The elearning industry is on a stable rise with around 9-10% of annual growth and currently generates more than $50 billion in revenues each year. It is no surprise that companies are eager to deploy online learning platforms either to make money or utilize them internally to train employees. However, according to the Brandon Hall Group, most of the companies currently using LMS solutions are quite dissatisfied with services they get both in terms of functionality and the value that these systems deliver. As far as many are contemplating change making and integrating a custom and highly adaptive LMS seems to be a reasonable move.
Today, there are 3 major types of the LMS software on the market: proprietary, partly free and open source. The most popular representatives of each type are Blackboard, Canvas and Open edX, respectively. We will describe all of their benefits and flaws below.
Blackboard, Canvas, and Open edX e-learning platforms
Blackboard is a proprietary LMS platform that has been on the market since 1999. It is distributed under a license and you are able to use the features and modules provided out of the box. On the one hand, this LMS has the most stable and reliable paid technical support, huge and well-organized documentation and is proven to be a good choice for small-to-medium businesses.
On the other hand, Blackboard requires a lot of supplementary software in order to provide full functionality, which results in high monthly expenses. Customization options are also limited.
As you can see, Blackboard might suit companies that have stable business practices, don’t require frequent changes or deep customization, and can afford a decent monthly subscription. Canvas by Instructure positions itself as a “learning management system with features you will actually use”. Their point is that many LMS provide tons of features the users don’t even know about, let alone use. On the contrary, Canvas provides a simple and intuitively understandable set of functions and features, only the ones you will absolutely need. This is supposed to improve the adoption rates and the overall user experience.
However, the cost of deep customization and the lack of specific functionality often results in students and authors dropping Canvas for good.
Read also: Best elearning designs
Open edX is a free open source learning management system built on Python and structured around the xBlock ideology. Courses are constructed from xBlocks that are small separate sections, each containing a complete unit of information. They can be combined with each other in any sequence. Open edX Studio is a powerful course constructor, which contains all the xBlocks currently available, which allows for composing and deploying new courses in mere hours. The major problem with Open edX relates to the technical issues that constantly appear when installing and managing the software. Partly due to this reason, the potential behind it hasn’t yet been realized to the full extent.
However, Open edX can be the most easily customizable solution, which can suit all your needs after correct adjustment.
Should you make custom LMS?
As you can see, all of these e-learning platforms have their flaws and benefits. This leads to another popular solution, you may hire engineers to create an elearning product from scratch (such as Notesmaster we have developed) as it can solve a lot of issues. For example, you can include all the features you need, while avoiding paying for the functionality you will never use.
Thus said, if you want to know how to build a software platform from scratch, you should know what useful modules can be added to your online elearning platform. Here is the list of the modules you can benefit from:
- Virtual studio helps to visualize the outcome of physical or chemical experiments, which is essential for said disciplines, as it allows you to save budgets on purchasing the consumables.
- A telegram bot can be added to course content in order to split it to easily comprehended nodes. Studying each node is coupled with bot interactions like push notifications on course updates and other events, suggestions for new material, notifications on new replies in student collaboration dialogues, grading reports, etc.
- Micro courses contain concentrated knowledge on a certain specific problem and can be completed in less than 6 hours. This aids in the rapid training of employees with the new business practices or solving the issue at hand without getting too much information, most of which is currently unnecessary now.
- Online classrooms working as a video conferences provide team collaboration and direct learning with a tutor.
- Games and simulations contribute to the experiential learning by imitating the real-life problems. It also helps learners to stay engaged.
- Utilizing xAPI will help to collect and analyze all bits of learning experiences across various sources not only within LMS but also in social media and videos.
- Automatic proctoring systems help authors gather grading results and statistics, as well as analyzing students’ performance and adjusting the course content if needed.
- Integrating quizzes to the course content and providing mid-course grading allows for better tracking of students’ progress.
Literally, any module can be built to meet specific requirements, provided you choose the right team to handle development and further customization. We, at DDI development company, utilize both PHP and Python based frameworks to build elearning software. And a lot of third-party applications that support any type of features you may need are also around to deeply customize a product without reinventing the wheel.
What should I know if I want a custom solution?
Prioritize. One of the core issues that companies usually stumble over is a complicated system having a broad range of unused features. They don’t quite contribute to the learning experiences but rather set a higher adoption threshold. Before outlining a tool set try to prioritize the core learning goals you’re planning to achieve.
Invest in cross-platform development. One of the leading reasons to use digital learning is the ability to access learning materials anytime from any device, especially mobile. Making desktop only software will restrict learners from the digital potential. So it’s reasonable to invest into mobile development services as well.
Leverage experiential learning. Most of the existing LMS simply replicate traditional educational techniques. Online classrooms, modules, tests, and case studies reduce costs compared to an old-fashioned classroom learning but they fail to employ new technology available. Games and simulations can introduce truly new experiences that are close to the real-life conditions.
Consider adaptivity. Off-the-shelf systems in most cases are too rigid to embrace rapid changes. Modern LMS should provide means to redesign the entire learning frameworks in order to meet the needs of the actively changing environment.
What are your experiences and difficulties with LMS? Please share and stay tuned.