The learning management system has become the de facto delivery vehicle in the online training and education world. It is popular because it tracks learner activities, manages classes, controls testing activities and allows instructors some level of control. One of the primary limitations of the LMS/LCMS is that learners only use it when they are registered and cannot take their artifacts with them. Another is that the LMS environment does not connect with the learners’ other online environments; like Social Networking Systems, News, Photo Sharing or Blogs. As more learners use the Web for other work and social activities, the walled garden of the LMS becomes less relevant.
I’ve previously discussed why I don’t think that content is king in the online learning world and that community and context are critical in developing learning environments. Well the context sure has changed over the past decade and LMS vendors should start considering how to stay relevant in their field. First of all, there are many competitive open source LMS available for no licensing fees. One way to compete with open source would be to launch a FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) campaign, but this will only work for a certain period of time. You could also lock in your clients with your technology but you need lots of clients in the first place. Or you could sue your competitors, but this requires deep pockets and might even backfire.
A better option is to create your own ecosystem, as Linux has done rather successfully. Another, more pertinent, example is IBM’s Eclipse project which is a collaboration between several proprietary software vendors to create a common development environment.
So what if several LMS vendors got together on a basic open source learning environment and then they competed on adding high-value applications around this open core? Could this create a more sustainable position for future development, without the fear of vendor lock-in, but still providing a profit motive for the private sector? Maybe it’s time to think outside of the box.