Picture of Dean Wilson
Do I need an LMS?
by Dean Wilson - Monday, 11 April 2016, 8:57 AM


From what I can tell, the Adapt framework allows me the opportunity to build solid, customised courses that have lots of flexibility.  

Now, I'm part of a research organisation and it's very important for us that we're able to track users, see when they've completed courses, monitor feedback, etc. I've been told that in order to get this level of reporting, we need an LMS. Is that true? And, if so, what are the implications of this? Any guidance on this will be massively appreciated.

(NOTE: I'm happy to plow lots of time into understanding how all of this works. So if you think I should go off and study a course on using Moodle or something, please do say. I'm not necessarily expecting simple and straight forward answers.)

Many thanks

Picture of Matt Leathes
Re: Do I need an LMS?
by Matt Leathes - Monday, 11 April 2016, 7:01 PM

Hi Dean

Certainly an LMS will allow you to track when users have completed courses.

It will also allow the courses to store their 'internal state' so that users don't have to complete them all in one 'session' - they can close the course down and return to it at later date, re-starting where they left off last time.

Additionally it will record the scores of courses that contain assessments and allow you to track that data too.

Some LMSes also have the ability to track users' responses to individual questions - this data can be very helpful in looking at trends in your content, for example if lots of users are getting a particular question wrong it could be that the portion of the course that explains that particular learning point needs amending to be clearer.

Of course you could do all of this without using an LMS - but you would have a lot of work to do to set all this up, so why bother when many LMS products exist already that do all of this - and more!

The most obvious immediate implication is that you're going to want to do some thinking about what you might need and some research into what's available so that you can start to draw up a 'shopping list' of requirements.

Picture of Dean Wilson
Re: Do I need an LMS?
by Dean Wilson - Monday, 11 April 2016, 10:13 PM

Thank you Matt for your thorough and helpful answer. 

I have started to investigate options now as you've recommended, and I seem to have arrived at a fork in the road. I am led to understand that Tin Can API is a set of standards that enables even better reporting than SCORM. And the level of reporting that is promised through tin can api seems perfect for my organisation.

Although Adapt doesn't currently support tin can, if I were to use a SCORN compliant LMS, would that mean that, when/if Adapt becomes Tin Can API compliant, I could merely switch over? I don't know anything about these technologies beyond what I'm reading so please forgive any misunderstandings here. 



Picture of jPablo Caballero
Re: Do I need an LMS?
by jPablo Caballero - Tuesday, 12 April 2016, 10:34 AM

Hi Dean,

Yes, the TinCan API (now called Experience API or xAPI -some of us prefer this term-) provides a different, in some ways more advanced way to track learning activities and events. Notice that I used the word "track" instead of "report", because they are two different things.⋅

In the context of web learning content, the things that happen as a student interacts with the content (navigation, answering questions, etc.) are detected by the content itself (so to speak)... but that information must be stored in some 'central' place, so we can store, aggregate and analyze info from many users. Therefore, aside from the content itself, tracking learning data requires some server-side component (the 'central' place). In the case of SCORM, you can think of the LMS as that server-side piece that will store that data (and will do many other things as well). In the case of xAPI, that server-side system is called a Learning Record Store (LRS).

SCORM and xAPI are different approaches and have different characteristics. In Adapt, the core team are working on a xAPI plugin, there's a gitter room where developers talk about this subject, so anyone can check out what's going on. Also, some moths ago I wrote a plugin for tracking in general, and it does xAPI tracking as a specific type of tracking. I'm planning to revisit it soon, improve it and document it better. So, I'd say that one way or another... I'd say that Adapt will be able to cover your needs. It might even be feasible to 'switch' SCORM tracking to xAPI tracking relatively easily in Adapt... but be careful, as I said, it's not only a matter of changing what the learning content is doing (how it's tracking user interactions/completion etc.) ... there's also your server-side component, how you deploy your content, your overall tracking needs/strategy, etc. So, all in all, I wouldn't say it will be simple to switch from SCORM to xAPI (even if in terms of Adapt content is relatively easy) .
Certainly, with xAPI you can track many more things than with SCORM, in fact you can track 'anything'... so it can be more powerful, but it can also be more challenging to define (as learning designers, as an organization...) what needs to be tracked and what questions you want to answer from your training data. LRSs usually provide some analysis/visualization tools, but this depends on the LRS itself. The main role of the LRS is to store 'statements' (in xAPI parlance, a "subject+verb+object construct that indicates that 'somebody did something')... so any analysis/visualization tools etc. are NOT part of the standard, they are implementation-specific. There's a fairly popular open-source LRS called Learning Locker (also with a commercial/hosted version)... and there are some commercial ones (GrassBlade, Wax LRS, Watershed, YetAnalitics...)

SCORM is a standard that has been in use for many years now. xAPI is more recent. In between there is something called CMI5, wich is a specific 'profile' of xAPI to be used with traditional LMSs, this is what we could call 'the next SCORM'.

I'd be inclined to tell you that xAPI -as a tracking mechanism- will be more flexible in the long run, but I must say that, even though SCORM is an older standard, the approach SCORM + traditional LMSs is very widely used (has been used for many many years), LMSs provide capabilities that might be of interest to your organization, and is an approach that makes sense in many envionments. Also, many traditional LMSs are adding LRS capabilities so they can play both roles.

