Episode 26

What is a LRS? And what does it do for your LMS business?

As your eLearning business grows, it is good to know about the tools and options you will eventually need for expansion. For example, what is a LRS?

First, you should know that a Learning Management System (LMS) like the lifterLMS plugin for WordPress includes enough data storage for the requirements of a moderately sized eLearning business, but at some point a more robust and scalable data warehousing system will become necessary. This is where the LRS comes into play.

A LRS is a Learning Record Store. It’s like a large centralized database where you can store student records and other internal data as well as resources and data from outside of your LMS. This makes data retrieval fast and simple, and also allows for report generation, data tracking, and sharing of information and resources, such as student records, with other institutions.

The vehicle for sharing this stored information with other educational institutions and entities is called an API, or Application Program Interface. This is software that allows for one LRS to connect to another LRS through their LMS interfaces to exchange data and resources directly. The Tin Can API is a commonly used API that works well with eLearning systems and LRS requirements, so compatibility with this software is an important consideration in choosing your LMS.

Some of the information you may need to share at this level includes student records, such as courses completed and final grades, certifications earned, and degree plans for credit transfers. Having a standardized system like the Tin Can API allows most educational providers to share this important data securely and reliably. Obviously it will be important for your eLearning business to be able to share this kind of data seamlessly as well.

If you are not yet at this level of data sharing this is just good information for you to be absorbing for future expansion. Just knowing that LRS and API systems exist and why will give you a head start on being able to use them when you eventually need to. For now a scalable platform like lifterLMS will provide all the storage, reporting, tracking, and data retrieval you require as an eLearning entrepreneur with online courses in a WordPress environment and will be compatible with more advanced applications as you expand.

Remember that you can post comments and also subscribe to our newsletter at LMScast.com for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

And if you’re an already successful expert, teacher or entrepreneur looking to grow, check out the LifterLMS team’s signature service called Boost. It’s a complete done for you set up service where your learning platform goes live in just 5 days.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Joshua Millage:       Hello everyone! We’re back with another episode of LMScast. I’m Joshua Millage and I’m joined with Christopher Badgett. Today, we’re going to be answering some of the more technical definitions that you might come across when you’re researching an LMS.

LMS stands for Learning Management System. We’re active in that space with our lifterLMS plugin, which is a WordPress plugin, that allows you to take WordPress and create a learning management system. Today, we’re going to be talking about something that works hand in hand with that, which is an LRS.

Chris, tell us what that acronym means and why it isn’t may be important to some of our listeners.

Chris Badgett:           All right. This is where it gets a little heavy in the eLearning space and you may be graduating from being a solo entrepreneur and getting a little more institutional, or trying to have differences and just talk to each other. You’re basically getting a little bigger and your needs start changing. One of the things we’ve noticed with the lifterLMS plugin and with our clients in the eLearning space is that over time people’s needs tend to get pretty accustomed.

One of those needs is to be able to store data that happened from the learning environment and maybe collect that data from different places. Maybe there’s multiple LMSs in action and you want to store data in one place, either for reporting or just to house that data, which you could do all types of things with. That’s what a Learning Record Store is as opposed to the Learning Management System, which is kind of the front-end delivery of the educational content. The Learning Record Store is the house for all the data. Some of that data could come from a Learning Management System, some of it could come from even like a live event. Data could come from all kinds of places and then it can be stored in that LRS.

Joshua Millage:       Got it. Chris, just so the listeners understand, what we’re talking about here is an advance topic like you said and so I don’t want people who are just starting out, just trying to create a course online to think that this is something that they automatically need. I personally don’t feel like it is. It’s more of an advance thing. You’re probably a larger business or maybe an educational institution, that type of person who’s going to be utilizing this. Am I correct in thinking that?

Chris Badgett:           Absolutely. I mean, you can grab data from LMS like an online Learning Management System with Lifter or any other Learning Management System solution. You can also be pulling data from a virtual world or a game or these in-person events, when someone’s recording your attendance that data can go into the LRS. It’s far more complex situations where that reporting and that data integrity and trackings are really important.

