Since the mid-1990s, learning management systems (LMSs) have been ubiquitous in business, academia, and government. Although some think contemporary trends such as informal learning are triggering the demise of the LMS, Steve Foreman, in his book The LMS Guidebook: Learning Management Systems Demystified (Association for Talent Development, 2017), discusses the role of the LMS in the modern performance ecosystem.

Foreman is a consultant and principal at InfoMedia Designs. A recognized LMS authority, he has helped many organizations evaluate, select, implement, and operate learning management systems. In a recently published Guild Research report, Trends in Learning Technology, he examined how L&D is integrating newer technologies into existing learning platforms.

Despite numerous challenges, Foreman insists that the LMS is still a necessary partner. “People have been writing stories about the death of the LMS for many years. The LMS is no longer the dominant technology, but it’s still a critical technology for learning and development,” he tells Learning Solutions.

Part of the reason is that the LMS is unrivaled when it comes to handling courses. “Many L&D organizations are well-oiled machines for producing courses, and they need an LMS to deliver and track those courses,” Foreman says. “The LMS is here to stay.”

The LMS Guidebook: Learning Management Systems Demystified

Foreman makes a compelling case for the learning management system in his book. Financially, he notes that organizations are still bullish on them. “A 2016 study by MarketsandMarkets estimated the LMS market to have been worth $5.22 billion in 2016 and forecasts that it will grow to $15.72 billion by 2021,” he states.

The industry has been flooded with new products, which can be confusing for buyers. Foreman’s primary motivation for writing the book is to help L&D professionals successfully navigate what has become a very complex topic.

“I’ve been working in this field for many years and have found that there is a lot of confusion in the marketplace,” Foreman says. “I did a survey with The eLearning Guild on learning management system evaluation selection several years ago, and I was surprised to find out that some organizations weren’t sure what an LMS was.”

He explains that there are three distinct types of LMS products, boasting different features, functionalities, and use models. “There are LMS products that work as virtual classrooms, or an extension of the physical classroom where students can meet online with their instructor. There are the types of LMS products that corporations tend to use where they have a catalog of courses employees can take. And then there are LMS products with built-in authoring tools to create content,” he says.

Foreman’s comprehensive guidebook begins with the basics. He defines what an LMS is and how it works. He describes the differences between corporate, academic, and learning content management systems, and compares an LMS to an LRS (learning record store.) He discusses commercial versus open source LMS products, delving into the pros and cons of each.

Foreman then shares best practices for selecting, implementing, and operating an LMS, clarifying industry standards and providing guidelines. He offers practical information about how to integrate a new LMS with other systems and how to properly migrate legacy data. Finally, he touches upon the future of the LMS, illuminating the important role it plays in a modern learning and performance ecosystem. The book contains two glossaries—one highlighting technical terms for IT personnel, and another featuring jargon geared more towards L&D professionals.

Who can benefit from this book?

As an independent and respected industry voice, Foreman offers unbiased opinions on systems—noting that some organizations may not require an LMS at all. Learning professionals dipping their toes into the LMS market for the first time will find The LMS Guidebook essential, as will veterans who may be switching platforms for the third or fourth time and don’t want to repeat past mistakes. It will obviously appeal to L&D managers and administrators tasked with selecting and implementing a learning management system; however, IT professionals will also find it useful because Foreman—a tech expert—addresses the many technical issues that may emerge when deploying a new LMS. Finally, the industry is changing, and there is growing consolidation in the LMS marketplace. As such, L&D executives interested in ROI and best practices for LMS strategy will find the book intriguing.

“While choosing and implementing a learning management system is certainly not a life or death situation, your decisions and actions along the way (and the consequences) often make the process seem like one,” writes industry pundit Marc Rosenberg in the book’s foreword, noting that The LMS Guidebook can smooth the process.