At ELI’s end-of-year webinar in December, Mindwire Consulting’s Michael Feldstein predicted that 2016 would be an eventful year for the LMS. Certainly Feldstein and his partner Phil Hill pay closer attention to the learning management system industry than almost anyone. Indeed, they’ve even launched a new subscription product that offers more detailed analysis about the LMS.

I'm not sure what constitutes "an eventful year." And I’m not sure I would call the LMS a “trend.” I mean, it’s been around in some form or another since at least 1997 (when Blackboard was founded) and perhaps longer (PLATO had some proto-LMS features and it was first built in 1960). It’s rather depressing, no doubt, that education is still having many of the same old conversations about learning management systems, some 55 years after Donald Bitzer’s first work on computer-based education.

But it’s important nonetheless to keep the LMS conversation and the LMS industry on the radar. (Like all the notes I take on this blog, this is just observation that helps me formulate my more in-depth year-end analysis.) There have been several acquisitions – both of and by LMSes – so far this year. There’ve been the promises (always promises) of new product releases. There’ve been some changes at the upper management levels. There’s been at least one high profile outage. And the LMS remains the place around which much data collection occurs for learning analytics software – and that in turn is a trend I continue to watch as well.

An LMS outage this past week at UC Davis (and the media coverage it received while an email outage at the University of Calgary seemed to get very little attention) highlighted the importance of university infrastructure, as well as how much has been outsourced (for better or for worse). Just as I’d like to see more professors and students have a “domain of one’s own” (as an alternative to the LMS), it’s probably worth asking more questions about the broader “infrastructure of one’s own” that schools may or may not be able to support.

The LMS is often positioned by folks, particularly those who find themselves in what I’ll loosely call the “Indie Ed-Tech” camp, as a burdensome if not highly problematic tool. And there has been some push to use something like Slack instead for the communications portion of courses. “Could Slack Be the Next Online Learning Platform?” Edsurge asked in March. Ed reform types keep predicting that higher ed will be "unbundled." Hey, maybe the LMS will be too.

Audrey Watters


Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2016

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