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The Perfect Learning Management System (LMS) July 21, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I often find myself daydreaming when dealing with LMS problems. I say to myself, "If I built an LMS, it would…….." Ah, if only it were that easy. This line of thinking leads me to these questions: How would you design your perfect LMS? What features would you include (or exclude)? How would it differ from current LMS products on the market?

I’ll start this off, but I really would love to hear your thoughts. Who knows, maybe (if we’re lucky) some LMS vendors are listening!

My perfect LMS would…

  • Support the AICC, SCORM 1.2, and SCORM 2004 specifications 100% accurately. I don’t want to deal with the "Oh….we chose not to implement that particular part of the spec."
  • Work great in all modern web browsers (ex. IE 6 / 7, Firefox 2 / 3, and Safari).
  • Support single sign-on (LDAP or otherwise), so learners could use an already existing username and password.
  • Have an open API, in case I wanted to integrate it with my intranet or develop add-on modules.
  • Be extraordinarily easy to use. Common tasks should take no more than a couple mouse clicks. I should be able to teach my grandma how to use the LMS in 5 minutes or less.
  • Be affordable and accessible to any organization, no matter their size or industry. I don’t mind if the price scales up based on the number of users, but the baseline shouldn’t start at $80,000.
  • Have excellent 24/7 support, by phone and email. Crazy, I know.

What else? Let me know!



1. janet - July 23, 2008

Does anyone have experience with any open source LMS? If so, can you share? Thanks.

2. B.J. Schone - July 23, 2008

Hi Janet,

I believe Moodle is the only open source LMS right now. I personally don’t have any experience with it – but I do hope somebody with experience can chime in. I’m anxious to learn about their likes and dislikes…

3. Alan - July 24, 2008

Have you heard of ANGEL from ANGEL Learning? It has just about everything you want but does not officially support Safari.

4. Gary Hegenbart - July 24, 2008

I’m in the midst of choosing an LMS and have thought about this for a few days. Well, I’ve been thinking about it much longer than that. I want something simple that I can use for external training. It seems LMSs are geared at internal training and come with all kinds of features for learning plans and roles and manager approvals and skills matrices and stuff I just don’t need. It would be nice to choose features and pay for only what you need. Simple is better and complex costs too much.

About open source systems, I got a comment on my blog about http://www.efrontlearning.net. I haven’t looked at it, but it is open source.

5. B.J. Schone - July 24, 2008

Hi Alan,

The ANGEL LMS looks like it certainly has some great features, but it looks like it is geared toward K-12 and higher education. So it may work for some people, but maybe not so much for corporate customers. (Somebody please correct me if I’m wrong.)

Hey Gary,

I couldn’t agree more: Many LMSs offer too much complexity, and they even manage to do that poorly. And I would also prefer the option of only paying for modules you use. Keep us updated on your LMS quest on your blog.

6. Marc - July 25, 2008

I’d want to have the LMS include logical pathing capabilities such that if a learner must take Class A and Class B, and she registers today for Class A, she is given a choice of class A on on August 1, September 1, or October 1, then depending on which Class A offering she chooses, her Class B options will be filtered automatically.

Class A: August1:
Class B August 10
Class B September10
Class B October 10
Class A: September 1:
Class B September10
Class B October 10
Class A: October 1:
Class B October 10

7. B.J. Schone - July 25, 2008

Hi Marc,

Good call. I’ve also seen many LMSs fall down when you have a class that spans multiple days or is split up across a time period (ex. one day a week throughout a month). The usual workaround for this is to have multiple class entries in the LMS, such as Network Engineering – Session 1, Network Engineering – Session 2, etc. Reporting becomes more of a chore when this happens, too.

Thanks for your input!

8. Ken Allan - July 26, 2008

Kia ora!

Spot on about LMS needing to be “extraordinarily easy to use”! I’ve found that the design of some learning management systems can present major barriers to learning no matter how well the tutors design their learning resources within it. So amen to that!

