Icons of LMS, a graduation cap over a laptop, and other learning icons.

From LMS to NGDLE: the acronyms of the future of online learning

Is an LMS enough or do you need more?

Just a few years ago, educators were excited to use a robust learning management system (LMS) in which course materials, class discussion boards, and grade information could all be arrayed within a single system. By 2014, 99 percent of universities had an LMS in place and 74 percent of faculty felt they were useful instructional tools.

Now, it appears that an LMS is not enough!

As LMSs have advanced and new technologies are appearing in classrooms at the collegiate and PK-12 levels, the LMS is beginning to merge into the digital learning environment (DLE). The DLE encompasses not only the traditional domains of the LMS but expands to include greater personalization, advising, and more robust analytics.

The future of online learning

According to the EDUCAUSE initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the DLE should be an LMS core, around which other functions can be incorporated. Sort of like adding additional “Legos” to a core Lego statue. The “Lego” approach to moving towards a next-generation digital learning environment (NGDLE) allows for more flexibility. These “Lego” bits are sometimes known as a portion of the total Learning architecture (TLA) to create specifications that allow learning tools to integrate into the LMS to provide additional functionality.

Related: How Universal Design for Learning can help the LMS reach every learner

Each of these “Lego” add-ons may be a stand-alone piece of software or a Chrome extension or similar small tool that manages a single function. Each individual tool itself can be often identified under the learning tools interoperability (LTI) standard created by the IMS Global Learning Consortium. Sometimes these tools are also called digital learning tools (DLTs). Both terms represent add-ons to the core LMS.

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