Will LRSs replace LMSs?

Learning Records Stores are gaining traction because of their ability to track and report on informal or unstructured activity. Working with Experience API (also known as Tin Can and xAPI), LRSs provide rich data on learner activity as they move around outside of structured content typically put together and managed within LMSs. This leads some to suggest the days of the LMS are numbered. We’re not so sure.

Here are some interesting comments that Tim Martin from WatershedLRS made at the ATD2015 conference in Orlando.

  • People think of xAPIs capturing a noun-verb-object statement (I read xx article). That’s true, but you can also capture a much richer range of information including the context of the learning (an article within a course of study) and the results from any assessment attached to the activity.
  • One of the complex areas for LRSs is multiple identities. Most people have a work email, personal email, twitter handle, and facebook identity. The LRS needs to track the person, not the profile. It’s an area of development and the tools to do this are becoming much more robust.
  • LRSs are potentially very complex, as are the issues involved in using them effectively. Start with baby steps. Choose one class of activity, scope it, use free tools and see if you can get better than you can out of your LMS.
  • Have a look at www.tincanapi.com as a clearing house of shareware, it also has good background information).

So will they replace LMSs? We think several things will happen.

  • LMSs will pick up their game and accept xAPIs so they too can track informal learning.
  • LRSs are currently focused on managing and reporting data, but a lot of the value of LMSs is providing a portal for learners to manage their own learning and have that then connect to organisation performance management systems. LRSs are currently more focused on gathering, managing and reporting data. We think they’ll start to build out functionality to push into the LMS ‘home base’.
  • Inevitably, as these things always do, the technologies will gradually merge until the distinction becomes irrelevant!

The main thing to do right now is to ensure that, one way or another, you’re moving to a system that does handle xAPI and begin learning about how to utilise this powerful tool in a way that works for what you are trying to achieve.

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