By Gordon Johnson, VP Marketing, Expertus
Astronaut Neil Armstrong once defined research as “creating new knowledge.” In the workplace, new knowledge has potential to create business value – so for corporate learning professionals, research can be a worthy endeavor.
Last year, we created a bit of new knowledge when we partnered with TrainingIndustry.com to conduct an industry survey about LMS trends. We gathered opinions and preferences from nearly 150 learning professionals, and we published key findings in a report called “The Current and Future State of Learning Management Systems.”
That report offers some helpful insights about what matters most to L&D professionals. But of course, it only reflects a snapshot in time.
Meanwhile, business and technology are zooming along at breakneck speed. So last January when we launched this blog, it seemed wise to check-in again with other learning professionals, to see if LMS expectations shifted during the past year. That’s when we re-framed a critical question as a poll: “What’s On Your LMS Wish List?”
Now, 6 months later, it seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same…
Looking Ahead Then and Now: 3 Points of Comparison
1) LMS Satisfaction – Still a Long Road Ahead
In 2010, only 15% of survey respondents said their LMS deserved an “A” grade, while almost half (45%) chose “C” “D” or “F.” This year, not one respondent said they’re satisfied with their LMS. That’s right – no one.
What’s behind this apparent lack of enthusiasm for the status quo? Of course, it’s possible that satisfied customers aren’t interested in a “wish list” poll. It may seem short-sighted, but how much would they gain if their needs are already being met? On the other hand, you might assume that whenever a person is asked to share product improvement ideas, it’s natural to fill-in the blank with at least one suggestion. We agree that both of these factors might be at work here.
However, our poll features a prominent “satisfied as is” option. Also, it’s designed to accept multiple answers. That means even “satisfied” LMS users can vote for improvements. Yet thus far, no one has endorsed their current learning platform. It suggests that there’s still a significant gap between the reality of today’s learning technologies and the ideal that most learning professionals envision.
2) Putting Learners First is Vital. No, Really
Both in 2010 and today, “personalized learning paths” were chosen as the most essential feature of a future LMS (capturing 15% of all votes in 2010 and 18% this year). Yet learning paths are already available in today’s advanced learning systems, and they’re the most popular feature by far (with 62% usage reported in the 2010 survey).
What’s behind this enthusiasm for learning paths of both today and tomorrow? We believe it’s about more than the desire for incremental feature improvements. Rather, it suggests a more strategic desire to re-engineer LMS platforms altogether, from a learner’s perspective.
Who wouldn’t agree that learner-centered technology is a great concept? It’s the training community equivalent of supporting mom and apple pie. But it’s also much more easily said than done. Many vendors have found that the road to LMS effectiveness is paved with failed interfaces and integrations.
But why not start where the action is – in the lives of learners? Pay close attention to the ways people gain knowledge and competence to perform in the workplace. Look at when, where and how they seek information, insight, instruction, resources and reinforcement. Then define the standards and requirements needed to create a comfortable, relevant learning experience that fits into daily workflow.
It’s not your father’s learning management system. But it is an important part the process we use to develop our cloud-based continuous learning platform. And it’s one of the reasons we call it a learner-centric LMS. We hope it will serve as a model for future advancements.
3) Kitchen Sink? Or Holistic Design?
Our 2010 survey asked closed-ended questions. But in the spirit of open exchange, this year’s poll accepts “other” write-in answers, too. In fact, we encourage it. Consider it an ongoing, asynchronous digital brainstorming session. The more ideas, the better.
Thus far, among “out-of-the-box” responses, the most compelling comes from someone who said, “Really, it’s all of the above.”
Never fails. If you offer people a choice of chocolate, strawberry or vanilla, at least one person will request neapolitan. But this respondent has a point – perhaps the smartest approach is to view the list not as a menu of discrete features, but as a collection of related capabilities that, together, can fully enrich future learning experiences.
We’ll examine this concept more closely in other posts. For now, I hope we keep this constructive conversation going.
What’s Your Opinion?
If you haven’t yet voted in the “LMS Wish List” poll, please do. Or feel free to enter comments below. We’ll continue to review all input, look for patterns, and report additional findings.
As we said in January, our rationale is simple. We believe that listening is important. We’d rather create LMS technology that fits your needs than force you to accept our worldview. And ultimately, we hope that a spirit of open, collaborative dialogue will lead to stronger learning solutions for all of us in the business of talent management and development.
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