Stop Blaming the LMS

There is a fast growing movement in the learning and development industry that has me troubled. Across all channels, I see L&D Professionals, especially those that are not experts in their field, espousing “the LMS (learning management system) is DEAD.” A quick Google search yields hundreds of articles focusing on this “emerging trend in learning.” There are also numerous twist on this same topic such as:

  • the traditional LMS is dead
  • the LMS is dead but what the article says is replacing it is actually an LMS
  • the stand alone LMS is dead
  • Moving to Learning Engagement Platforms
  • and more…

As far back as 2015, the Twitter-verse was proclaiming the LMS’ demise and how the best companies were moving on. Yesterday, I was in a LinkedIn discussion started by a guy who was writing an essay on how the LMS is dead and looking for sources he could cite. He’d clearly taken a position without even researching it. Frankly, if the LMS had an AI, I’m sure it would quote Mark Twain right now: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

There is no doubt that the older versions of LMS’s are dying off. Like any software, when something doesn’t keep up with technology trends and modern programming, it tends to go away quickly. This early form of the LMS is often where horror stories exist of forced compliance, long boring trainings, and extremely poor user experience. This is also the type of LMS that big companies are finally moving away from, and why there is suddenly so much press about it “dying.”

Yet even with this traditional form of the LMS, the sad reality is that it’s not the tool that was the issue (though it certainly did have its problems.) The real failure lies in the way training departments were using the LMS. My favorite quote in all of Learning and Development is by Marc Rosenberg – “Bad training + technology = more efficient bad training.”

Of course learners will rebel when forced to sit through voice-over PowerPoint compliance training that goes for 65 minutes, with the “instructor” simply reading what is on the screen. It doesn’t matter what tool is used; even in a Learning Engagement Platform that behavior is revolution-worthy.

Call it whatever you like – learning engagement platform, content curation platform, eLMS, LMS 3.0, etc., if the training is bad, it still won’t help people learn any better. I’ve seen “traditional” LMS’s used incredibly well, with high learner engagement, when they were loaded with effective content.

Stop blaming the LMS. That’s like going on a bad date and then saying all dating is dead. Get off the Fad wagon and work on developing effective, engaging content for whatever tool you have.

Yes, there are newer versions of LMS’s that run better, smarter, smoother, with more user choice, improved functionality, and focus on multiple media types. But guess what, they are still LMS’s (whether they are called that officially or not.) I don’t doubt that a company running original versions of Moodle wants to shoot the server and declare an end to all LMS’s (I would too in that case,) but be realistic about the real source of the problem and takes steps to fix that first, before investing a new “cutting edge” platform where you repeat the same mistakes.

The LMS is not dead. It’s not even dying. It’s just morphing, like all software does, into a better version of itself. The rest is just hype, marketing, or ignorance.


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