Friday, June 13, 2008

Who wants to see an LMS anyway?

If you put me on the rack and asked me whether most large corporates need a Learning Management System (LMS) then I’d have to say yes. If you are a large enterprise that needs to organise and track formal learning activity then it’s practically a given.

The problem for most LMSs in corporate environments is that actually they are usually at least three clicks away from when they are most needed by the user, and even then, a learner isn’t usually that interested in the fact they’ve accessed the LMS. It’s part of the journey, but not necessarily the chosen destination. What they are really after is the right learning, at the right time, with the right context with the right impact to make a difference. Most of the time they want to be looking at the learning content, in whatever form, that comes. Not the LMS.

Alternatively, if they are interested in development planning – they want to be analysing development paths, getting insight into their unique attributes, their potential and creating the roadmap that will deliver their aspirations. Again, they are interested in the destination not the mechanism.

And for corporate learning technology managers this is a problem, because without making the outcome the most visible part of the development journey, rather than the system that co-ordinates it, there will always be an extra barrier to LMSs delivering their maximum value.

One way around this is to use portals and deep linking to, in effect, make the LMS invisible. These are inherently more user focussed. The LMS is still there, but doing its job in the background, rather than obviously in the foreground.

Afterall, with the exception of the LMS vendor and the team who put it in, who really wants to see an LMS anyway....?


Janet Clarey said...

Your right. The LMS should be invisible to the learner. However, most corporations have multiple such systems. Three clicks from HR info, insurance quotes for customers, etc. It's more a cultural issue isn't it?

David Wilson said...

To add something to David's comments, a historical hypothesis we've used is that the LMS should be the interface to learning maybe 25% of the time. This is largely for formal learning planning, PDP review, and so on, and may largely focus on an individuals learning plan, accessing catalogues of learning or on formal learning compliance.

The rest of the time, access to learning is largely embedded within work processes, or on a performance support basis. In both cases, a learner would ideally never see the LMS as the access specific learning activities directly from the context of the need. Learning embedded in work.

Not sure whether the number is actually 25%, but it provides a reasonable operating assumption.

regards DAVID
The rest of the time

Graham J Sherry said...

Currently, the user's actual learning experience is left to a content provider. It is not a service provided by LMS vendors, that is bespoke content creation. But in order to report on compliance requirements the user has to be tracked, usually by an LMS.

It is rare for an LMS vendor and content vendor to collaborate on a specific project, they have different business models and objectives. It is left to the organisation to know the capabilities of the technologies they have invested in. They rarely wish to invest in further LMS consultancy for a content project.

They do need specialists; people who know the deep functional and technical capabilities available from the technology (e.g LMS) and the required integration standards; people who understand designing a quality user experience; people who can lead all parties to a successful outcome. And when you need these things, you certainly need justifiable budget.

In order to justify investment for building a strategic learning experience you have to focus on the mission of the business - what real initiatives are required by the business in order to achieve it goals - where are the real and current barriers impeding results.

The business has to own the problem, and most times do, but are rarely aware of the possibilities, even with already purchased technology, with utmost respect, they don't know what they don't know - they are business people, not experts in learning design or learning technologies.

And so I ask... How often do the learning technology team get the opportunity to ask questions, or even talk, in the boardroom?

Darren Sidnick said...

Shouldn't companies trust their staff and let them do most of their learning via tools like iGoogle or Netvibes (they are far more likely to use tools that integrate work and life?). Perhaps the company could have a widget that goes into iGoogle which outlines the companies formal "push" learning?

Anyway I've put some of these views in my blog (called Please don't tell me I have to use your LMS - I won't!"):

Perhaps I'm not living in the real world!!!