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Do I still need an LMS?

A Learning Record Store (LRS) can be seen as replacing some part of the Learning Management System (LMS), and some are asking whether they still need their LMS alongside their LRS. Here’s what you need to consider.

The LMS provides a lot of features that the LRS doesn’t

LRSs and LMSs are very different products. Whilst your LRS will likely replace and go beyond the reporting and analytics capability of your LMS, there are many other functions of the LMS that aren’t included in an LRS. Some of these include:

  • user management
  • content management and delivery
  • social features
  • activities such as quizzes
  • scheduling events such as face to face training
  • classroom asset management
  • recognising competence, achievement and engagement.

Your LMS may have other features that are important to your business and are not provided by an LRS. If you are considering replacing your LMS with an LRS, you’ll need to decide whether you can do without each feature, or replace it with another tool.

You can use other products to meet your needs

There are some organizations who are choosing to replace their LMS with an alternative solution. In some cases, these organizations are deciding that they simply do not need some of the features that an LMS offers; in other cases they are providing those features in using a range of best of breed products integrated together using xAPI.

Let’s look at the kinds of products you’ll need to consider.

Training Delivery System

A Training Delivery System is any system that delivers training. There could be a lot of variety in how the system might look:

  • It might host content itself or link to externally hosted content.
  • The learner might come to the system to find learning materials, or the system might send content to the learner via email or an app.
  • It might be a large and complex system like an LMS, or something very lightweight.
  • It might be a standalone product or included within another system such as an intranet or website.

With xAPI, you can choose exactly the kind of training delivery system that best suits your organization. Some organizations are using their existing intranet or a WordPress site to deliver learning materials; others are using delivery features built into cloud based authoring tools.

Hosted Activity Providers

In the past learning content has been packaged up into zip files and uploaded to an LMS like a CD being loaded into a stereo. That old way of doing things really isn’t needed needed anymore and content, like music, can be hosted on the internet and accessed by the learner from anywhere. The need for an LMS to host content is rapidly disappearing.

Social Platform

A social platform allows learners to share and learn from one another. Many LMSs have some social features and there are lots of stand alone social platforms to choose from. You might even have more than one social platform in your organization for different purposes.

With xAPI you can track learning activity within a stand alone social platform and analyse that data alongside learning and performance data from other sources.

Informal Learning Record

Not many LMSs provide a mechanism for learners to record the 90% of their learning that is informal. With xAPI you can recognise and support that learning. A personal learning record could support the shift of focus in your L&D offering from formal to informal learning, helping you to move away from the formal LMS.

Credentialing platform

Some LMSs include features to reward learners for engagement or recognise their achievement and competence. This might be through certificates, digital badges. If these features are important to your learning ecosystem, there’s no reason why would couldn’t have an external system that reads learning data recorded via xAPI and awards these certificates, badges and points. Your LRS may even have these features built in.

There is also a role for very sophisticated credentialing systems that go well beyond what an LMS could provide. Such systems pull data from a range of source to compare learner experiences and achievements to behaviours defined in competency and performance frameworks. A competency might incorporate, for example, both knowledge and performance requirements which are evidenced by formal training and workplace performance respectively. The two datasets can be combined for analysis within the LRS.

Learning Record Store

Don’t forget of course that you’ll need an LRS to link these systems together. The LRS will also provide dashboards, reporting and analytics features as described on the ecosystem page.


So, do you still need an LMS? The table below lists the advantages of a central LMS versus a more distributed approach.

Learning Management System Multiple integrated systems
One single system for the learner to log into and find what they need. Single sign on and branding can help to create a seamless experience.
Some elements of the ecosystem (such as the LRS and credentialing platform) may work behind the scenes anyway.
One vendor to work with, potentially reducing commercial complexity. Multiple vendors with different creative ideas.
Fixed features; you get what the LMS provides. Build the solution you need from a variety of best of breed products.
Difficult to replace when your requirements change. Easier to swap out individual components and add or remove products from the ecosystem as your requirements change.
May not be possible to customize and add to. If you have the capabilities, you can add in-house developed tools to augment your solution.
Reliant on the LMS vendor to architect the overall solution based on the needs of the average organization. You have the freedom and responsibility of architecting the overall solution based on the needs of your organization.
Great for providing and supporting formal training. Allows you to include products that support, facilitate and record social and informal learning outside of the LMS.

The biggest difference here is flexibility and dependance on a single vendor. If you need to be able to respond quickly to change and want to create a solution tailored to your organization, then multiple integrated systems may be the best route for you. If you don’t have the capability in house to oversee that overall solution and the elements you need, then an LMS might be the better choice.

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