The crisis of 2020 has changed the world. One of the spheres affected the most is education — the educational processes in most countries had to be put on hold or moved online. For those teachers who have been mastering their Zoom and Skype skills, managing students remotely is a strenuous task. This is where learning management systems come into play.
Learning management systems, both custom and off-the-shelf ones, are now in higher demand than ever. Although no such statistical report is available, I am sure that Zoom is not the only software whose usage stats have rocketed in the last months.
In fact, such solutions can be used not only in education per se but also in business development and training. After all, even when working remotely, you have to onboard newcomers and train your employees.
However, what should you do if no off-the-shelf LMS solution suits you? Say, the proposed features are not enough or way too much, data security is questionable, or you just do not like the feel of it. You can develop your own solution — the one specifically tailored to your needs.
Bear in mind, however, that there are 5 industry standards that your learning management system should follow. But before jumping into details about these standards, I want to make sure that we are on the same page about why use an LMS.
So, let’s clarify what is a learning management system LMS and why use a learning management system.
What Is LMS Software?
The learning management system (LMS) is a software solution, web, mobile, or desktop, which facilitates the administration, documentation, delivery, and analysis of learning courses, training sessions, tutorials, and other educational programs. One of the first LMS’s was FirstClass, developed by SoftArc for the Open University in the UK in 1990’s—2000’s. The best-known and most popular LMS software of nowadays includes Moodle, TalentLMS, OpenEdx, and Easy LMS. Here, at KeenEthics, we have developed two learning management systems. Check the case studies of SelfLeaders and Education System Platform (unfortunately, we cannot disclose the name).
In any case, a learning management system should include the following features, which would help to maximize the benefits of LMS:
1. Course management: Delivering training courses is the job number one of a learning management system. You should be able to:
Create and edit courses
Create and edit lessons
Create and edit tests and exams
Add and edit content
Add time limits
Track course results
Manage sharing settings
2. Learning portal management: You may want to deliver courses to different groups of people, such as different classes or different company departments. Each group should have their own learning portal. You should be able to:
Create and edit portals
Manage portal participants
Manage content in a portal
Manage learner forum
3. Branding: It should be obvious that your LMS belongs to your educational institution or business organization. You have to be able to:
Change colors, fonts, images
4. Administration: LMS should spare you some routine tasks. It has to be able to:
Analyze and record data
Manage payments (if applicable)
Manage learning portals, learning materials, and learners
Send notifications and reminders
5. Integration: Your LMS should integrate with other software you may be using, such as:
Video conferencing tools, such as Skype, Zoom, or Google Meet
HR management platforms
6. User experience management: Your LMS should be user-friendly by default. Aside from intuitive UI, these are some features you can include:
Would you like to learn more about Gamification and Simulation in learning software?
Check out my recent article “Gamification and Simulation Learning Software: Benefits, Risks, Examples”. It is one of the simplest explanations you will find on the web!
Now, after we have clarified what is learning management system features and benefits, let’s look at what industry standards these should adhere to.
What Are the Industry Standards for Learning Management System Development?
There are 5 industry LMS standards you should be aware of:
One: Sharable Content Object Reference Model
SCORM, which stands for Sharable Content Object Reference Model, is a technical standard introduced by the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative (ADL).
The ADL is a program supported by the US government. Established in the early 1990s, it aims to use technology for the purpose of delivering learning courses faster and at a lower cost. Also, ADL standardization is aimed to ensure interoperability. SCORM is a reference model, which sum ups all their LMS standards and outlines their strategy.
When developing SCORM, ADL aimed to take the best from all the existing specifications. In the following figure, you can see how different standards contributed to SCORM. Meanwhile, technical specifications and guidelines are entirely unique to SCORM.
One of the greatest advantages of learning management systems compliant with SCORM is accessibility. You can run SCORM courses on any SCORM-compliant learning management systems.
The main disadvantage is the necessity to store learning content and the LMS on the same server.
SCORM must be one of the most popular and frequently required LMS standards, so you must make sure that your LMS is SCORM-compliant.
Two: AICC and AGRs
AICC stands for the Aviation Industry Computer-Based Training Committee. This organization has issued different sets of technical standards for online courses in aviation. The word “aviation” should not mislead you — these standards are applicable to all other industries as well. These sets of guidelines are called AGRs — AICC’s Guidelines and Recommendations.
The most popular and often requested AGRs are AGR-006 and AGR-010. The former regulates all the computer-based training, while the latter refers to exclusively web-based learning courses.
The primary advantage of AICC learning management system standards if compared to SCORM is the opportunity to store learning content and an LMS on different servers.
At the same time, the disadvantage is an overly complicated data structure. AICC was introduced in 1993. At that point, it was oriented towards CD-ROM delivery methods, whereas web-based delivery was added only 5 years later. Therefore, adding content to learning management systems is a complex, multiple step process.
