How does a learning management system (LMS) become TopClass? Our LMS development team is dedicated to creating a platform that helps your organization deliver the most effective online learning programs in your industry. They bring to life a product roadmap that enhances your existing programs and makes new opportunities possible.
Over the last several weeks, we’ve introduced you to the different professionals on your LMS provider’s team who work on your implementation—from the business analyst, project manager, and trainers to the people who work behind the scenes, the LMS developers and quality assurance testers. Now, let’s look at the research and development (R&D) team.
Introducing the LMS development team
Project Manager (PM). The PM is the team taskmaster. They plan and oversee the flow of work to ensure the development team meets deadlines and uses technical resources in the most efficient way.
Technical Architect (TA). The TA is the technical design leader whose team:
- Maintains the existing codebase.
- Designs and writes code that can easily extend or customize LMS functionalities and features to suit different clients.
- Designs and evaluates new features to the core product.
- Provides APIs for third-party technologies and integrations.
- Reviews implementations to make sure they follow the appropriate technical design and use APIs correctly.
User Interface (UI)\User Experience (UX) Architect. First, a word about UI and UX. User interface (UI) is the series of pages, screens, buttons, icons, and other visual elements you use to interact with a technology—it’s how the technology presents itself. UI includes the layout, imagery, colors, and other customizable branding elements that make your LMS as engaging and comfortable as possible for your learners.
User experience (UX) is the experience users (both staff and learners) have interacting with the LMS. UX architects try to walk in the shoes of the user—following the paths they take to complete specific tasks in the LMS. They remove obstacles or delays that might cause frustration and aim to make each user journey as simple and intuitive as possible.
Based on product feedback, user research, and competitor research, the UI/UX architect defines real user problems, creates solutions, tests those solutions with users, and decides on the best possible outcomes. The UI/UX architect works with developers to make sure LMS features remain as close as possible to the original user-centered design—and therefore provide the best possible experience to the user.
The UI/UX architect works closely with the support team so they can understand client pain-points and hear about opportunities to improve the overall user experience. For example, our support team alerted us to a frequently occurring situation during LMS setup where clients would benefit from instant support. We added product tours to the LMS—click-through guides that walk administrators through specific setup tasks step-by-step, that can be accessed at the point of need in the LMS. We also added some product tours as how-to guides for learners, to show them how to share digital badges or create an external training record, for example.
The UI/UX architect also consults with the LMS product manager to learn about client issues and determine if existing solutions might solve those problems. A particular design solution for one client might end up being a good fit for the LMS overall, so other users encountering similar needs also benefit.
UI Developers. This team implements the user interface elements in accordance with UI\UX design principles, i.e., they make sure the system is truly user-friendly. They also ensure that each UI element is customizable so we can later configure the display to match the association’s branding requirements.
Backend developers. They implement required features for new clients as well as upgrade scripts to bring existing clients from older versions of the product to newer versions.
Quality assurance (QA) engineers. QA for R&D is essential because this is the core code for the LMS—it has to be right. During QA testing, this team tests the software from start to finish to make sure the LMS works per the client’s expectations.
The creation of the LMS roadmap
How do we decide what to include in the TopClass LMS product roadmap? The most important factors in prioritizing new features and functionality for TopClass LMS are user/client feedback and industry research.
We speak to our clients regularly, making note of change requests and queries about functionality. When we’re thinking about introducing a new feature or making a significant update, we survey our clients to find out how they would use the new feature. For example, we asked our clients for feedback on digital badges and learned two key things:
- They preferred to use badges for credentialing related to certification programs, and not for learning gamification.
- They also wanted their learners to be able to share badges with their peers and professional networks outside the LMS, so we incorporated an integration with OpenBadges. We also enhanced our learner profiles in TopClass LMS so they allow the display of internal and externally awarded badges.
Our sales team is constantly providing feedback to our marketing and product management teams about the trends they’re seeing at industry events, and in RFPs and sales meetings with prospective clients. We also review feedback from RFPs and make note of the reasons we weren’t successful so we can decide if there’s enough demand for a change to TopClass LMS, or if we just didn’t match the client’s unique requirements in that one instance.
During roadmap development, we also consult:
- UX & usability best practices for web applications and mobile apps
- Best in class CMSs
- Best in class eCommerce sites
- Best in class MOOC sites
- Social learning platforms
- Competitor research
Our chief technology officer and marketing director work with our R&D and customer experience teams to outline the product roadmap and prioritize the development schedule for new features, updates, and improvements to TopClass LMS. We review the roadmap on a regular basis, and share it with our clients via newsletters and calls with their account managers. We also share the roadmap with prospective clients during the sales process.
“It’s always enjoyable and enlightening to work with our clients on defining the design of new features. We look forward to working closely with our clients on future updates to TopClass LMS. It helps ensure that TopClass provides a more relevant and useful experience for both learners and administrators.”
- Linda Bowers, Chief Technology Officer, WBT Systems.