Beyond 2020: How eLeaP Redesigned Its LMS for the Future of Workforce Development
By Henry Kronk
November 08, 2019
While the large incumbent learning management systems serving higher education have the resources to frequently develop new features or even acquire other companies outright to add to their stack, everyone else has a series of tough decisions they need to make. eLeaP, an LMS developed by the Louisville-based Telania, has won long-time clients in compliance industries, life sciences, and elsewhere with its careful adherence to federal regulations and substantial eCommerce features. The LMS just completed its fifth redesign since launching in 2005.
Disclosure: Telania LLC. owns eLearning Inside.
“This time around, we really wanted to lay the foundation for what the system truly can be in its next iteration,” said Telania founder and CEO Don Weobong. “It wasn’t just a visual upgrade, it was a process of us asking, ‘How can we build an infrastructure that will support machine learning, AI, and a mobile workforce that is trending younger? How can we ensure that the technology is going to be able to support training and learning going into the future?”
That process, however, is hardly straightforward. The eLeaP design team had to determine their upgrade priorities, how they would go about making the changes, and when.
eLeaP Mobile Use Has Been Around 25%. But Weobong Expects That Will Increase Significantly with the New Version.
One big priority for eLeaP V5 was mobile capabilities.
Don Weobong: Mobile is trending up, there’s no question about that. It’s kind of a chicken and egg situation. Many systems truly aren’t mobile-capable, and so people don’t enjoy using the mobile version. So you have lower usage and you can make the case that, ‘Well, I don’t have that many people using my LMS via mobile, so I don’t need to provide it.’ Well, the reason could very well be that it’s difficult to use and it doesn’t look good.
Almost every LMS and other edtech service might be mobile responsive. But that can mean simply resizing the front-end UX for smaller screens. For eLeaP V5, however, the Telania design team completely revamped the system for both mobile device and tablet use.
Weobong: With many LMS, the features are not actually designed for touch versus click, right? Those are two different interactions. We needed to make the call and realize that our V4 worked ok in mobile. But we didn’t really build it as a mobile system.
In the end, eLeaP decided to build essentially a new native version of its LMS for mobile use and yet another for tablet as well. But coming around to this choice was not easy. It involved investing heavily on features that are currently not being used by most eLeaP learners. Weobong says that mobile usage of eLeaP for the last few years has ranged between 20% and 25%. But in the last six months, it’s shot up to 30% and has yet to fall back.
Weobong: People are definitely trying it out and using it. But it’s not a 50-50 split. I suspect, however, that within the next 24 months, that number is going to go up pretty substantially. As users see the new system and how it works in mobile, with a mobile-first design and features, the experience will be vastly improved.
We have to traverse two different routes: we’re the platform provider but then we also recommend and advise customers on how to create content that would work for their audience and how our platform can support it.
These design decisions, therefore, are partially informed by data, partially informed by pedagogy and where the industry is going, part gamble, and part leap of faith. What’s more, this predicament is hardly unique to eLeaP and Telania.
LMS and Edtech Development Must Anticipate the Future Before It Arrives
eLearning and education powered at least in part by digital technology is subject to this careful design process that has one foot in the past and the other in the future.
On the other hand, failing to take the future of edtech and education into account is a surefire way to reinvent the wheel.
Weobong: I regularly attend conferences and used to sit on the board of the Association for Talent Development here in Kentucky, and that is almost a constant refrain. A lot of people outside of edtech want to know if their eLearning developers and instructional designers aren’t just creating smaller versions of a slide deck and then saying it’s a mobile experience.
It comes down to, unfortunately, funds and money. You have to spend the resources. Lot’s of companies are realizing that their mobile use for compliance training is way up, but their old system isn’t working. So they need changes fast. But it comes down to the famous saying: ‘Do you want it cheap, or do you want it fast?’ You can’t have both. And that really applies to the training space.
“Do you want it cheap? Or do you want it fast?”
But at the same time, LMS developers can’t see the future. They can’t perfectly envision how educators will use their software. There is still an element of ‘if you build it, they will come.’
Weobong: Industries that are more compliance-heavy utilize our system a lot. We’re also seeing a growing customer base in the life sciences industry. A lot of them need to comply with 21 CFR Part 11. Many have a few hundred employees, are growing, and also have multiple offices or a distributed workforce.
But when we started 16 or 17 years ago, I would have never guessed we would have appealed to these companies. I thought we were going to target a very different customer base compared to who actually ended up using our software. So you can do all the planning in the world. But the marketplace will partially decide who will benefit from your product. I’ve been humbled.
Besides redesigning for a native mobile experience, eLeaP V5 has dozens of new and upgraded features, like revamped data and analytics capabilities, assessments, and features that also support in-person instruction. At this point Weobong is split between waiting to see how eLeaP usage will change and grow with the new version, and looking ahead toward V6.
Weobong: We’ve been literally blessed to still be a top system and continue to do what we do. When we get a chance to pay back that trust and that that support with better features, simpler features, and newer designs, it’s a win-win all the way around.
It allows us to continue to push the envelope with our team to see how can we continue to improve. It’s also very validating. Our customers are continuing to get value out of our system, given all of the choices out there. Many have stuck with us for 10-15 years. Why is that? Well, it’s because there are some things that we do very, very well.
As a tech company, sometimes we really get our heads in the cloud about the systems we make. But it comes down to really basic business principles and our values. You know, what do you stand for? So that’s that’s part of what makes this exciting. I’m personally very proud of the work that we’ve done.