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June 20, 2022

Evolution of learning management systems

Organisations have managed learning in one way or another for centuries, but it is the development and proliferation of computing and communications devices that have brought learning management systems to where they are today. Below are just a few of the significant events in the development and uptake of the LMS.

While there have been a number of ground-breaking projects and systems that contributed to computerised learning systems, PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations) is recognised as one of the first. Started by the University of Illinois in 1960, it eventually supported several thousand graphics terminals distributed worldwide and trail-blazed concepts including forums, online testing, instant messaging, remote screen sharing, and multiplayer games.

In 1985, Microsoft introduced Windows as a graphical operating system shell for MS-DOS. While not the first such interface, its rapid adoption across the world in the business and home computing markets brought computing to the masses in a bigger way than ever before, paving the way for products such as the LMS to become accessible to every computer, not just IT specialists.

In 1999, SCORM (the Shareable Content Object Reference Model) was launched by the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative as a set of standards for LMS systems, which are still widely used today. The main versions have been SCORM 1.1, 1.2 and SCORM 2004.

In 2002, Moodle was launched as a free open-source software learning management system written in PHP and distributed under the GNU General Public License. Moodle can be used for blended learning, distance learning, flipped classroom and e-learning in a variety of settings.

In 2007, Apple launched its first generation iPhone and, although not the first smartphone, it established the widespread use of intelligent mobile devices other than laptops, leading to tablets and other devices which freed users from the desktop. This revolution has taken processes such as mobile learning way beyond what was previously possible, bringing video and live conferencing to any individual with an internet-enabled device.

In 2009, the Eucalyptus (Elastic Utility Computing Architecture for Linking Your Programs To Useful Systems) API became available as one the first free open-source cloud technologies. Operation in the cloud is now an essential feature of a corporate LMS.

In 2013, TinCanAPI (or the Experience API or xAPI) was launched as a successor to SCORM. The specification enables learning content and learning systems to work together and records learning experiences in a Learning Record Store (LRS). An LRS can exist within an LMS or on its own.

In 2017, the LMS has developed on the back of the technologies above to become a customisable product that is tailored to an organisation’s specific requirements rather than a set system out of a box. With many systems, a customer can pick and choose the features they want to use and integrate the LMS so that it does not sit as a separate system on a lone PC, but is an integrated element of its IT suite available across the organisation to all employees.

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