So, the decision to go with one or the other, if you need to make that decision now, really depends on the needs of your organization... what tracking needs you have now and how those needs will evolve...

Picture of Matt Leathes
Re: Do I need an LMS?
by Matt Leathes - Tuesday, 12 April 2016, 12:24 PM

I think the question you need to ask yourself here is: how detailed do you need your reporting to be? xAPI does indeed give you the option to do incredibly detailed reporting, but will you actually use all that data? Do you run the risk of actually having too much data? Not just from a reporting point of view but also from a technical point of view - if you've got 10K users each generating 100-odd xAPI statements per course then that's potentially a million rows of data needed per course...!

One area I can see it being useful is in showing a course's CHURN rate. At the moment, if you have a lot of users who are not completing a course it's pretty hard to see any detail of what they've done because generally SCORM doesn't track to that level (it actually can do but requires that the LMS supports cmi.objectives and unfortunately most don't) - so you can't see if there's a common pattern to where users are dropping out.

It's also worth noting that xAPI is NOT a replacement for SCORM - so you can actually run the two side-by-side if you want i.e. have a SCORM course on an LMS that's also sending xAPI statements to an LRS.

Picture of Helena Smith
Re: Do I need an LMS?
by Helena Smith - Wednesday, 12 October 2016, 8:51 PM

We are in the process of changing our LMS so in the meantime, I would like to publish to a different area such as a Google Docs? (I am not sure if that would work). We want to track users, and right now I would like to use this as a back-up.  Can I add users to the course directly? 

Picture of Matt Leathes
Re: Do I need an LMS?
by Matt Leathes - Thursday, 13 October 2016, 10:13 AM

If you want to track users you would need a SCORM-conformant Learning Management System in order to be able to use the out-of-the-box tracking methods available in Adapt.

Other methods of tracking users are possible but all require customisation of Adapt.

User/course management is the responsibility of whatever hosts your course content.

I'm guessing you mean Google Drive rather than Google Docs. I have never tried running an Adapt course from Google Drive so I have no idea whether that would even work but certainly it would provide no mechanism for tracking users. You'd be better off looking at something like SCORM Cloud as an interim option.

Picture of Will Philips
Re: Do I need an LMS?
by Will Philips - Monday, 5 June 2017, 12:08 PM

Yes I will say, because in this case LMS will be great help for you. LMS not only streamlines your work but also makes it exciting with its varied features, such as:

Organizes eLearning content in one location.
Instead of having your eLearning content spread out over different hard drives and devices, you can store all of your eLearning materials in one location. This reduces the risk of losing important data and makes it easier to create your eLearning course. Every member of your eLearning team can also access the information if you’re using a cloud-based Learning Management System, thanks to the fact that it’s all stored on the remote server. This makes Learning Management Systems a natural fit for online collaboration.

2. Provides unlimited access to eLearning materials.
Once you upload your eLearning course materials onto the LMS and publish them, your audience has unlimited access to the information they need. Even those who are on the go can login to the eLearning platform via their smartphones and tablets, so that they don’t have to wait until their next online training session to develop skills and perfect work-related tasks. This is one of the main reasons why a LMS is essential for global audiences in different time zones.

3. Easily tracks learner progress and performance.
The best Learning Management System gives you the ability to keep track of learner progress and ensure that they are meeting their performance milestones. For instance, if an online learner is not able to successfully complete an eLearning scenario, you can offer them supplemental resources to improve their performance or learning behaviors. Most Learning Management Systems feature reporting and analytics tools that also allow you to pinpoint areas of your eLearning course that may be lacking, as well as where it excels. If you discover that many of your online learners are struggling throughout a specific online lesson, for example, you can assess the eLearning content and make modifications if necessary.

4. Reduces Learning and Development costs.
A Learning Management System gives you the power to completely do away with instructor travel costs, online training site rentals, and printed eLearning materials. Your online learners can carry out all of their training online, which means that you can save a sizable sum on your Learning and Development budget. For example, you won’t have to worry about printing out 500 manuals and booking a hotel room for your instructor, because all the information your online learners require is right in the LMS.

5. Reduces Learning and Development time.
A Learning Management System can even reduce online training times, thanks to the fact that it gives online learners only the information they need in a direct and organized manner. Instead of having to sit through a lengthy half-hour online training course, online learners can simply click on the online modules they need and absorb the knowledge in a fraction of the time. They can also assess their understanding by taking online exams or quizzes, participate in interactive scenarios and simulations, and watch eLearning videos that highlight complex processes or tasks.

6. Keeps organizations up-to-date with compliance regulations.
If your organization must stay up-to-date with current compliance regulations, then a Learning Management System can be an invaluable tool. Compliance laws chance on a regular basis, and updating a traditional course to reflect these changes can be a time-consuming chore. However, using a corporate Learning Management System gives you the ability to add new compliance standards to your online training course within a matter of minutes. As such, your corporate learners can always be aware of the latest compliance rules that they need to be aware of, so that your organization can avoid costly penalties. In addition, you have the power to ensure that every employee is on the same page when it comes to expectations and company policies, which boosts customer satisfaction and decreases employee turnover rates.