The divorce is over. It’s time to remarry learning and systems


Have you heard the story about the group of developers who despaired about having to observe as many as nine competing and diverse ‘standards’ to create compliant elearning software? They decided to get together and create a brilliant new unifying standard.  Now there are 10 different standards needed…

But seriously folks, dull to the onlooker though they may be, the elearning business is built on the appliance of standards and specifications. They enable us to access what seems to be a bewildering array of tools and applications so we can deliver ever more engaging learning. Except of course that all those tools and applications are also becoming even more diverse and incompatible. What’s really needed therefore is a new standard to make these tools play nicely with each other. Enter stage left the IMS Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) standard.


In a nutshell, LTI establishes a standard way of integrating learning applications, called ‘Tool Providers’ (e.g. content development software, chat apps etc.) with platforms like learning management systems or portals which are called ‘Consumers’. This means external tools can work as if they are native inside the LMS. They become completely ‘interoperable’.

Surely not another standard…

But here’s the thing; IMS LTI has the capacity to be much more than just another standard. The interoperability cause may be one of the most significant issues for learning technology development today – and here’s why. In the last couple of years, we’ve seen the rapid rise of informal learning’ – a development that has led to a world of end-user tools (such as social apps) living in an entirely different universe to the one inhabited by the learning management tools. ‘Learning things’, as an activity, now happens quite happily and successfully without the aid of any corporate system. Theories such as 70:20:10 are the evidence of this. In short, the tools side of elearning has been divorced from the systems side.

But divorce has consequences. If you’re a promiscuous young learning activity, it can be great. No-one to answer to, romping around, unfettered saying and doing what you want. No-one recording what you’re doing or asking difficult questions, even worse, tracking your every activity. There are those, admittedly, that might be jolly pleased about that. But there can be some sad drawbacks to this way of going on. All that exciting learning outside a formal setting makes it difficult to represent it as part of a CPD, qualification or any kind of compliance activity. It means learners might not get reasonably rewarded for their efforts. Reusing useful data that can be valuable to an organisation can also go by the wayside. In short, being able to marry those cool ‘learning things’ up with corporate learning systems, in an old fashioned way, really does still have advantages for an organisation and everyone else involved in the affair.

By really enabling the easy interoperability of your favourite learning tools with a corporate platform, the IMS LTI standard can support learners in how they want and improves the value of an organisation’s underlying learning platform.

There is of course nothing old-fashioned about Netex learningCloud. But it is a good example of a powerful LTI platform. As a compliant, cloud based app, it means that you can integrate any other LTI Tool. And there are plenty of LTI tools around as this list reveals. It has the flexibility and data tools to make even better use of that valuable information captured by your learning tools. That means you can build the kind of systems based on the end user tools that your users and authors really like and want to use. Which has to be a marriage that everyone wants.


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Martin Belton

Martin is a director of Ascot Communications, one of the UK’s leading consultancies working with learning technology organisations. He has presented on stages as far afield as Tokyo and Los Angeles and authored more papers on elearning and IT than he, or anyone else, cares to remember.