Reader Mailbag July 23

LMS features & support for enrollment, how to interpret SARA gutting, and more

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Like a light switch, the state of Arizona decided on June 21st that summer should mean the end of our cool spring and the return (with a vengeance) of heat to balance the weather out. Thankfully we have three LMS user conferences coming up in July that Jeanette Wiseman, Glenda Morgan, and I are tag teaming to cover - D2L Fusion in Anaheim July 12 - 14, Anthology (Blackboard) Together in Nashville July 17 - 19, and InstructureCon in Denver July 26 - 28. The benefits of these conferences go beyond not being in Arizona, as they provide a great opportunity to have impromptu conversations with institutional users as well as hearing from company leadership. Reply to this newsletter if you’re interested in connecting.

Speaking of email, I’d like to share a couple of recent Q&A discussions I’ve had with subscribers recently, either from replies to the newsletter, direct email, or Twitter and LinkedIn DMs. These span the topics of LMS feature trends as well as trying to understand the motivations for recent regulatory actions. The Q&A may be slightly edited to protect the innocent.

Q1) Trends in LMS Features

My questions are: 1. What kinds of features or functionalities do you see trending for LMS's, both in terms of what colleges are looking for, and what changes LMS's are making? 2. Many colleges are concerned about retention and declining enrollments. What are a few examples of successful features that LMS's have that address these issues?

1. For the past dozen years, the defining features of academic LMSs have been intuitive design, cloud hosting & scalability, and open integrations to 3rd party apps. Those trends remain, but what is emerging is a need for LMSs that make it easier for institutions to go beyond the for-credit course dictated by strict academic term definitions. In other words, support for non-matriculated students in noncredit and feeder programs, courses that can start multiple times per term and adjust length based on learner needs, smooth registration and payments, and open course catalog. A longer-term trend has been the increase in master learning and competency-based education offerings (which overlap with the noncredit stuff to a degree, pun intended). I'm sure we'll see a bunch of AI-related news this summer at the LMS conferences, but I consider that mostly positioning and marketing rather than significant feature trends.

2. The noncredit, registration & payment stuff in answer #1 is also an example of LMS companies trying to help institutions with enrollment & retention. Another example is early-alert systems, whether AI-based on simply visualization-based features. In other words, LMSs can make it more apparent, at an earlier date, that instructors and advisors need to reach out to specific students. And increasingly the LMSs have CRM-type features to make this segmented communication easier.

Q2) Motivation Behind Gutting of State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement

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