An evolutionary approach to LMS form and function can revolutionize learning across your extended enterprise
By Caleb Johnson, Director of Strategic Accounts, Expertus
Do you think your LMS (learning management system) is ready for mothballs? Your not alone. In April 2011, a Brandon Hall webinar poll indicated that nearly 60% of attendees were in the process of replacing their learning systems.
Although that survey didn’t examine the reasons why learning organizations are rapidly embracing new platforms, it’s no secret that legacy systems fall short of today’s learning requirements. I’d like to add some perspective on the issues learning organizations face when shifting core technologies.
Let’s start with 3 suggestions – based on insights gathered from these sources:
- A survey that Expertus and TrainingIndustry.com conducted among 144 learning professionals, and
- A “Think Tank” discussion Expertus hosted with 12 leading learning executives.
Tip #1: Accept the LMS for What It Was Designed to Do
The LMS excels in accomplishing the specific tasks for which it was designed – to target, train and track. These are critical functions for learning organizations. However, the LMS hasn’t changed enough in the last 20 years to support all modes of enterprise learning.
Many popular learning management systems work well for the 20% of learning associated with formal, structured training. But they ignore the remaining 80% of activity associated with informal learning, collaboration and knowledge-sharing. As one learning executive says:
“LMS is a misnomer. It’s really a Training Management System. Training is pushed to users in a uniform fashion – with content determined from the top and delivered to all in the same way. In contrast, learning is user-driven (informal) – finding and using content that meets an individual’s unique needs. This is much more difficult to manage.”
This is why we shouldn’t expect too much from standard LMS offerings. They’re inherently out-of-touch with most enterprise learning behavior. What’s the answer? Each organization should determine the unique functional adaptations and enhancements that will best address the informal and social learning requirements of their learning community – while preserving the functions that support classic formal training.
Tip #2: Link the LMS with New Systems to Handle Growing Demands
Today’s LMS is typically not flexible enough to meet the diverse knowledge access demands of today’s fast-paced corporations. Furthermore, it’s quite difficult and expensive to configure, integrate and deploy an LMS. So learning executives are looking for ways to extend existing systems by adding new technologies that deliver a robust learning experience.
Desired extensions often include elements such as personalized development paths, integrated enterprise-wide real-time collaboration tools, dashboard reporting tools, federated search, support for user-generated content, mobile learning. One survey respondent observed:
“Learners have universally adopted mobile technology, so we need to make it a better two-way learning tool … push for training to go where learners are in their daily activities … and create original content for the mobile learner – not repurpose existing material.”
So essentially, users are playing a vital role in the LMS revolution. User learning, productivity and work performance can improve exponentially by implementing tools that enable interactive communication and collaboration, along with push and pull access to informal learning content.
Tip #3: Continue to Track and Measure “Evolved” LMS Capabilities
This leads to our last question: Is an LMS revolution required? In a word: Yes! As we’ve discussed, to support today’s advanced functional requirements, new technologies must be integrated with existing learning systems. What’s more, it’s important to add more sophisticated tools to measure usage (where and how users seek information) and effectiveness (how well users’ needs are served). As one L&D professional noted:
“It’s vital to get your arms around the different venues for learning. With the huge number of tools available to users, it’s important to use the LMS (or other technologies) to track and determine their value. This enables us to focus on creating content and devices that utilize what is effective and avoid what is not.”
Learning executives are still experimenting with processes, technologies and techniques that will best complement today’s LMS platforms. Rather than abandoning their significant investment in existing infrastructure, they’re gravitating toward methods that extend and add value to existing systems. Therefore, the most practical path to revolutionary changes in learning systems infrastructure is likely to require an evolutionary process.
Note from Caleb: Want more details? Read the complete article in Training Industry Quarterly. Or, to talk about how your organization can resolve learning management systems issues, contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org
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