Monday, January 29, 2007

The future of LMS

Tony Karrer has put a post about the future directions of LMS.

It's funny because we've been working on some thinking similar to this internally within Elearnity. Some recent corporate discussions together with some of our futures research has also pointed us towards rethinking the model underlying the LMS, but to be honest, not necessarily many of the drivers for wanting an LMS.

Its interesing about you and Lee likening it to Google Analytics. Our current thinking is that the LMS will become like Google - a diversified mix of services and interfaces - anarchic but inherently with underlying structure and connectively. Systems that can optimise our experience of it are critical, but so are systems that can optimise how the connections work behind the scene. This is potentially what the LMS will become.

... an interesting discussion ...



Barry Sampson said...


Your post, and the ones you referenced inspired this post, but I have a question relating to your recent research.

Beyond a quite basic LMS for managing compliance activity and ILT administration, did you find much evidence of a real need for the hugely complex solutions the Tier 1 vendors are offering?


David Wilson said...

My response to Barry's own post ...

Barry, interesting idea, calling it a learning engine. My point was not so much that it should like google analytics, but that it should be google-like in providing a variety of interfaces designed for finding the most appropriate learning for you at a point in time. Search on its own is not enough, unless it understands context, learning preferences, delivery media options, requirements for formal certification and so on.

To my mind, this requires a degree of intelligence and structural capability in the backroom as well as flexibility of interface at the front. The LMS is currently the tool in the locker that has these capabilites, but has been historically geared towards catalogue and fixed interfaces. Changing the front-end doesn't remove some of the same requirements at the back-end, although it will change their scope and flexibility. I view the LMS as an invisible transactor or agent between the learner and the learning. This fit the role of learning engine, but i'm still happy calling it an LMS.

On the subject of tracking, I feel this is a non-argument. How do you know you had a 300% increase ... because you tracked it, otherwise you wouldn't know. It's not tracking that's the issue - the system should track everything so it knows what gets used and what doesn't. The issue is of visible tracking - i.e. what impact does saying we're recording whether you do this have on its usage. This is a different debate.

:-) D

David Wilson said...

Responding to Barry's question of evidence of a real need for the hugely complex solutions of the Tier 1 vendors ...

Assuming that means the solutions typified by the enterprise LMS vendors - Saba, SumTotal, Plateau et al, then YES we do find the need for these in large corporates. Learning in these organisations is complex.

We have an analysis model looking at how centralised/decentralised the learning processes and organisational processes are. A large corporate will typically span all of the boxes, i.e. it has all of the problems. It needs centrally managed headline programmes with complex logistical management, it needs just-in-time e-content access, it needs approvals, it needs certifications, it needs local admin, it needs informal and formal learning. Basically they have everything.

Now the associated question, is are these best managed through a single monolithic system? The need is definitely there, but do the solutions enable the corporates to really meet that need? This is more debatable. In some cases the answer is a clear yes. Some of the organisations we profile have been very successful in using an LMS to structure, harmonise and refocus their learning processes. (Barry's own employer, B&Q, has had some significant success with this historically).

Other organisations, have maybe less successful, often exhibiting a series of problematic LMS projects, and seemingly constant learning organisational flux. Solution choice (functional and architecture) will play a part in this, but other factors are often more evident, not least, unrealistic assumptions, poor LMS leadership, weak implementation approach, lack of coherent strategy, and so on.

I have historically been very critical (e.g. see this release) of how corporates approach and implement enterprise LMSs!

The other question, you didn't ask is what evidence have we seen for the need for the google-like LMS concept (or learning engine as you called it)? Certainly much less than that for the structured LMS currently, but that's a maturity thing.


How successfully they deploy these solutions

There are some ancillary questions we should also ask here but i'll

Barry Sampson said...

Thanks David. I may have given the impression in my original question that I didn't think the need would be there. In reality I just wasn't sure, but I knew you would have the data to supply the answer either way.

It doesn't surprise me that you found there was a need. I can see where it can help an organisation with disparate needs, probably spread over many locations. I did like your use of the word monolithic, and I would be tempted to apply that term to the organisations that need an LMS of that scale.

Would it be fair to say though that the very nature of the organisations you have researched (large corporates?) has a bearing on your answer. This is an assumption, so forgive me if I'm wrong.

You're absolutely right that an LMS made it possible for us to structure and refocus our learning processes. But more and more it's starting to feel like the LMS just gets in the way.

I know the project of ours that you're thinking of, but if you look at how that's developed over the last three years it's got simpler with each iteration. In the middle of last year we simplified it a great deal, and most of us involved wanted to remove it from the LMS completely and just make all of the learning content available via our intranet. The only thing that stopped us was the need for some degree of tracking because of a link between learning and reward that we weren't able to remove (although we tried).