Joshua Millage:       Right on. That’s awesome. I think this is something that as people grow, I see a progression happening where someone who says … maybe he’s an expert in local marketing, local business marketing and as he grows as an eLearning education entrepreneur, he gets more credibility and then a college comes along and says, “Hey, we want to take your information and we want to actually put some accreditation around it so that if people come to your course online and take your course, we want that to actually count as credits in our degree.” That is where an LRS really makes sense because he’s going to need to take that data and pipe it through to their records store, their LRS system. Just to give people a use case as I understand it and again, I’m always learning. Chris here is our in-house expert.

Chris Badgett:           When it comes to the Learning Record Stores and the Tin Can API and things like that, I’m still learning too, but I have been around it a bit. We definitely hear it a lot with the lifterLMS community. There’s a section of the group that is interested in compatibility with the Tin Can API or different types of Learning Record Store systems, whether it’s on your LMS or externally somewhere else.

Joshua Millage:       Right. Right. Absolutely. I think it’s really useful. Chris, next episode, we’re actually going to dive into what the Tin Can API is. Can you give us a little preview, just high level, like what is that, because that’s really important when we’re talking about an LRS?

Chris Badgett:           Absolutely. The Tin Can API is essentially a way to communicate through statements that a learning activity happened and send that statement to the Learning Record Store that records that data. An API is kind of like a way for different softwares or technologies to talk to each other. The Tin Can API is kind of like that tunnel between that LMS, like this dude completed this course and that’s like a statement that goes to the LRS.

One of the things that’s been our goal here at LMScast is we want to get tried and true Tin Can API expert on the show and really unpacking and getting the great detail with it. If anybody who listens to this who considers yourself a Tin Can API or experienced API expert or who wants to make an introduction, we’d love to do that we’d love to have that person on the show.

Joshua Millage:       Absolutely. I think the thing that I want to say is to kind of make it even simpler is I’ve always looked at it as like a telephone communication system. Like the LMS would call the LRS via the API and that API, the Tin Can API would be the connection between the two. I would use the API and say, “Hey, we’ve got Chris’ record for you. He aced this quiz, put it in his profile as acing the quiz in your LRS,” and that’s just a simple way that of all the technical things that I’ve read that’s how I understand it. I think that it’s pretty accurate as to what it does. It’s a standard though, so it’s a way of standardizing the industry so that a bunch of different LMSs can communicate with a bunch of different LRSs.

It’s exciting things, man. I mean, we’re on such of I think the dawn of this revolution. I don’t think we’re that far into it and these things are shifting. I remember when I was a young lad, USB was being questioned as a standard. Now we don’t even question it. There was other players out there; there was FireWire and there was all of these ways of communicating. As time went on, things solidified.

I think right now, what I see is the Tin Can API being the true winner, but who knows? Who knows what’s around the corner? We’ll keep everyone up to date on that though as time progresses.

It’s exciting to do this podcast and share what we’re learning with the community and we’re always excited to hear your thoughts. You can find this episode at LMScast.com and I would encourage all of you to go check out our site. Anyway, there’s a lot of other information on there. Subscribe to our email newsletter because we’re going to be emailing a lot of other news outside of podcast news there with blog posts case studies that we’re doing, plugin comparisons so you can understand the differences between lifterLMS and the other plugins in the WordPress community. We’re just going to create the highest quality blog and podcast news outlet for the LMS industry and really do our part in supporting the community with good information. I’m excited about that. That’s a little bit of the vision that we have for this new year and I’m excited for everyone to take the journey with us.

Chris, any closing thoughts for the crew?

Chris Badgett:           Yeah. I would just say if you’re just kind of getting comfortable with the Learning Management System where instead of a membership site and eCommerce and selling online courses, don’t feel like you have to jump right in and understand an LRS or the Tin Can API, because like for example, with our lifterLMS plugin, there is data that is stored there about the users; there are certificates. Right now, we’re currently building out our analytic systems so that you can look at data that’s happening in your Learning Management System. LRS and Tin Can stuff is more advance and complex so you don’t have to start there is all I’m saying.

Joshua Millage:       I think it’s a great, great footnote. We want to keep people in the know of what’s happening but at the same time, know that they don’t have to go to this extreme quite yet. You can be extremely effective with just a simple WordPress site and a plugin like lifterLMS.

Awesome. Well on that we are going to close this episode up. Next episode we’ll be talking to you more in-depth about the Tin Can API, what that’s all about and why it’s important to know about it. Thank you for listening and we’ll see you in the next episode.

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