The Headless LMS: Why Your Learning Platform Shouldn’t Hold You Back

headless lms post header
Todd Boes
October 17, 2022

When I think about traditional LMS systems, the word that springs to mind is “rigid.” That’s why at Thought Industries, we believe the market is more than ready for a headless LMS solution. 

Old-school LMS platforms are heavily constrained when it comes to customization and flexibility. Most were architected at a time when the web was in its infancy and other platforms (like mobile) were just a dream. They’re monolithic in design, which means integrating with other systems is a challenge and controlling the user experience is out of your control. 

When you think about the learner experience provided by a traditional LMS, you think cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all and that makes sense. The learner experience “bar” for these vendors is very low given the audience and market they serve (internal employees and HR). This means the learner experience takes a back seat to other functionality. (Yes, we’ve all been there before trying to get through HR compliance training quickly and painlessly!)   

Today, nothing about the way we learn is one-size-fits-all. So the next innovation in LMS needs to be focused on customization, extensibility and flexibility. Only a tool belt like that of a headless LMS – which invites innovation, embraces connectivity, and can be wholly personalized to learner needs – is going to be future-focused enough. 

How a Headless LMS Helps You Do More

The idea of a headless LMS is an immediately appealing one, offering the ability to create a custom front-end experience on top of back-end software and services. As the two are decoupled, your only limit becomes your own creativity. (And we’re yet to meet a Thought Industries’ customer who is lacking in that.) You take control of the learning experience, and extend it out via any channel and any device. 

A headless LMS combines the benefits of robust managed back-end services with the freedom to build custom integrations that align with your business context and learner requirements. With a headless LMS, you can: 

  • Meet and exceed branding needs. Hand over creative freedom to instructional designers, site designers and developers. No more implementing 70% of the vision – a headless LMS gets you all the way to 100%.  
  • Blend learning with your product. Reach learners in context, whether that’s online, in-product, in-app, or via any embedded system or device. And, do it all with a seamless feel throughout. 
  • Deliver dynamic and personalized learning. Utilize information and data you know about learners to assemble personalized learning experiences in real-time from any content source. 
  • Leverage existing functionality and systems. No need to abandon functionality or applications that are working.  Seamlessly integrate and incorporate into learner experiences and back-office operations.

Introducing Thought Industries’ Helium

When we were building the Helium framework and our new developer platform, we knew we wanted to provide back-end services that were both easy and worthy of the promise of a headless LMS. Check out my recent presentation on Helium at COGNITION22:

Todd Boes announces Thought Industries’ “Helium,” a new headless LMS solution

Our tech stack starts with GraphQL, which supports headless use cases, pulling in the right data at the right time. On any platform, and with any front-end framework, our customers can retain total control over the presentation and learner experience. 

Powering our learner-facing components is the JavaScript framework, React, which gives developers  complete freedom to create immersive and engaging web experiences. By using these components, either as is customizing or building new ones, you have 100% control over the experience. Take it even further with Tailwind, a framework that makes designing simple – no need for pages of CSS.

A developer platform wouldn’t be complete without a local development environment and fully hosted cloud infrastructure. Ours is powered by Vite, which includes a local development server. With Vite, you’ll have access to tools and utilities that make development fun and convenient. Complimenting Vite is a full-command line interface for easily deploying Helium projects to sandbox and production environments. All of this is hosted in Thought Industries’ cloud infrastructure, utilizing Cloudflare Workers for scaling instantly across the globe.

If it all sounds a bit vast, don’t worry! We aren’t throwing you out the nest to fly on your own. The Thought Industries developer network and community offers a hub for discussion and innovation. This includes documentation, code samples, video tutorials, Figma design libraries, SDKs, supporting GraphQLand APIs to support your existing tech stack and processes. And, check out the Helium support forum where you can collaborate and connect with other developers globally. It’s your ground zero.

How Helium Partners Work for Your Success

We’ve also launched our verified partner program, supporting developers and designers to build with ease on Thought Industries’ Learning Cloud. If you’re interested in the idea of building without limits, but don’t have the in-house expertise or services, we have a whole network of partners to help.

Pick your use case, and you can choose from a growing number of vetted and trusted third-party vendors who can offer you strategic support for new interfaces and customization, including: 

  • Enable Education: Provides both learning content creation and web development services with extensive experience providing end-to-end learning solutions.
  • Knowledge Synonyms: Core experience in modular application architecture design and Organizational Learning Management
  • Bonsai Media Group: A top-rated digital agency that delivers 3D/AR website and product technology, and smart digital marketing strategies for distribution and consumption. 
  • ELB learning: Say goodbye to training engagement challenges, with tools for learning games, VR training, eLearning, learning strategy, and video-based practice. 
  • GreenTea: Looking for some support with strategy? Green Tea is your one stop shop for something unique that helps you create an original look and feel. 
  • Service Rocket: From software adoption to platform expansion, get support with implementation and management of IT services, so you can focus on the product. 

As the ecosystem grows, so do your opportunities to partner and work with the best in the business, and I’m truly looking forward to what our customers can achieve with these partnerships. 

Your journey to building differentiated and impactful learning experiences starts here. Learn more.

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