HR Tech Interview with Phill Miller, Managing Director at Open LMS

Seeing how the year 2020 led to a need to drive change and optimization across an array of business activities, innovative EdTech solutions will now be key to enabling better business reskilling and learning practices. Phill Miller, Managing Director at Open LMS takes us through some of the top shifts in our chat:


Tell us a little about yourself Phill…we’d love to hear about your journey so far…

Well, to start, I’m a father of 4 (with triplets!!). I love spending time with my family, cooking, and trying new recipes….some years ago I was a bad marathon runner, but nowadays I mainly stick to waterskiing, jogging and cycling as well. 

I’ve been in EdTech for nearly 20 years now, since starting my journey at a startup called ANGEL Learning.  During my career, I’ve spent time at Blackboard, Moodlerooms (now Open LMS), Oxygen Education, and on the boards of IMS Global and ClearScholar, which have given me a unique perspective on the EdTech market.

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How have you seen EdTech platforms for corporates and academic learners evolve over the years?

Up until a few years ago, EdTech platforms were mainly used for academic learners, with companies favoring traditional in-person training environments. However, there has been a revolution in the corporate learning market, seen especially in the past year as many companies had to transition into a remote working environment. Even before the pandemic, many organizations were already streamlining different aspects of organizational learning using EdTech solutions. With the ability to fulfill basic requirements like assigning training and tracking certifications as well as incorporating interactive elements like forums, video, and analytics, companies are increasingly using EdTech platforms to provide great learning experiences for employees, customers, and other constituents. EdTech allows companies and institutions to address challenges related to globalization, travel expenses, staffing, meeting the learning needs of diverse audiences, and many others.

In today’s new normal, there is a different kind of dependency on EdTech solutions: can you share a few observations from these changing trends in 2020?

The fact is that institutions were forced to implement EdTech solutions and go fully virtual this year. Some of them were able to make this transition more easily as they already were using EdTech solutions, like a Learning Management System, to support online classes. However, many schools and universities still had to scale their EdTech usage to an incredible extent, while other organizations had to start from scratch. We saw many companies come to us who had the implementation of an LMS on their project list for a year or two down the road. They needed to dramatically accelerate their timelines and were forced to quickly analyze aspects such as cost, implementation time, infrastructure, technology support, reliability, financial support, and other factors in order to find an EdTech solution that could quickly help them adjust to hybrid or fully online operations in the wake of COVID-19. However, one thing that has really stood out no matter the industry was the fast shift and adaptability of educators. EdTech solutions will support the courses, but the teacher’s role in supporting learners is fundamental within our new normal. Being able to provide educators with a solution that is easy to use and intuitive for learners really enabled educators to adopt new technologies more quickly and keep learners learning. 

What are some of the ways in which you’ve seen businesses’ needs for learning solutions change over the years and what are some of your top predictions on the future of EdTech?

There has been an increasing need for learning solutions in the corporate sector over the past few years. Companies are using learning solutions to streamline operations like employee onboarding or the mandatory courses all employees need to take for compliance. Many types of virtual training can be just as impactful, if not moreso, than traditional face-to-face training. 

Because of its ability to make training more accessible, less expensive, and more effective, many businesses have adopted some form of eLearning. Some companies are even doing the onboarding process using VR/AR for new employees to take a virtual tour of their office during this lockdown. HR is also using EdTech solutions to support employees and provide the skills training needed for top performers to move into other roles. Personalized training paths with concrete timelines, content, and skills objectives can be created to develop employees’ personal and professional goals. 

Digital learning can provide more engaging and accessible training to support every type of learner, allowing companies to incorporate a variety of content types to create immersive experiences for users. Even without the pandemic, learning solutions were on an upward trend and the EdTech market will only continue to grow in response to the challenges companies are faced with and how these solutions can help to meet those specific learning goals. 

We’d love to hear about some of the most exciting EdTech solutions and features you feel businesses and academic learners can still gain several more benefits from along with tips on how they can optimize how they use EdTech for their benefit!

There’s a lot I can say here so instead of talking about all the solutions and features that can benefit organizations, I’d like to instead highlight some of the work we did with one of our clients recently:

Over the past 3 months, we hosted 326,000 virtual national exams for the Ministry of Education in Colombia. This 5-hour exam is a requirement for students to get their high school diploma, as well as for professional and technical careers to get their titles. Because of COVID-19, the Ministry of Education in Colombia had to hold those exams virtually. Using Open LMS, they were able to hold these exams with full ethical and compliance regulations. This technology allowed them to adapt in the face of an unprecedented challenge in order to keep learners progressing into their futures, and I think this speaks to one of the biggest advantages of using EdTech to support learning initiatives. With digital learning enabled, organizations can maintain learning continuity and innovate more easily to provide learners with secure, engaging, and future-proof learning experiences. 

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As business leaders respond to the needs of the new normal; what are some of the top thoughts you’d share with them when it comes to implementing Tech to drive business goals and strengthen employee learning practices and policies in our new normal? 

My biggest piece of advice is that the type of technology you choose is just as important as the vendor that supports it. I recommend that all companies look beyond technology for a company that is reliable and gives you the support that you’ll need to truly maximize the ROI of your technology investment. With someone supporting your technology, you can then focus on the content and the learning experience for your users. At Open LMS, this is what we believe is the winning combination for true eLearning success.

What are some of the top tech trends and in-demand skills you feel will dominate the tech marketplace in 2021? 

If we’ve seen anything this year, it’s that open source technologies continue to provide companies with the greatest level of flexibility, reliability, and customization. With an open-source LMS, companies are able to more easily pivot their learning programs and adapt to new challenges, like the ones we’ve seen this year. This will only become more important in the years to come, so I believe we’ll see more companies taking advantage of open source in order to create a future-proof learning solution that can scale and evolve as the company does. 

Additionally, interoperability, or the ability for learning solutions to integrate with other tools, will continue to be a growing trend. This is also an advantage of open source solutions, which are modular in nature and allow for easy integrations, allowing companies to adopt a best-of-breed strategy towards the types of content or tools they integrate into their learning ecosystems.

Before we wrap up, we’d love to hear a little about OpenLMS’s employee and company culture…

Although we’re a global company with employees in many different time zones, I’m thrilled to say that our culture makes us feel like a close-knit family. At Open LMS, our goal is to create the best LMS company in the market and we’re doing that with an integrator mindset, bringing together the best of the best in the eLearning industry so that our growing team of eLearning experts can unite in the common goal of making our clients’ learning goals a reality.

And lastly, a few of your biggest takeaways and tips on working effectively from anywhere….and adjusting to the new normal.

I think my biggest takeaways and tips would be to build trust in your team by providing the virtual training and resources they need to succeed, support leadership in all forms, and to orient and challenge your teams with realistic common goals. It’s crucial to provide your employees with the support they need in order to feel confident during this new normal, and to encourage that confidence to manifest in leadership in their daily activities. We’ve also made it a point to center and realign ourselves around our common goals. After all, we’re all in this together. Our employees and our clients all face similar challenges. This new normal hasn’t been easy, but working together and supporting one another as best we can is how we’ll continue to see success regardless of the obstacles we might face.

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Open LMS leverages open-source software to deliver an effective and engaging learning experience. As the largest commercial Moodle provider in the world, we help organizations and institutions deliver great learning experiences without complexities. Previously a Blackboard product, Open LMS was acquired by Learning Technologies Group plc (LTG) in March 2020.

Phill Miller is the Managing Director of Open LMS