Ka kite
from Middle-earth

9. Tracy Hamilton - August 12, 2008

Couple of comments….

Gary: if you can get your hands on the LMS’s you are interested in and be allowed to sample them for a week, DO IT! I was able for 2 systems and it showed me the huge difference in what they each offered. I was only trying to enter in a course and a classroom based course at that (ie: CPR). The ease and options that one system had over the other has lead me to “petition” for a different system and mine’s not even up and running yet.

Marc: I’ve had that kind of issue as well. Trying to put in a class that has 2 days, is offered monthly, never in the same room, sometimes not in the same timeslot. Proving to be a challenging task. The systems I’ve looked at have courses, with sessions in them. But if you set up day 1 as a session and day 2 as a session, as soon as a student has signed up for the first session, they can not sign up for any more. The 2 ways of thinking I have had come to me are KISS (keep it simple and put all the details in the description) and can there be modules created within sessions. This doesn’t seem hard to me, but a little more troublesome for the world of LMS’s that have unlimited teachers, resources, and classrooms.

10. David Hoare - August 26, 2008

Moodle’s the way to go. It’ll do it all (and if it doesn’t out of the box, there’s a host of brilliant developers working on it constantly, and they’re always developing new features)
It can be complex to setup (especially for non-IT folks) and it’s this reason I started classrunner.com (I am a technology teacher in Ontario) – to help teachers bring online learning environments into their classes in an easy and affordable way. Many teachers I know have wanted to extend their class online, but have balked at the complexity. I’m just hoping to provide a simple, friendly option, giving teachers what they need, without any headaches.
I use moodle, and with the right templates, I can give teachers as much (or as little) functionality as they want.
Anyway – I highly recommend moodle.org.

11. steve nguyen - September 19, 2008

hi BJ. I just noticed this article from a few months back and felt like commenting…

my perfect LMS would function like Netflix, Amazon, and Delicious. it would only take a few clicks to enroll into and/or launch a course. i could rate and comment on courses i have taken. this would give feedback to the learning organization on what courses are good/bad, but also give other learners insight into which courses are good/bad.

the LMS would be smart enough to recommend courses to me based on courses i’ve already taken or based on my job title.

i could recommend courses to other people.

my learning plan would be like the netflix “queue”. so i could add courses to my learning plan and be automatically notified, if it’s ILT, of when a new class is scheduled.

12. B.J. Schone - September 19, 2008

Great suggestions, Steve. I wonder…who will be the first LMS company to provide an interface like this? I would love to see it happen. It’s too bad the LMS market seems to follow instead of lead when it comes to user interface design!

13. Nancy MacGregor Hill - September 24, 2008

take a look at the Udutu Teach and Learn on Facebook. Its free, and pretty much what you are describing.

14. Levi Bennett - December 15, 2008

Anyone have any work arounds for using Safari with Angel?

15. Randy Kohltfarber - January 6, 2009

To anyone interested. We have been working toward a different take on the traditional LMS. We have developed our Convergence Training Viewer to work like iTunes. In standalone mode it has an integrated catalog where you can download titles and try them for free for 5 days. If you want to purchase then you buy a serial number and register each piece of content individually. Content is encrypted and stored locally and there is even an update feature that allows users to search for new version of courses and replace them when they are ready.

Our next step (which we are almost done with) includes tying the Convergence Training Viewer into a backend LMS system (Convergence Server). This will allow you to use either our Training Viewer or a web front end as the client. The nice thing about the Viewer is that with local delivery we don’t have to worry as much about bandwidth. We got tired of being limited by bandwidth issues, and that has been one of the driving forces behind this effort.

Would love to hear any feedback from anyone who wants to try it out.


Randy Kohltfarber – Product Director

16. Rupali - July 27, 2009

I want to knoe about the free LMS if any available

17. B.J. Schone - July 28, 2009

Moodle is a free LMS, and you can try Udutu Teach and Learn on Facebook.

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