Johan Skoglöf

Johan är visionär och senior konsult med missionen att hjälpa företag att skapa framtidens lärande organisation. Med över 25 år i branschen och kunder som Ericsson, Volvo, Scania, SEB, Handelsbanken, HM och ICA har Johan en bred erfarenhet i hur lärande organisationer skapas.

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