For more about AICC guidelines, you can read in the following document.
Despite the rumors of AICC’s demise and the fact that these guidelines have been outdone by newer LMS standards, you should be aware of these guidelines because AICC-compliance is commonly required. The best LMS software on the market ensures it.
Three: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
WCAG, which stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, is a set of technical guidelines developed by the World Wide Web Consortium. The idea of it is to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities. Web accessibility laws have been passed in a number of countries around the world, including the United States.
The WCAG standards cover all the web content, including natural information (text, images, videos, and sounds) and technical information (code, markup).
The 1.0 version was introduced in 1999. In 2008, the guidelines were fully revised, and the second version was developed. The most recent 2.1 updates were published in 2018.
According to WCAG 2.1, web content should be:
Non-text content should have a text alternative. For instance, multimedia should have captions.
There should be a possibility for web content to be presented in different ways without losing meaning or structure. For instance, content should not be restricted to a single device orientation, should it be portrait or landscape.
Users should easily see and hear content. For instance, all fonts should be legible and not too small when the page is at 100% zoom.
All functionality should be available from the keyboard. For instance, there should be a possibility to scroll the page with up and down arrow keys.
Users should have enough time to perceive content. For example, if you include animations on your website, make sure that they are not so fast as to confuse a user.
No content should cause seizures or other physical reactions. For instance, flashy banners may trigger an epileptic seizure.
Users should navigate and find content easily. For instance, the key pages should be one click away from the home page.
The text should be legible and understandable. Not only the fonts should be readable but the text itself should be written in a clear for your target audience manner.
Web content should be predictable. Use the common UX principles not to confuse or frustrate your user. For instance, “Yes” should be a green button, and “No” should be a red button — not vice versa.
Users should have an opportunity to avoid and fix mistakes. For instance, add “undo” and “redo” buttons. Also, show warnings when the users are doing something wrong.
Compatibility with various user agents, including assistive technologies, should be maximized. It is a more technical requirement, which is related to how the page is marked up and programmed.
Following these guidelines is a must. Not only will it improve the experience of your learners, but also it will spare you a great deal of legal issues.
You can learn more about these guidelines on the official W3C website.
Four: xAPI or Tin-Can
AICC and SCORM have built the foundation of online learning. Tin-Can, which is also referred to as xAPI or Experience API, is a more up-to-date and better-developed set of LMS standards. Tin-Can redefines the ways some learning experiences are tracked. This is why these LMS guidelines have a broad future ahead of them.
The most distinctive feature of xAPIis the following: the information is passed in the form of "subject — verb — object" statements, which answer the question “Who did what?”.
The benefits of using xAPI are the following:
xAPI is simple and flexible.
It covers learning concepts beyond traditional LMSs, and the set of available learning activities is more diversified.
xAPI helps to take all advantages of mobile learning, including compass, accelerometer, camera, and other features offered only by mobile devices.
xAPI facilitates the accomplishment of blended learning.
After all, xAPI is a more recently developed set of learning management system LMS standards then SCORM — no surprise it better understands and meets the needs of modern learners and training providers. There are a lot of ways in which xAPI outruns its older competitor. There are a lot more results it can track. Also, it offers better security, can work on mobile devices, and does not require an Internet browser. More about the differences between xAPI and SCORM you can learn at the official xAPI website.
Following xAPI requirements is how you ensure the highest efficiency and security of your LMS software. So, do not hesitate to maximize these LMS benefits.
Five: IMS specifications
IMS Global Learning Consortium is a global nonprofit organization with the mission to advance global learning through the use of technology. Established in 1997, the company issued its first set of specifications in 2002.
As of today, IMS offers numerous sets of guidelines aimed to facilitate and optimize e-learning content management, data privacy, learner progress tracking and reporting, and interaction between different education administration systems, including learning management systems. A lot of these have been adopted in SCORM, xAPI, and other standardization approaches.
What makes IMS stand out is the opportunity to get a certification — an official proof that your LMS software solutions comply with these standards.
Having IMS certification is not necessary, but it will greatly boost the credibility of your product. Here, you can learn more about how to get certified.
Let’s Wrap Up!
You can easily do without following learning management system LMS standards. However, if you want to ensure the best experience for your LMS users and moderators, the interoperability of your learning courses, and in some cases even legal security, you should follow the five LMS industry standards mentioned above.
SCORM and AICC are classic — you should comply with them because most professional users would ask you too.
WCAG is both the best UX for your users and the legal security for you — following this standard is an absolute win-win.
xAPI is simple but effective — it will greatly benefit the performance and security of your LMS.
IMS is credible — IMS-certified software looks trustworthy and authoritative.
Do you need help with LMS software development?
We are not a purely LMS development company — but we do specialize in developing software for education and e-learning. We will gladly help you solve your LMS development challenges! Learn more about the education software development services that we offer.