LMSless – A vision for learning in 2020

5th July 2016

I am the creative director of a company specialising in building bespoke design-led elearning. Much of my day is spent thinking about how best to show a particular bit of information or how to lead a user to a particular place in an intuitive and efficient fashion.

I’m an early riser and like to run into work, partly because the busses haven’t started but mainly because it’s a great way to get your mind in order for the day ahead. While I run I allow my mind to wander, which generally means I often think about solutions to problems that I need to solve in my work. With the year coming to an end my mind naturally leads to thoughts of the future. These future wanderings lead me to thinking about what it might be like to learn in 2020. This in turn leads me to LMS-less learning.

In our industry we regularly come into contact with a lot of Learning Management Systems. These traditional LMS’s are in general big clunky bloated user interfaces, that weren’t designed for the user. They were designed with one main purpose in mind, compliance. How can we track whether a user can retain a particular piece of information.

However useful it is to know whether someone is compliant, there is still a lot more that an LMS could and should do. One example would be teaching someone how they can use a particular piece of knowledge in a specific situation. Showing the relevant piece of learning just before or even during the point at which it is needed – allowing the user to then practice the new skill immediately and re-affirming the new learning. If you’re learning how to make a cocktail it’s most useful to watch a video of that cocktail being made and then immediately make one yourself. A learning environment should, amongst many other things, allow you to learn while you practice.

Most of the principles I use daily are not thought about in a traditional LMS. Modern user interface design is all about the user getting to a particular place in as intuitive and timely a way as possible – delivering content in a way that is instantly familiar to its users.

The Problem

So that brings us back to my early morning conundrum, how do we create an effortless user interface for an all-powerful learning management system without it seeming clunky & bloated? An interface that is intuitive to use and effortlessly powerful. One that can be accessed in any situation precisely when it’s needed. The best way is to remove the interface all together.

For a zero UI to work we would need to create an AI system to back it up. The system would need to know you. It would need to deliver the correct material to you when you need it most. The system would react to your needs without you having to think about what it is you need. A system you can talk to. My belief is that by 2020, 5 years time, we will be learning in this way.

The Solution

Essentially this LMSless idea isn’t really less LMS, it’s actually going to be a lot more LMS, it’s just going to feel like there is less LMS for the user.

You can split this system into three parts:

  1. Data Collection – collecting all your learning evidence from many places and sending it to a centralised place.
  2. Analysis – a machine learning algorithm that sorts through all of your historical data, learning patterns and future aspirations to determine the best learning path for you.
  3. Delivery – this needs to be a precisely refined delivery of the right content, at the right time, in the right way, such as having a relevant podcast streamed to your car while you’re on your way to a meeting.

The Technology

We need some key pieces of technology to become more readily available for these ideas to come into fruition.

So how do we get to an LMS-less learning environment. Below is a graphic of some of the key technology needed in order to build a system like this.


A final thought – this approach to learning management, no doubt as with many other machine learning technologies, works better with more data. Therefore the earlier in a persons life this data is collected, the better. Your learning record should be yours and it should move with you wherever you go and whichever job you take. This would then open the door for many other subsystems to emerge.

I will be exploring these thoughts further in the coming year.