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Q&A with CPO Todd Boes: Using a Headless LMS to Build without Limits

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q&a cognition todd boes
Rachel Rheinhart
October 5, 2022
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If you joined us this morning for COGNITION22, you heard our CPO, Todd Boes discussing Building Without Limits in the context of our latest product release, our headless LMS technology, Helium. 

With Helium, and the power of our learning cloud, organizations can deliver highly customized and extensible learning experiences for customer education, professional training, or any other learning use case under the sun.” 

– Todd Boes, CPO at Thought Industries

We’re so excited to see what customers can achieve with Helium, and we sat down with Todd to get some more detail about what makes this release such a game changer. 

Q&A with CPO Todd Boes on Helium

Q: Hey, Todd! Such a huge announcement today. Tell us, what excites you most about Helium, in terms of the opportunity ahead for enterprise learning?

The opportunities for Helium are really so vast, and I’m most excited to see what our customers are able to do with the product, and the innovations and advancements they will be able to deliver. 

There’s so much freedom to play with here, both on the learner experience side in terms of content creation and UX, as well as on the business side for integrations and custom builds and the use of data. 

The partner ecosystem is also huge news. I can’t wait to see what new functionality and applications our partners will build and make available to our customers.

Q: Why does complete extensibility and customization make such a difference for a learning program and experience?

At Thought Industries, we believe that the future of learning is highly contextual, dynamic and personalized. Learning doesn’t take place in a classroom anymore, and so learning content should be consumed anywhere and anytime without boundaries. This needs to be when and where it matters most, whether that’s in-app, in-product, in the field for professional training, via VR/AR devices, through IoT, and whatever tomorrow’s innovation might be, too. 

To deliver on this, complete extensibility and customization is critical. Traditional LMS platforms tend to offer a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all solution, and solely rely on CSS for customization and APIs for extensibility. They simply fall short of this promise.

Q: Will you talk a bit about the full technology stack behind Helium – what are these core components, and why are they so powerful? 

There are a few main components that make up Helium. First, we have GraphQL, the core technology for accessing data and supporting headless use cases. We can provide full control over the presentation and learner experience using any front-end framework on any platform. 

Next, React is a JavaScript framework that powers the learner-facing components. For web delivery, you can leverage the React components out of the box, or further customize and extend component functionality where needed. We then have Tailwind, which is a utility-first CSS framework for styling and design, which plays really nicely with React. 

Other honorable mentions go to MDX, which combines the power of Markdown content with React, providing designers with full control over creating content-based experiences, and Vite, a local development server and build tool allowing you to see and preview changes in real-time as they occur in your code.

Q: This technology will certainly be useful for organizations looking for a new level of personalization – do you see it getting adopted more broadly over time?

The simple answer is, yes! There are zero limits when it comes to the data that customers can utilize through Helium. During our CEO Barry Kelly’s own keynote speech this week, Zach Parnell from Industrial Training International spoke about gleaning insights from experiential learner data via AR and VR devices, as just one good example. 

Personalization often requires accessing and incorporating both internal and external data about a user, and Helium was purpose-built to accommodate this need. With all of this data to hand, I expect to see more and more personalized learning experiences as a result of Helium. 

Q: From a strategic perspective, what’s the biggest advantage of partnering with Thought Industries to use Helium?

With Helium, the opportunities are broad for both customers and partners to build without limits. We’re creating a real ecosystem here! 

For partners, Helium has a modern tech stack, and offers a fun and powerful development environment. The platform really is your playground to monetize your skills by delivering innovation to a waiting user base of excited customers. 

For customers, you’re getting that peace of mind that you’re working with an LMS vendor who can support you as you scale, and with a platform that can effortlessly adapt by design to ever-changing business requirements. I’ve already spoken to a lot of customers who are excited about the total independence that Helium provides to create highly-differentiated and customized learning experiences on their own terms and timelines. 

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