Learning management systems (LMS) continue to evolve to meet the shifting demands of both businesses and their learners (e.g., customers, employees, partners or gig workers).
Part of that evolution includes the emergence of the headless LMS, which gives learning teams the ability to completely customize the learning experience for their customers, employees, partners or gig workers.
Here's everything you need to know about the headless LMS.
What's a Headless LMS?
A headless LMS gives learning teams complete control over the learning experience for their customers, employees, partners or gig workers. Unlike traditional LMSs, which often restrict what's possible in terms of "front-end development," headless LMSs offer full customization control, allowing the learning team to create a unique and tailored experience for their learners.
What's Possible with a Headless LMS?
Publish Content Across Multiple Channels
One of the greatest advantages of using headless LMS is the ability to publish content across a wide range of channels. This means when you create educational content for your users, it doesn’t have to be confined to just one mode of presentation. A headless LMS acts more like a repository from which content can be managed using a convenient interface.
Once your team designs course content, you can use a headless LMS to optimize it for whichever channels you need. You can deliver your content on your website, via a mobile app, through a chatbot, and more. Or, you can integrate training materials directly into a SaaS application.
This capacity for flexible content delivery makes it possible to provide your users with convenient access to your learning resources no matter where they are and what kind of device they have access to.
Integrate Content Directly into Other Applications
One of the ways you can deliver learning content to your audience using a headless LMS is by integrating the content directly into the other business applications you use. This can make it easy for your learners to complete training and learn how to use new software features.
By integrating the educational content directly into the tools they’re using, you can create a seamless learning experience for them that doesn’t require them to switch back and forth between applications.
Another potential benefit introduced by the ability to directly integrate headless LMS content is learning on-the-fly. With less effective tools, it can be cumbersome to set up training sessions and employees might be hesitant to spend long chunks of time completing training courses.
With a headless LMS, you can integrate learning content directly so that learners can quickly access the modules they need at a moment's notice. This could encourage employees to refresh their knowledge of particular concepts or features as-needed because they can do so very conveniently.
Track Reporting and Analytics
As with any LMS, a headless LMS is obviously a great tool for the purpose of customer and employee education. However, a headless LMS can also be used as a valuable data reporting tool. Learning management software can gather relevant data from users who complete courses in your academy. This data can be exported and analyzed and ultimately used to learn more about your customers. In a way, a headless LMS is a learning tool for businesses just as much as their customers.
You can use the data you gather about learners completing your courses to continually improve your education strategy. Whether you’re using your LMS to provide customers with product education or employees with ongoing training, their behavior in the learning software can tell you a lot about how you can improve their experience.
Deliver Content At Scale
Another of the primary benefits of using a headless LMS is the ability to deliver educational content at scale. The implications of this are most obvious if you’re using learning management software to deliver educational materials to a large customer base or network of partners.
With a headless LMS, you can easily publish your content through any number of different channels to deliver it to the appropriate parties. It’s much easier to stay organized when you’re managing the content from one central hub (the headless LMS) instead of tending to each channel individually.
A headless LMS is just one of several different specific types of learning management systems. A fair LMS comparison would include a variety of other kinds of learning software like SaaS LMS, self-hosted LMS, cloud LMS, or open-source LMS.
A SaaS LMS is a relatively simple type of LMS that lets you use learning software hosted by the provider to create your courses and set up your learning academy. This is a great choice for anyone who wants to get a customer education program off the ground quickly but doesn’t have a ton of resources to invest.
With a SaaS LMS, you essentially get a plug-and-play solution that’s easy to set up and maintain. However, you may have less freedom to customize your academy with some SaaS options, so be sure to choose one that offers ample personalization features.
A self-hosted LMS requires a little more work from you than a SaaS LMS does. Choosing to self-host your LMS involves building your own software from scratch (either in-house or using a third-party developer) and hosting the data on your own servers. The pros and cons of this type of LMS are pretty clear:
On one hand, a self-hosted LMS is completely yours. You have 100% control over the software and its security because it’s being hosted on your servers. You don’t have to rely on someone else’s server to store your LMS data.
However, the drawback is that building your own software and hosting it yourself requires a lot more time and resources than using a SaaS LMS. Creating the software in the first place will require a considerable investment, and maintaining it could only become more expensive as time goes on and the number of data increases.
An open-source LMS is free to be used and customized by anyone. This makes it a very approachable and cost-effective starting point. If you want a highly-customizable platform but don’t have much experience with building online learning software, an open-source LMS could be a good compromise.
The downside to this type of LMS, however, is that you’ll need to have the technical ability to customize an open-source learning management system’s code to your specifications. If you or someone on your team isn’t able to do this, you’ll need to hire a developer to do it for you. It may be more logical for you to simply pay for a custom LMS at this point. However, you could cut development costs by starting from an open-source LMS instead of beginning from scratch.
Lastly, a custom-built LMS is, as the name suggests, the most customizable of your options. In terms of freedom to create whatever kind of learning environment you want, it’s hard to beat software that was built exactly to your specifications.
However, a custom LMS is also the most expensive and time-intensive option, whether you develop it yourself or outsource the project. You may be able to find similar customizability for substantially less money by going with one of the previous types of learning management systems.
You simply have to ask yourself whether the freedom offered by a custom-built LMS is worth the extra time and resources required to create it.