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 are now 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 statistics is available, I am sure that Zoom is not the only software whose usage stats have rocketed in the last two months.
In fact, LMS 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.
If no off-the-shelf LMS solution suits you, you can develop 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. Let’s clarify what is 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.
Such a system should include the following features:
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
Sending notifications and reminders
5. Integration: Your LMS should integrate with other software you may be using, such as:
Video conferencing tool
HR management platform
6. User experience management: Your LMS should be user-friendly by default. Aside from intuitive UI, these are some features you can include:
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The best-known and most popular LMS software 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).
Now, after we have clarified what is LMS software and which features it should include, 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 standards you should be aware of:
One: Sharable Content Object Reference Model
SCORM, which stands for Sharable Content Object Reference Mode, is a technical standard introduced by the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative (ADL).
The ADL is a US government-supported program. Established in the early 1990s, it aims to use technology in order to deliver 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 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.
The greatest advantage of SCORM-compliance is accessibility. You can run a SCORM course on any SCORM-compliant LMS.
The main disadvantage is the necessity to store learning content and the LMS on the same server.
SCORM must be the most popular and frequently required LMS standard, 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.
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 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, and at that point, it was oriented towards CD-ROM delivery methods, whereas web-based delivery was added only 5 years later. Therefore, adding a content to an LMS 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 standards, you should know about it because AICC-compliance is commonly required. The best LMS software on the market must ensure 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 wall, 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 totally updated, 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 (e.g. multimedia should have captions)
There should be a possibility for web content to be presented in different ways, including assistive technologies
Users should easily see and hear content
All functionality should be available from the keyboard
Users should have enough time to perceive content
No content should cause seizures or other physical reactions
Users should easily navigate and find content
Text should be legible and understandable
Web content should be predictable
Users should have an opportunity to avoid and fix mistakes
Compatibility with user tools should be maximized
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 at 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 guidelines. Tin-Can redefines the ways some learning experiences are tracked, and these standards have a broad future ahead of them.
In xAPI, the information is passed in a form of statements: subject – verb – object, which answer the question “Who did what?”.
The benefits of using xAPI are the following:
xAPI is simple and flexible.
It covers learning covers beyond traditional LMSs, 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 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, it offers a higher 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.
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 issues its first set of specification in 2002. As of today, there are a lot of guidelines aimed to facilitate and optimize e-learning content management, learner progress tracking and reporting, and interaction between different education administration systems, including LMSs. A lot of these have been adopted in SCORM, xAPI, and other standardization systems.
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 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 the best experience for all 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?
Our company specializes in developing software for education and e-learning. We will gladly help you solve your LMS development challenges! Learn more about the education development services that we offer.